Council may be stealing economic opportunity

If you are like a lot of people, your eyes may start to glaze over at the mere mention of “Opportunity Zones,” but stick with me as there is a fascinating story of apparent desperation, questionable motives, and possibly deceitful tactics in order to stem any growth in Boulder.

What are Opportunity Zones anyway?

Opportunity Zones were created by the 2017 federal tax reform package, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, as a way to incentivize investors to improve and revitalize communities across the country that have languished while the rest of the US enjoyed a terrific boom.  Specifically, an Opportunity Zone is a census tract that Congress designated as eligible (read struggling) to receive private capital investments through “Opportunity Funds,” which allow investors to receive a deferral, reduction, or possibly even elimination of federal capital gains taxes, depending on how long they keep their money invested in a qualifying property and how much they improve it.

So what?

This is where the story gets interesting.  Gov. Hickenlooper, seemingly with support from Boulder at the time, designated a Boulder census tract that runs from 28th to 55th Streets and from Iris to Arapahoe Avenue as an Opportunity Zone.  While virtually every other municipality welcomed these designations as an opportunity to revitalize their struggling communities, the Boulder City Council placed a moratorium on its Opportunity Zone, blocking investment.  And did I mention that this is a limited time offer?

If you are new to the area or have not been following local politics closely (and who could blame you?), it might seem surprising that Boulder would block such investments.  However, as discussed in a previous column, a majority of the Boulder City Council appears to be beholden to Boulder’s CAVE people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) who do not want growth of any kind.  It seems they want things to be like it was “back then,” an apparently bygone era with fewer people, fewer businesses, etc.  When viewed through this lens, their actions, though by definition counter productive, make sense.

And now for the master stroke of the CAVE people: make it look to the public like they are lifting the moratorium, when they are actually downzoning large parts of the city.  Under the guise of lifting the Opportunity Zone moratorium and updating “use table standards,” the city will effectively downzone thousands of properties (not just in the Opportunity Zone), limiting office uses to 25 percent of floor area in the BR, BMS, and TB business zones, and limiting small office uses in residential zones.  This will make any existing building in an affected business zone with more than 25 percent office space a “non-conforming use,” meaning that changes or expansions to this use would require city approval through a non-conforming use review.  And what do you think the chances of getting approved would be?

This proposal by the city council runs counter to its stated positions on the environment, not to mention its own Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan policies supporting creation of 15-minute walkable neighborhoods and other policies favoring mixed-use planning, smart growth, and pedestrian uses.

If you are so inclined, you can share your opinion with the city council at council@bouldercolorado.gov, or if you are really motivated, you can attend the council’s public hearing at 6 p.m. on Sept. 3 at 1777 Broadway.

Originally posted by Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.

Posted on September 4, 2019 at 3:00 pm
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Proposition 110 better serves Boulder Valley

Since Boulder’s anti-growth sentiments seem not to be going anywhere anytime soon, the condition of our roadways has become increasingly important to our economy in general and to commuters in particular.  The worse the condition of our roads, the longer commutes take and the more money commuters have to spend on auto maintenance — and the less attractive Boulder Valley becomes to workers (and employers). If you have spent any time traveling around Boulder and Broomfield counties, you know our roads are in a sad state of disrepair.  As much as I cast a skeptical eye at many of the proposed tax increases we are asked to consider, something must be done to fix our roads and support the continued vitality of our region.

There are two transportation funding propositions on the ballot this fall, and one of them — Let’s Go, Colorado (Proposition 110) — deserves your vote.

If Proposition 110 passes, there would be a 0.62 percent sales tax over 20 years to provide money for both state and local transportation priorities.  Projected revenue from the tax is $767 million for the first year, and while that sounds like a lot of money, it pales in comparison to the $9 billion transportation funding shortfall that we are facing.

If you have lived in Boulder for a considerable time, you may well remember with consternation how we were taxed with the promise of light rail connections from Boulder Valley to Denver, only to see that money spent on building out the South Metro area’s light rail system, while we were left with nothing.  You would be forgiven for responding with an expletive the first time you heard about these new funding proposals.  However, since the light rail tax debacle, a new advocate — Commuting Solutions — has risen to champion transportation causes in our area and has worked in this case to ensure that money will be allocated to address our most important needs.  In fact, if Proposition 110 passes, Commuting Solutions (and its coalition partners) has ensured that our key local needs are included on the CDOT approved project list, with up to $915 million for the following projects:

• Colorado Highway 119 (Boulder – Longmont)

• Colorado Highway 7 (Boulder – Brighton)

• U.S. 287; Colorado Highway 66 (Longmont – Broomfield)

• 28th Street/Broadway (Boulder)

• Colorado Highway 95/Sheridan (Westminster)

• Colorado Highway 7/I-25 Interchange (Broomfield/Adams)

While I understand and appreciate the sentiment behind “Fix Our Dam Roads” (Proposition 109), our local needs are not guaranteed to be addressed and this $3.5 billion bond measure is not paid for; that is, the legislature would likely be forced to cut the state budget in other areas, causing trade-offs that many citizens might not want to make.

Our roads are in a dire state, which will negatively affect our economy, housing values, and quality of life, if not addressed. I support Let’s Go, Colorado (Proposition 110) because the time has come to repair our roads and Commuting Solutions and its partners have succeeded in ensuring that money will be allocated to projects critical to Boulder Valley if it passes.

Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.

Originally posted by BizWest on Wednesday, June 1st, 2018. Original found here.

Posted on October 18, 2018 at 3:29 pm
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