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.
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 email@example.com, 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.
Boulder leads the nation for the most positive economic outlook, followed by two other Colorado cities in the top 10 — No. 3 Fort Collins and No. 9 Denver. According to the recent survey by Indeed.com, a positive economic outlook is driven largely by where you live more than by a national or political view of a national economy.
Colorado is the only state with three cities in Indeed’s top 10. Smaller mountain-state metro area residents performed well when surveyed about the economy and their personal outlook. Tech hubs also fared well, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, Austin, and Raleigh.
The following 10 U.S. cities have the highest economic confidence, according to Indeed.com:
- Boulder, CO
- Provo-Orem, UT
- Fort Collins, CO
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
- Boise, ID
- Ann Arbor, MI
- San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
- Austin, Round Rock, TX
- Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO
- Raleigh, NC
For the 2,000 American adults nationwide surveyed on politics and attitudes about the economy, local economic conditions such as lower unemployment, faster job growth, and a more educated workforce correlate with local economic confidence.
Nine percent describe their regional economic conditions as excellent and 51 percent say their economies are good. To analyze the local influence on economic perspective, Indeed combined answers to survey questions with data on local job markets. Five factors were found to drive local economic confidence:
- Personal finances – 81 percent of respondents rate their personal financial situation as excellent or good and say the same about local economic conditions.
- National economic view – 83 percent who rate national economics as excellent or good say the same about local economic conditions. The survey found that views of the national economic situation are also strongly influenced by politics, with 73 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of Democrats rating national economic conditions excellent or good.
- Local unemployment rate – Respondents in areas with lower unemployment rates have a more positive economic outlook. The outlook is likely driven by the view that a lower unemployment rate results in more job opportunities and bargaining power for workers, which should translate into faster wage growth.
- Higher local job growth – Job growth where you live means expanding opportunities and rising home prices. The majority of homeowners like this combined dynamic.
- Highly educated populations – For those who live in areas where a larger percentage of adults have a college degree – such as the Denver-metro area – there is a correlation with higher earnings and more spending power.
People are more optimistic when they live in places that are doing well economically. That holds true for those who live in Colorado where unemployment rates continue to be among the lowest in the nation and job growth remains strong.
Yahoo Finance article: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/10-u-s-cities-highest-economic-confidence-170140863.html
Indeed’s full report at: https://www.hiringlab.org/2018/11/27/local-economic-confidence/