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Boulder County Commissioners Impose Niwot Development Moratorium

September 21, 2018

Lilit Alikhanyan, left, and Claire Kerns-McCoy, with dog, Banner, shop and stroll along Second Avenue in Niwot on Thursday.

Boulder County commissioners on Thursday adopted a temporary moratorium on accepting, processing or approving any new applications for developments or redevelopments in a commercial district in the unincorporated town of Niwot.

Commissioners Elise Jones and Cindy Domenico voted to impose the moratorium pending amendments to land use code provisions. Commissioner Deb Gardner was absent.

The moratorium follows a Land Use Department determination that existing code provisions “are not adequate to provide the necessary direction in reviewing development projects” in the Niwot Rural Community District according to a news release.

The commercial part of the Niwot Rural Community District lies on either side of Second Avenue, running from the block alongside Martin Street on the northwest to Niwot Road on the southeast.

Community members have raised concerns about “the density and design parameters” in the land use code for reviewing development applications within the district, county officials said.

Regulations concerning the Niwot Rural Community District were adopted in 1993 and got their last substantial updates nine years ago, “prior to various changes in development patterns, community needs, and population growth,” officials stated in the news release.

Nicole Wobus, the Land Use Department’s long range planning manager, said Thursday that the staff request for the moratorium was not prompted by any specific development applications.

However, Boulder County has gotten word of development and redevelopment “interests in that area,” which has seen “a faster pace of development” recently, she said.

“It just became apparent that this was the right time to do this” and to “put things on pause” while the land use code sections applying to the Niwot district are updated, Wobus said.

David Limbach, president of the Niwot Community Association, said some people in a nearby residential neighborhood reportedly expressed concerns about some development applications the county has approved under the current code.

Also, Limbach said, two or three properties in the commercial area have changed hands and are “prime for development.”

“There’s nothing definitive out there” about what kinds of developments or redevelopments the properties’ new owners might propose, but there is uncertainty among residents surrounding what that might be, he said.

Niwot Community Association participants also are members of a committee that advises the county on issues relating to the Niwot Rural Community District — an advisory panel he said “went away” because of inactivity prior to being re-formed earlier this year.

The resolution imposing the moratorium says it will not apply to any completed development applications or those approved by the Land Use Department prior to Thursday. Minor modifications to existing county permits, or any development “which possesses either a statutory or common law vested right” also are not impacted.

The resolution states that while the existing design guidelines work reasonably well in some areas of the district, there is potential for “inconsistent application” of guidelines in other areas.

The resolution further states that neighbors have raised concerns over the level of residential development allowed, density and design parameters, and whether regulations facilitate the appropriate mix of residential, retail and office uses.

“Niwot is a beautiful community and we believe the area’s uniqueness and special character are important to preserve, ” Commissioner Domenico said in a statement.

“Current regulations are nearly a quarter of a century old and we think that residents and businesses of Niwot should have an opportunity to voice their opinions and create more clarity around their community’s future design and development. By putting a temporary pause on proposed applications, we can make sure that Niwot continues to be the place we know and love.”

The commissioners plan to hold a public hearing sometime in October about whether to terminate, amend or continue or revise the moratorium, which currently is set to expire on March 20.

John Fryar: 303-684-5211, jfryar@times-call.com or twitter.com/jfryartc

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