2023 Election, Boulder County, Housing, Land Use

Larison: The case against Boulder County Issues 1A and 1B

Does anyone see the irony of Boulder County having an open space tax and an affordable housing tax on the same election ballot this fall?  It was open space overreach that made Boulder homes unaffordable in the first place, driving sale values to twice that of the rest of the Denver metro area.

I’m not against government open space programs when used for parks, trails, nature areas and select urban buffers.  But the City of Boulder (46,600 acres in the program) and additionally Boulder County (116,000 acres) have turned open space purchases into an all-out political land grab to stop growth.

Never satisfied, these local governments have bought lands deep into remote areas that have no realistic threat of development.  They’ve bought open space in adjacent counties that is really none of their business.

And there’s the often ignored issue of massive county debt due to open space purchases on the order of hundreds of millions of dollars

Voter directed heavy taxation in Boulder since the 1960s created a virtual surrounding wall of open space with very strict city growth control.  The Boulder enviro-left got their panacea, but at what cost of unintended consequences?

Most obvious, due to basic supply and demand, is today’s average sale price of homes in Boulder that has surged to $1.7 million.

Another related consequence has been 60,000 commuters in and out of Boulder each work day because the typical worker can’t afford to live in the city.  This has created dreadful traffic and increased carbon footprint.  In effect, the local progressives shot themselves in the foot with their own green extreme policies.

Boulder County Issue 1A on the ballot this November is a 15-year extension of an existing 0.05% countywide sales tax for open space.  The county currently has four open space taxes in effect totaling 0.475% sales tax that will bring in approximately $40 million in 2023.

Enough is enough, there’s no valid reason for voters to extend the 0.05% sales tax.  There is already a disproportionate amount of money going toward open space in the Boulder County budget.

Boulder County Issue 1B is a rather sneaky effort by the commissioners to get an affordable housing sales tax in place starting in 2025.  The issue is advertised as an extension of an existing 0.185% sales tax with no increase in any county tax, but in reality that is not the case.

The original 0.185% sales tax was approved by county voters in 2014 for flood recovery (five years), and then extended for another five years starting in 2020 for county jail improvements.

The redirected affordable housing sales tax would be for 15 years and not a five-year period as the previous issues were run at the 0.185% allotment.  Therefore it would be collecting a sales tax three times longer that results in a monetary increase from the public.

Since all sales tax is regressive, the Issue 1B affordable housing proposal would be hurting the very low-income people it’s trying to help in tough financial times.  Additionally, social engineering to solve affordable housing concerns often results in an adverse effect on the existing overall housing market in any given locale.

Boulder County currently has a total sales tax levy of 1.185%.  This is in glaring contrast to neighboring Weld County that has zero county sales tax.

The county commissioners would never allow an existing sales tax to expire on time if their lives depended on it, so it is up to Boulder County voters to reject Issues 1A and 1B in the November election.

Dave Larison, a retired NOAA meteorologist, has lived in Longmont since 1980


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