City staff members say Boulder has an opportunity to buy the long-controversial Hogan-Pancost property at a “very attractive price,” and they are asking the City Council for permission to negotiate a purchase.
In a memo to council members ahead of Tuesday‘s meeting, the staff did not reveal what the price is, but Mayor Suzanne Jones said council members have all be been briefed on that point in a confidential memo.
Should the council authorize staff to enter into a “purchase and sale agreement” for Hogan-Pancost — a 22-acre enclave of county land surrounded by east Boulder, located just north of South Boulder Road — the staff would then return to the council for final approval of the purchase, according to City Attorney Tom Carr.
The reason officials have given for the current secrecy about the price is that it is still being negotiated. City spokesman Patrick von Keyserling did say, though, that he “anticipate(s) a final purchase price at the time of council discussion” on Tuesday.
And if a purchase is ultimately approved, it may reduce or erase the council‘s recently professed interest in redesignating Hogan-Pancost within the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan.
That plan identifies the land as being in Area II — a label reserved for a handful of parcels around Boulder‘s city limit that are now in the county, but are expected to one day be annexed into the city for the purpose of development.
Developers have tried repeatedly over the past three decades to win approval for annexation and then build on the site, but they‘ve faced consistent backlash from neighbors, and have all either been shut down by city officials, or been compelled to withdraw their applications prior to a judgment day.
Water issues have been the primary driver of the controversy at Hogan-Pancost, which has played out over the years through countless hours of public hearings and behind-the-scenes organizing of community opponents. There is concern from some about the potential for development on the site to exacerbate existing flood risk to homes in the nearby Keeywaydin Meadows and Greenbelt Meadows neighborhoods.
An ownership group called Boulder Creek Commons LLC came up with an annexation request and development plan recently, believing that it could build 117 units of housing — much of which would be designated as affordable — in such a way as to not imperil the neighbors.
. Owner Michael Boyers has yet to comment on that decision to the Daily Camera, and did not comment for this story. But Adrian Sopher, architect for the now-scuttled proposal, said he thought the withdrawal was motivated in part by the fact that the potentially pro-annexation City Council of the past two years flipped decidedly after November‘s election.
Sopher said he thought the owners “felt there wasn‘t enough support with the new council.” It‘s likely that no more than three of the nine current members would support an annexation.
In mid-December, the council met to discuss how it might finally put an end to the cycle at Hogan-Pancost that sees a proposal come forward every few years, become hotly disputed in the community, require hours of hearings and review, then get withdrawn or denied.
The council decided the best course of action would be , a designation meant for land that represents the city‘s growth boundary and is not intended for urban development any time soon.
But on Dec. 30, according to a memo to the council, “senior city staff met with the owners” of Hogan-Pancost, who “offered to sell the property to the city and agreed that the city could purchase the property over time without the total amount being due and payable at one time.”
Should the council go through with the purchase — it would apparently involve a down payment, with the full balance paid out over five years — the city would assume control of the property, and thus would not have to worry about developers bringing forth any projects and setting the dreaded cycle back into motion.
“I think that most folks would think this is good news, assuming the city acquires it for a good price,” the mayor said in an email, “as it gives us more options, allows us to control the parcel‘s future, and addresses the .
“We will need to take the temperature at the council meeting where the purchase is discussed (assuming it moves forward) about whether we still want to move it to Area III and, if so, on what time frame,” Jones added.
If it‘s moved to Area III, development is still possible there, albeit on a much more limited basis than if it stays in Area II. Developers have always had the right to develop up to two homes on the 22 acres, but they‘ve consistently sought the higher density that the Area II designation suggests is eventually desired.
At the time of the council‘s December discussion about a redesignation, Councilwoman Jill Adler Grano protested the proposed move to Area III, because she said it would result in a developer simply building two large homes, which are counterproductive to the council‘s stated desires for residential construction.
Grano said in an interview that she is pleased the city has the chance to buy the land now.
“I would favor it strongly because I think the whole intent behind it is that this property not become two giant houses,” she said. “This takes the two-giant-house possibility off the table.”
If and when the city does complete the purchase, it‘s not clear what, if anything, will go on there in the future. Officials across various city departments already have said that they don‘t see Hogan-Pancost as being particularly valuable to any main city interests, including the preservation of park and open space land. The concerns for using the site for housing are well known.
City staff members, in their memo to the council, made the case for why a purchase would be prudent.
“City control of the property will allow for a pause to consider the most appropriate uses,” their memo reads.
“It will remove the incentive to maximize the return on investment. It will also allow time to consider the effects of the ultimate structure of the South Boulder Creek flood mitigation study. It will also guarantee that the neighboring community has a voice in what ultimately happens on the property.”