Tuesday evening the Boulder City Council unanimously approved the $9.5 million purchase of the 615-acre parcel located at 4536 N. 95th St. (pictured below) to add to the city’s 45,000-acre open space network.  The parcel is the fourth most expensive open-space parcel purchased by the city, will be one of the largest, and will become the easternmost piece of the city’s open-space network.  Because of its 1.5 miles of Boulder Creek frontage, eight ponds, mountain views, and abundant wildlife, the city believes the parcel has tremendous potential for recreational and agricultural purposes.  The city will spend approximately 18 months evaluating the parcel after acquiring it before opening it to visitors.

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Last week, the Colorado Senate passed a bipartisan bill—House Bill 1375—requiring school districts to either develop a plan by the 2019-2010 academic year to equitably share mill levy override funds with charter schools of their districts or to distribute 95% of the per pupil amount of the revenue to those charter schools.  The bill further requires charter schools to post certain tax documents on their websites and to limit their financial waivers.

As reported in the Denver Post, roughly one-third of Colorado’s 178 school districts share mill levy override revenue with charter schools, and approximately $34 million in local tax increases are not being shared equitably with charter schools.  This is juxtaposed with the fact that, as further reported in the Denver Post, charter school enrollment in Colorado has grown by 30% since 2013, with more than 108,000 enrolled in the 2015-16 school year, and charter school students earn higher scores on state tests than their district peers.

The bill’s proponents say the bill is the first of its kind in the United States and that it “provides equitable funding for all Colorado’s children no matter what type of school they attend” while “also improve[ing] our education system by requiring additional transparency and accountability from charter schools without creating additional burdens for schools.”

After passing the House and Senate, the bill now awaits the Governor’s signature.

The bill can be found here.

In Denver on Wednesday, a federal court ruled for the first time that refusing to rent a dwelling to someone because the prospective renter does not conform to gender stereotype norms (e.g., because a person dresses or acts in a way, or is attracted to, married to, and/or has children with someone, that does not conform with stereotype norms associated with that person’s biological gender) constitutes sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”).

In 2015, Tonya and Rachel Smith (pictured left) were looking to move from their home in Erie, Colorado. The Smiths are a same-sex couple with two children, and Rachel is a transgender woman (meaning that Rachel is biologically a man but identifies as a woman). They found a rental property on Craigslist located in the Boulder County mountain town of Gold Hill. Tonya responded to the advertisement and emailed the owner. In her email, Tonya discussed her family, including mentioning that Rachel is transgender. The Smiths met with the owner that evening. In emails to Tonya after the Smiths visited the Gold Hill property, the owner stated that she would not rent to the Smiths because of concerns regarding their children, noise, and because their “uniqueness” and “unique relationship” would become the town focus and would jeopardize the owner’s “low profile” in the community.  The owner continued to attempt to rent the Gold Hill property.   The Smiths sued the owner, claiming, among other things, discrimination based on sex in violation of the FHA.

The FHA prohibits refusing to rent or to negotiate for the rental of a dwelling space on the basis of certain characteristics, including sex, as well as statements indicating such discrimination.  To this point, the Tenth Circuit has declined to extend FHA protections to discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or a person being transgender. But the Smiths did not bring their sex discrimination claim under these theories; instead, their claim was brought under the theory of sex stereotyping.  In their motion for summary judgment, the Smiths contended that discrimination against women for not conforming to gender stereotype norms concerning to or with whom a woman should be attracted, should marry, and/or should have children is sex discrimination in violation of the FHA. They also contended that discrimination against a transgender person because that person does not conform with the stereotypical norms ascribed to that person’s biological gender (e.g., how a biological male should dress or act) constitutes sex discrimination in violation of the FHA. The Smiths’ motion was unopposed.

Judge Raymond P. Moore of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado agreed with both contentions and granted the Smiths’ motion for summary judgment. The court was careful to state, however, that it had not ruled that discriminating against Rachel solely because she is transgender or against the Smiths solely because they’re a same-sex couple violated the FHA, as the Smiths’ sex discrimination claim did not include such allegations, and the Smiths’ motion for summary judgment was not based on those theories.

The case is Smith v. Avanti.

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This past Tuesday evening, Boulder City Council voted 8-1 to extend the city’s existing moratorium barring the city from considering property owner requests to exceed the city’s building height ordinance. One of my prior posts summarizes Boulder’s building height restriction regime and the existing moratorium. The existing moratorium was set to expire on April 19, 2017; Tuesday’s vote extended that date to July 19, 2018 while keeping the existing moratorium’s other terms. In short, this extension means that unless a development is located in an exempted area or is part of an exempted project, Boulder won’t see a building over 40 feet tall constructed any time soon.

 

 

Virtually all of Boulder County’s local governments have their own, individual plans to reverse the diminishing supply of affordable housing in their respective communities.  But these local governments are now weighing a new approach: collaborating and coordinating with one another in a way that, if successful, would supply more affordable housing to the county than the total that will be provided if each of them continues acting independently.

At the Boulder County Consortium of Cities meeting last Wednesday, a working group of local government housing and community services agencies presented a draft of the Boulder County Regional Affordable Housing Strategic Plan (the “Plan”). Currently, the county’s cities and towns have plans that would increase the county’s aggregate affordable housing inventory by 6,000 units by 2035.  By contrast, due to the efficiencies gained through regional cooperation, the Plan calls for an increase of 15,000 to 22,000 units in that same time.  The initial reaction from members of the consortium was positive, stating that the Plan’s regional approach has “traction.”

Local governments will spend the coming months reviewing the Plan in more detail and providing feedback before a proposed final version is presented to the consortium, which may occur in April.