Next Stop, City Council
The new Boulder Jewish Community Center project at the Boulder Jewish Commons went before the Boulder Planning Board for the final time Thursday night, and the Planning Board voted 5-0 to recommend both the full project and the related annexation to the Boulder City Council.
After City Planning staff member Elaine McLaughlin presented the project to the board, recommending approval, Butch Weaver spoke on behalf of the Boulder Jewish Commons and the Oreg Foundation, Scott Peppet spoke on behalf of the BJCC, and Rebecca Spears from RB+B Architecture spoke about the building, updating the board on changes to the plan since the last appearance.
Members of the Planning Board quizzed the Planning Staff and the BJCC representatives. Several questions were asked about how much the facility and its programs will be open to members of the community. Scott Peppet responded that other than general security related to the children’s program areas, the public will be able to enter the building and attend programs or visit the library any time the BJCC is open. Enrollment in the preschool programs is open to the public, and a significant proportion of the kids and families are interfaith or non-Jewish. And to the extent that rooms and other portions of the facility are not in use, they can be rented by anyone with a compatible purpose.
Other lines of questioning involved the percentage of affordable housing in future phases (related to the annexation request — the answer is 40%) and how much renewable and solar energy is planned for the building (it is being built with solar panels in mind but the cost of the panels isn’t in this phase of the building). Quite a bit of time was spent on the configuration and purposes of the service drive on the north side of the building, bordering Arapahoe Ave. Planning board members also discussed placement of the bike rack and location of the bus stop.
During the public comment period, there were only five speakers:
Linda Lowenstein, the former Executive Director of the Boulder JCC, spoke about the value to the broader community of publicly showing Jews in a positive way to combat hatred and stereotyping. Emily Cooper spoke about the BJCC’s Early Childhood Education programs and the value they bring to kids and families in the Jewish and broader community who interact at the JCC.
Diana and Warren Smedveck are neighbors of the Commons property to the south who were pro-JCC, but concerned about any effects of the JCC development on the water table and flooding around Sombrero Marsh. They invited all parties and neighbors to have a meeting on the Marsh in the next few months. Another neighbor, Judy Renfro, praised the Commons and BJCC for working extensively with the neighborhood and also reiterated concerns about impacts to the neighborhood in future flood episodes.
In the final voting by the board, one planning board member summed up the project by saying that he thought it was a “real public benefit.”
The next steps in the process are first and final readings at two Boulder City Council meetings. If approved by the Council after the final reading, after 30 days, the BJCC can apply for its building permit and construction can get under way.