Community Corner is provided by members of our community on relevant local subjects. Typically CC is provided by organizations working to affect positive change but can also be provided by individuals but all rely on their expertise in their fields to address the topic they are contributing on.
What do much of Boulder County and San Francisco, Manhattan and Boston have in common? It is not the number of Starbucks and other coffee boutiques (which per capita may actually be close!), or the way people drive (which we will not discuss further). It is certainly not the amount of space between individual city limits, unless of course, you add up the width of all the freeways and streets. And we have them hands-down on diversity of population that includes Blacktail Prairie Dog towns. So, what on earth could our area have in common with these major metropolitan areas, all in the top ten of the largest cities in the U.S.? Sit down when I tell you, “housing.”
Before you flip the page, or decide you have to go find something to staple, take a moment and recall the last time you had a thought about open space. And when I say that, I mean the vast areas of land in Boulder County’s incredible Open Space program with its roots going all the way back to the late 1950s’s. Perhaps it was a drive through verdant land neighboring cities, or a mind-settling walk on one of the many Open Space trails. Maybe you’ve taken for granted the bucolic nature and feeling of the large swaths of undeveloped land here, rife with nature, some dedicated to farming, or preserved as rare and unique ecological environments.
Search the internet for a map of the Open Space holdings in Boulder County, including the City of Boulder Mountain Parks, and you will likely be astonished at the breadth of the holdings. They are vast. This includes land many cities have joined together to buffer and preserve their unique characters. Very much unlike San Francisco, Manhattan, Boston– or the metro Denver area for that matter– you cannot reach a neighboring city or town in Boulder County by just crossing a street.
Knock the trail dust off your boots and come back to housing. The cities we’re comparing to are geographically and geologically hemmed in. Bays, rivers, mountains, and centuries of earlier development on their outskirts prevent any thought of expanding the number of places for people to live. In contrast, if one day, a whole bunch of people decided that, say, Dubuque, IA, was the one place on the planet they had to live, developers could just mow down a cornfield or two and build a new section of town. In the areas of Boulder County where most people have preferred to live (as generally defined by proximity to Boulder, the foothills and mountains, or the character of a city or town, and other factors), the mountains to the West forms a natural barrier. But with all our wonderful Open Space dramatically constricts the available land on which to build any large-scale housing developments. And that makes this area comparable to the housing markets in San Francisco, Manhattan, and Boston.
Land use here is defined by codes designed to complement the surrounding character of the County. By state statute, if you have 35 acres you can build a home. Those codes, however, define where on the land you can build and how much house you can construct. Whether or not you agree, for over 70 years, the beauty and open feeling here is the result. The homes that currently exist in the most popular areas of the County are what we have to buy and sell now and into the future, just as those in the mega cities we are comparing to.
And that limit on the numbers of homes, in combination with a very robust local economic foundation, and the attraction of this area for all of its attributes, is why the value of your home here will be one of the most valuable investments you have. And the prairie dogs get the same benefit.
Paul Dart is a native, resident of Lafayette, a 30-year Realtor with RE/MAX of Boulder, and a 2022 Forbes Magazine Five Star Legend.