Boulder City Council unanimously approved an ordinance on third reading Tuesday meant to preserve ground-level retail uses in six specific areas of the city where such uses are already dominant.

But theoretically, under the previous rules for those areas’ zoning designations — Business Community-1 and Business Community-2 — they could have been redeveloped as entirely residential, despite the zones being meant for mixed use, a possibility that concerned some council members.

The six areas impacted are Basemar/Baseline Zero shopping area at Broadway and Baseline Road; Table Mesa Shopping Center at Broadway and Table Mesa Drive; 55th Street and Arapahoe Avenue; Ideal Market and Community Plaza, including the Alpine Balsam site, along Broadway from North Street to Balsam Avenue; Meadows Shopping Center at Baseline Road and Foothills Parkway; and Diagonal Plaza at 28th Street and Iris Avenue.

Other areas zoned as BC throughout the rest of the city will not be impacted by the new rules which limit ground-floor use to retail only, although a citywide change for the zoning had been discussed by council and then taken off the table.

“I think it’s important to remember what our retail provides this community and how much we’ve lost in the past couple years, so many services you can’t buy online anymore, you can’t run and get your shoes repaired, or get a backrub or massage online,” Councilwoman Mirabai Nagle said. “These services we’re hopefully protecting are a great value to our community.”

The goal of council is to preserve commercial areas that serve neighborhoods to support of the idea of “15 minute communities,” where basic services are within easy driving or walking distance.

“So we’re allowing mostly non-residential on the first-floor, and then on the second and third floor, we’re encouraging residential, but in this mix, we’re also encouraging a small percentage of office,” Councilwoman Lisa Morzel said.

Councilwoman Mary Young pointed out she had previously suggested allowing an exception for ground-level residential uses when the proposed housing would be affordable units.

But staff has requested holding off on implementing such a work-around because it would be difficult to do quickly and could be done more effectively if included in a later, large-scale update to the city’s program for sanctions relief in exchange for enhanced community benefits.

Council has said later this year it will take up making changes to its community benefit program which developers can use to get more density, taller buildings and other exceptions to rules.

“I think what staff has done here is super clever, because it does that rezoning in the way we were talking about, because the actual rezoning process and criteria-based creation of new zoning districts would take a lot more time and be a lot more difficult,” said Councilman Sam Weaver.

Development projects that don’t conform to the new rules for which proposals were submitted to the city before Oct. 16 will not be prohibited by the amendments.

Sam Lounsberry: 303-473-1322,