Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spring Break Connections

I survived the first week back from break! It ended yesterday with an assignment that had a due date of 5pm on a Saturday.  Ridiculous, but I survived.  Now, to recall what I spent my time doing over break with Boulder County.

I have already explained the first day, but on the second day I attended a meeting for the EnergySmart program in the morning. It is an energy efficiency program that was recently awarded some federal money to help homeowners and businesses to increase efficiency by providing rebates on certain things.  The simple parts are replacing light bulbs, but it moves up from there to tune up HVAC systems, insulation, roofs, and appliances such as industrial refrigerators.  Check out a press release here.

Later in the day, I met one of the county land use planners and talked about land use planning and things like the urban growth boundary system the county and municipalities have set up, and site plan review.  Boulder also has a transfer of development credits (TDC) program that is pretty neat.  In the county, a home cannot be larger than 6,000 sq ft, which is a decent size, but with development in recent years (pre-housing crash) it was normal to see larger than 10,000 sq ft homes in rural areas.  The TDC program allows owners of smaller homes give up the ability to expand their homes up to a certain amount in exchange for money and the footage given up can be used by the purchaser to build a larger home that would normally not be allowed.

Finally, I ended my Tuesday by meeting with a couple of county transportation planners.  We briefly talked about the push for alternative modes of transportation in the county, and then onto a specific project - the Eco Pass.  The Eco Pass is a bus pass that a business or neighborhood can purchase for employees or residents.  What we talked about more was the community Eco Pass.  The county has done this with Lyons where the county pays RTD the projected cost of the route that runs into town, and every resident gets a pass to use.  As ridership increases the cost would presumably increase, but it allows every person in the small town to get on a bus and not drive into Boulder or wherever else they go.  The county was working on setting this up for Nederland as well, and this is where I come in.  In order to figure out how much money they owed RTD, they needed some data about how people paid for their bus fare, so they were not paying double for those people who already had a free fare.  So, I rode the bus up and back 3 times over the rest of the week to get some preliminary data, talk to some drivers to maybe get them interested in helping out, and just to see the beauty of Boulder Canyon.

On Wednesday I had a meeting with another person in land use talking about the response to the Four Mile Fire and what is being done to help affected homeowners and some more about Boulder, like the 50ft building height limit in the city, rising property values, and what is "sustainable" in the different municipalities.

On Thursday I had yet another meeting in land use with a forestry person, again talking about the fire.  We discussed how if progressed, what actions were taken, and how better control of trees could have prevented much of the damage.  Growth was allowed so the forest was all trees instead of a more natural grouping of trees with open grass spaces between that could have allowed the fire to burn itself out easier.

I also attended a transportation master plan meeting.  Finally, on Friday morning I was a part of a meeting to revise a set of maps showing different social welfare programs across the county.

It was a great week, and I learned some valuable things about planning from it.  Maybe I need to move there next...

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