It’s Friday and lovely, Boulder.

Today, I cover an update given by our state legislators at an Empower Our Future-hosted event. Senators Steve Fenberg and Lisa Cutter, and Representative Judy Amabile, talked about topics in the climate change space they’re hoping to tackle at the statehouse this year. Fenberg wants to address air quality, Cutter wants to ensure wildfire professions are gaining workers, and Amabile is concerned about those in mountain communities having access to fire insurance, among other topics.

Also, Jessica Mordacq covers the closing of Fresh Thymes Eatery and its sister businesses. For Fresh Thymes owner, Christine Ruch, labor shortages and the high cost of goods many restaurants are suffering from post-pandemic were only compounded by a long permitting process in the City of Boulder’s Planning Department.

And finally, the Boulder City Council passed revisions to the ordinance that created the city’s Police Oversight Panel. The panel has faced seemingly constant issues of turnover, draining work hours, lack of transparency, and a politically fraught appointment process.

May your weekend delight and excite.

— Tim, reporter

What to know today

  • Beautiful: Wow. Today and through the weekend temps will tickle 50 with the sun shining. Abound in mud!
  • Lawsuit to stop East Boulder housing factory: Residents who live near a proposed factory in East Boulder that the City of Boulder wants to use to build modular homes have filed a lawsuit in the Boulder County District Court in an effort to stop its construction. The $8.5 million factory would operate from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and likely involve trucks entering and leaving the property at 6500 Arapahoe Road.
    • The lawsuit, filed on Jan. 11, alleges the underlying zoning of the property, designed as “public,” does not allow the land to be used for manufacturing purposes.
    • The lawsuit names the Boulder Valley School District and the City of Boulder as defendants. One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, David Hsu, owns a home abutting open space near the proposed site and is a member of the Boulder County Planning Commission.
    • “The Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan required the newly annexed and zoned property to be zoned Public for a reason: manufacturing uses are incompatible with the character of the surrounding neighborhoods,” the lawsuit states. “At its core, the Boulder City Council decisions at issue here are simply an attempt to improperly circumvent this.”
    • Last December, the Boulder City Council unanimously approved an annexation agreement between the city and BVSD, which owns the land, that set the terms for construction and operation of the factory. The city wants to use it to assemble modular homes, which are typically more affordable than traditional single-family homes, as part of its broader effort to address the city’s housing shortage. Residents who live near the proposed site have voiced their opposition to the project due to its potential environmental and wildlife impacts from dust, noise and light on the nearby Sombrero Marsh and neighborhoods.
    • The defendants in the lawsuit have yet to file a response to it. — John Herrick
  • Reworking the Police Oversight Panel: The Boulder City Council on Thursday adopted the first set of revisions to the ordinance that created the Police Oversight Panel, a volunteer-led group that reviews investigations into complaints of officer misconduct. Since its creation in 2020, following a high-profile incident of a city police officer drawing his gun on a Black student, the panel has run into snags with issues of high turnover, demanding work hours, transparency, and a politically fraught appointment process.
    • In what are expected to be the first of several revisions to the ordinance, the city council approved changes that seek to provide clarity on what the panel members can and cannot say about their case reviews, which are conducted in closed sessions under strict rules of confidentiality. The emergency ordinance was passed without a public hearing and took effect immediately. Read the full story.
  • Kyle Brown sworn in: Brown, representing House District 12, fills the vacancy left by Tracey Bernett who resigned after criminal allegations were filed against her by the Boulder County District Attorney. He previously served on Louisville’s city council and has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Georgetown and a Ph.D. in genetics from Harvard.
    • Brown has been appointed to the Health and Insurance Committee and the House State Civic, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee, also known as the “kill committee,” where lawmakers send bills they intend to vote down.
    • “I’m so excited to fight for legislation that will make a real difference for the community I grew up in,” Brown said. “From taking climate action and creating affordable housing to helping our community recover from the Marshall Fire, I’m ready to get to work to help address the most pressing needs in our communities. I look forward to using my experience on the Louisville City Council and in health care policy to deliver results that move Colorado forward.“
  • Flatiron Freddy saw his shadow: If you plan vacations based on the opinion of a stuffed marmot, that trip to Mexico shouldn’t be put off. The top-hat-wearing rodent, Boulder’s version of Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow on Groundhog Day. Unless he’s wrong, we’re in for six more weeks of winter weather, so probably best to escape while you can.
  • Compost code updates: On Feb. 16, the Boulder County Community Planning and Permitting department is hosting an in-person meeting to discuss a potential Land Use Code update. The potential update deals with composting, mainly to do with agricultural use. It would allow farmers to get composting material from the public and process it themselves on their land. The finished compost could then be used right there, or sold back to the public as part of allowed Accessory Agricultural Sales.
    • The code update would not impact industrial composting facilities, nor incorporated areas of Boulder County.
    • The meeting will be from 6 to 8 p.m. at the St. Vrain Community Hub in Longmont.
  • Thanks for the mice tips: To all readers who reached out regarding my issues with mice, I do appreciate it. From recommending high frequency transmitters to getting a cat, or at least getting blankets and pillows that smell like a cat, I have more knowledge about evading tiny rodents than I probably need. Now it’s all about implementation.

Go deeper

All three Fresh Thymes businesses in Boulder have now closed, due to escalating costs and permitting woes

By Jessica Mordacq

February 3, 2023

After nearly a decade in business, Christine Ruch shut down her restaurant Fresh Thymes Eatery in December 2022, citing labor shortages and the high cost of goods caused by the pandemic.

She said she would keep her coffee shop next door, Bodega, and nearby kitchen and catering spot Fresh Thymes Marketplace open, providing some consolation to disappointed locals.

But in late January, Bodega and Marketplace permanently closed their doors too. A consequence of Fresh Thymes Eatery’s closure, Ruch said, was declining revenue at these businesses. She also blamed a year-long process to secure Bodega’s building permit from the city. Ruch said she’s now in debt after paying for a lease on an empty building while paying for college for her two children. She estimates she spent more than $100,000 on Bodega’s rent during that time.

“It’s clear there will be a lot of financial ramifications for me and my husband as a result of this,” she said.

Continue reading…

Wildfire insurance, air pollution, zero waste: Boulder area legislators preview their 2023 climate plans

By Tim Drugan

February 3, 2023

State legislators representing Boulder and nearby counties gave updates this week on climate legislation they’ll be working on in the coming year at an Empower Hour hosted by Empower Our Future — a Boulder-based group dedicated to accelerating local, clean energy. From fire insurance to air quality, potential bills span the range from limiting global warming to adapting to its consequences.

Continue reading…

Boulder City Council approves first set of reforms to Police Oversight Panel

By John Herrick

February 3, 2023

The Boulder City Council on Thursday adopted the first set of revisions to the ordinance that created the Police Oversight Panel, a volunteer-led group that reviews investigations into complaints of officer misconduct. The changes are a response to concerns from panel members over transparency and fears they could be sued by police officers for saying too much. 

Continue reading…

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BRL picks

🐶 Pups and Beer: On Saturday, Feb. 11 from 1 to 4 p.m., the Rayback Collective will be the place to get a professional photo taken of your pup. The event is free, but donations benefit Greenwood Wildlife Rehab and Jailbreak Husky Rescue. Register so the photos can be delivered to you.

🎸 Songwriter at Trident: Tonight at 6 p.m. at Trident Booksellers and Cafe, New Mexican artist Justin Nuñez performs. His music “blends elements of Americana-Folk music with the Latin American folk styles” he’s come across in his travels through South America.

💌 Fan Mail 2.0: Opening today at the Dairy Arts Center, Fan Mail 2.0 is an art exhibition that aims to “straddle the boundary between virtual connection and physical action.” Put on by an artist collective, Hyperlink, the exhibition is a way for local artists to introduce Boulderites to those influencing the Boulder’s art community.

For more ideas on what to do this week, check out BRL’s Local Events page.


Tim Drugan is the climate and environment reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering wildfires, water and other climate-related issues for Boulder with a focus on explanatory and solutions journalism. He also is the lead writer of BRL Today, our morning newsletter. Tim grew up in New Hampshire and graduated from UNH with a degree in English/Journalism. Email: