Hot enough for you, Boulder? 🥵 Before you break a sweat, chill out with your morning edition of BRL Today.

Our top story this morning has the latest on the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan, a 10-year vision for the city’s commercial eastern flank that would allow for approximately 5,000 new for-sale homes and apartments. John Herrick reports on last night’s decision by the Planning Board to approve a version of the plan that would allow people to live next to a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant. City councilmembers had previously nixed that potential housing, citing environmental justice concerns.

Plus, certification of Boulder County primary votes, former Boulder Mayor Will Toor’s harrowing mountain rescue, calls for fan donations at Boulder Meals on Wheels, and a whole lot more.

Also, it looks like a lot of readers didn’t get Monday’s newsletter. It may have ended up in the spam folder for many of you. To make sure we know you received this one, will you do us a favor? Hit reply to this email and say “I got it!”

See you Friday. 👋

– Jezy, managing editor

Boulder residents flocked to the creek on Monday, July 18, as temperatures reached record highs across much of the Front Range. Credit: John Herrick


🌡️ Slightly cooler (but still hot): The summer heat continues with highs around 90 degrees — a slight relief from the 100+ temps we saw earlier in the week. Expect partly cloudy conditions today with a stray afternoon thunderstorm possible.

🗳️ Election results certified: A ballot recount for the race for Boulder County commissioner will begin on July 25, according to a statement by election officials on Monday. The latest results from the June 28 primary showed Louisville Mayor Ashley Stolzmann winning by 68 votes, a small enough margin to trigger an automatic recount. Neither candidate expects the recount to change the outcome of the race. On Monday, the bipartisan canvass board certified the results for the other races during last month’s election.

⛰️ Mountain rescue for former mayor: Will Toor, the former mayor of Boulder and current executive director of the Colorado Energy Offiice, and his wife, Mariella, published a harrowing account of their July 10 mountaineering accident in Rocky Mountain National Park. They were near the top of a snow couloir on the north side of Flattop Mountain when a cornice broke, they suspect, sending them tumbling about 1,000 feet. Both were evacuated by helicopter to the Medical Center of the Rockies. Toor, who broke his femur, said they hope to be home in a couple of weeks to complete their recovery.

🥵 Heat mapping in a heat wave: More than 100 “volunteer community scientists” will help the city and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) conduct a heat-mapping study throughout Boulder on Friday, July 22. A map of testing routes and points of interest is available online, with a series of “staging times” scheduled throughout the day at 1300 Arapahoe Ave. The effort is part of a nationwide urban heat-mapping project funded through a recent NOAA grant, designed to help better understand the disparities in how rising heat affects residents across the city. Read our story on the initiative to learn more.

🧊 Cool-down needed: Due to recent local heat advisories, Boulder Meals on Wheels is seeking donations of 16″ floor fans (“oscillating if possible and non-pedestal”) to help people in need stay cool and protect themselves from the high temps. If you can help, contact the nonprofit at (720) 780-3380, via email, or drop by their headquarters at 3701 Canfield St. in Boulder.

💭 Request for proposals: The City of Boulder Housing and Human Services Department has released its 2023 Human Services Fund application. They are requesting proposals for “community-based human services programs” to support through an estimated $1.75 million in grant funding for qualified organizations. Application period ends at 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 9. Learn more and apply here.

⚠️ Stay alert: Want to be better prepared for wildfires, floods and other extreme weather events? The City of Boulder has launched a new online resource designed to help residents in emergency situations, with information on signing up for alerts, “go-bag” essentials and more. Check it out here, and read our story from January on emergency alerts (or the lack thereof) during the Marshall Fire.

🥾 Cottontail Trail reopens: Repair work is complete along the trail north of Lookout Road and east of the Gunbarrel Estates neighborhood, which was reopened to visitors this week. Learn more about the latest trail closures (and plan alternative routes) with OSMP’s handy interactive map.

Top Story

In rebuff to Boulder City Council, city’s Planning Board allows housing near pharmaceutical plant in East Boulder redevelopment plan

By John Herrick

Boulder’s Planning Board on Tuesday, July 19, unanimously approved a revised plan for redeveloping the city’s commercial eastern flank, reinstating a land use change that would allow people to live near a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant. 

The East Boulder Subcommunity Plan, a 10-year vision for redeveloping the commercial area of the city east of Foothills Parkway, will now go back to the Boulder City Council for final approval. A vote is yet to be scheduled. 

In May 2022, the Boulder City Council approved the plan after nixing 180 potential housing units on a block north of Western Avenue near the CordenPharma manufacturing plant due to potential health and safety issues. 

Councilmembers made that land use change after the international pharmaceutical company raised concerns about possible complaints from future residents over noise, light and traffic caused by its 24-hour operations. The facility also emits, within legal limits, air pollutants considered harmful to human health. 

During the Planning Board meeting on Tuesday, Jonathan Singer, a policy adviser for the Boulder Chamber, which opposes allowing housing next to the plant, compared the environmental hazards at the drug-making facility to those at the Suncor oil refinery in Commerce City. The refinery, which has a vastly different pollution profile, has polluted nearby neighborhoods for decades and prompted fervent calls for its closure by neighbors and elected officials. 

CordenPharma also weighed in. 

“We just want to make sure that we remain a good neighbor and don’t become a nuisance to anybody who moves into the area,” Jon Dreiling, CordenPharma’s director of production support and project engineering, told the Planning Board. 

The Planning Board’s version of the plan would allow mixed-use development just south of the plant across the railroad tracks, as did previous iterations over the last year. 

The East Boulder Subcommunity Plan is among the city’s most promising opportunities to address its housing crisis by allowing thousands of homes to be built in an area of the city where none currently exist. It has been in the works since 2019. 

The 10-year plan would lay the groundwork for land use and rezoning changes to allow for approximately 5,000 new for-sale homes and apartments mixed in with warehouses and office buildings. It would also annex the San Lazaro mobile home park, which is just outside city limits and does not have access to the city’s potable water. 

In order for the land use changes to take effect, the Planning Board and the Boulder City Council have to agree on a final plan. 

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BRL Picks

🧱 Bands on the Bricks continues: Boulder County’s premier outdoor concert series returns to the 1300 block of the Pearl Street Mall tonight with a performance by Santa Cruz roots rock outfit The Coffis Brothers. The beer garden opens at 5:30 p.m., followed by opening act Jordan Yewey at 6 p.m. and the headliner performance from 7–9 p.m.

⛏️ Mining sites tour: Want to learn first-hand about the towns, tools and characters related to the history of hard rock mining in Boulder County? Take a guided tour with the Nederland Mining Museum on Thursday, July 21, featuring visits to historical mining sites of yesteryear. Boulder County vans will shuttle visitors to various locations, but some walking is required. Learn more about what to expect and register here.

🌸 Seed bomb workshop: Boulder Public Library hosts an educational event focused on making your own wildflower seed bombs today, July 20, from 5–7 p.m. Head to the garden space at the Main Library branch (1001 Arapahoe Ave.) to learn how to make clay seed bombs from resilient and native seeds, soil and clay powder. The idea is to bring an explosion of color to local roadways and neglected garden areas. More info here.

Covid-19 Updates: July 20, 2022

  • 120 daily new cases (7-day avg.) Down 11% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 13 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) Down from a high of 21 last week.
  • 42% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 67% since July 2020.
  • Reminder: Stazio Ball Fields in Boulder is the only free community testing site in Boulder County. It’s open 7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

What We’re Reading

📖 Amid a record year for drownings in Colorado, state officials raise safety concerns: “Drownings in Colorado have continued to rise this summer, bringing statewide water deaths this year within 10 of the record set in 2020. There have been 26 confirmed drownings in Colorado’s lakes, rivers and streams so far this year. The record set in 2020 was 34 deaths. This year’s deaths rose by 10 in just the last month alone, putting the state on pace to break the record. Grant Brown, the boat safety and registrations program manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said many of the deaths this year come from boaters or paddle boarders who don’t wear a life jacket and fall into lakes.” [CPR]

📖 Adams County shuts down four bitcoin mining operations: “Dozens of high-powered computers quietly crunch complex math problems in an act of cryptocurrency ‘mining,’ whereby virtual currencies like bitcoin are created and added to a kind of worldwide cryptocurrency ledger. … The mobile data center on wheels is powered by a generator that whips up electricity using natural gas pulled up from the ground — gas that often has nowhere else to go but into the atmosphere. In Adams County, this novel mashup of old-school legacy fossil-fuel extraction and futuristic digital-currency creation is a bit too new — at least for now.” [Denver Post]


🏫 Boulder Valley School District punishes Black and Latino students at disproportionately higher rates than most Colorado districts. Parents continue calls for accountability. Latino students at BVSD are about 3.5 times more likely to be suspended than white students, a Boulder Reporting Lab analysis of district data shows. The district and parents are not in total agreement on how to address the longstanding problem.

🌲 ‘It’s never going to be done’: City forest thinning projects highlight ongoing maintenance needed to keep Boulder open space in balance and safer from fire. Boulder Reporting Lab tags along with Vegetation Stewardship Senior Manager Chris Wanner and his OSMP team as they work to protect people and property from the next wildfire.

📣 ‘What am I doing this for?’: Amid another grim season of mass shootings, three former youth gun reform activists from Boulder reflect on why they left the movement. No local residents were on the team behind last month’s March For Our Lives rally in Denver, according to its lead organizer.

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Jezy J. Gray

I’m the managing editor of the Boulder Reporting Lab. In addition to years of writing on the culture, politics and history of my home state of Oklahoma, I was the final editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Voice, a local bi-weekly newspaper where I led a small but mighty team of journalists to regional and national honors in feature writing, diversity reporting, LGBTQ+ coverage and more. I look forward to listening to and learning from the Boulder community as we work together on telling the stories that matter here.