Welcome to Monday, Boulder, where we’re one day closer to spring.

For today, Colette Czarnecki interviews Madelyn Strong Woodley, a new member of Boulder’s Police Oversight Panel. Woodley, a longtime community leader who spent much of her career working with law enforcement as an executive at FedEx, experienced her nephew being killed by police in 1981. “Part of my background is former law enforcement,” she said. “So I certainly am sensitive to the feelings of those who go out and risk their lives daily to protect us. At the same time, it’s important that we have that extra eye, for lack of a better term.”

Also, I cover Resource Central and its “Garden in a Box” program. Through a partnership with the Community Foundation, the Boulder nonprofit is offering Marshall Fire survivors a free lawn replacement that uses half the water of a traditional lawn. Yet as Colorado gets drier and the Colorado River becomes a dwindling resource, we should all consider transitioning to native plants that conserve water while nourishing native pollinators.

We also have an update on occupancy limits. And a month-and-a-half-long pottery course starts tonight for those interested in spending three and a half hours a week throwing clay. Check our picks section for more.

May your day exceed every expectation.

— Tim, reporter

What to know today

  • Precipitation possible most of this week: Some moisture is possible today with the likelihood increasing as the week goes on. Though we’re inching towards spring, temps will be around 30 and snow is still the precipitation on the menu.
  • Update on occupancy limits. The Boulder City Council on Thursday is scheduled to give city staff feedback on potential revisions to the city’s occupancy laws, which in certain residential neighborhoods, limit the number of unrelated people who can live together to three people.
    • City officials are proposing reform options ranging from no changes at all to lifting the three-person limit in low-density, single-family home neighborhoods to four people.
    • The Boulder City Council in January 2022 made it one of their priorities to have city staff study occupancy laws in other communities and, potentially, revise Boulder’s ordinance.
    • In the 1960s, cities across the county adopted occupancy limits, in part as a response to nuisance concerns in college neighborhoods. In 2021, by a vote of 52% to 48%, voters rejected the Bedrooms Are for People ballot measure, which would have lifted occupancy limits to one person per bedroom plus one.
    • Depending on the direction given by city councilmembers — a majority of whom support lifting occupancy limits to some extent — city staff will gather community feedback and propose an ordinance revision by August 2023. The goal is to “provide greater housing opportunities in the community while preserving neighborhood character in established neighborhoods,” according to the city staff memo.
  • Boulder PD still seeking shooter: A week ago today, an unknown suspect shot someone sleeping outside on the 1300 block of Canyon Boulevard. The victim required a tourniquet but was later released from the hospital. The Boulder PD doesn’t believe the shooter knew the victim. On the city’s website are new photos of the person of interest for public information. If you have any idea who it might be, you’re encouraged to contact Detective Hartkopp by calling the Boulder Police tipline at 303-441-1974 reference case 23-01930.
  • Training prescribed burn: If you were worried about smoke yesterday, you shouldn’t have been. That was a training burn at Wittemyer Ponds, near the corner of Hwy. 52/Mineral Rd. and East County Line Road. The training will be put into effect this year as a series of ditches are burned throughout the county where a buildup of fuels makes the ditches a fire hazard. Those on the docket for burning include:
    • Jim Henry (N. 115th St. and Niwot Rd.)
    • Gaynor Lake (N. 107th St. and Oxford Rd.)
    • Wittemyer Ponds (E. County Line Rd. and Hwy 52/Mineral Rd.)
    • Leggett Ditch (E. County Line Rd. and Oxford Rd.)
    • Marfell Lakes & Josephine Roche (N. 119th St. and Arapahoe Rd.)
    • Marlatt / Pella Crossing (N 75th St and Hygiene Rd.)
  • Covid back up to moderate: A rise in hospitalizations in Boulder County has pushed transmission levels back to moderate levels. Nine people were hospitalized with Covid as of March 3. Boulder County Public Health encourages people to stay up to date on vaccinations and have a plan for testing and antivirals should the need arise.

Go Deeper…

Nephew’s death spurs Madelyn Strong Woodley to help lead police reform efforts in Boulder County

By Colette Czarnecki

March 6, 2023

When 21-year-old Cal State football star Ron Settles died in the custody of the Signal Hill Police Department in 1981, it lit a fire for his aunt Madelyn Strong Woodley. 

Police said Settles hanged himself. But a coroner’s jury later found he died “at the hands of another.” Officers would admit to beating Settles during his booking, but pleaded the Fifth Amendment and declined to cooperate with investigators, according to media reports. Prosecutors never filed charges. 

The death of her nephew catalyzed Woodley’s social justice work, which has focused on Boulder County since she moved to Longmont from Memphis in 2007. In the years since, the retired executive at FedEx said she has focused on making her Colorado home a more equitable and affirming place. Woodley, 70, served on a board advising the City of Longmont on housing issues and is a member of the NAACP Boulder County. She founded ECAACE, the Executive Committee, African American Cultural Events. Last year, the committee organized Boulder County’s first official Juneteenth celebrations. 

In 2019, the Boulder City Council appointed Woodley to serve on a task force set up to help create what later became the Police Oversight Panel, a volunteer board that reviews investigations into complaints of officer misconduct.

After helping create the panel, Woodley will now serve on it. She is among the six new members appointed by the Boulder City Council to the watchdog group in January, following a fraught selection process that has reignited a debate over community policing. The first meeting of the new panel is on March 8. 

Continue reading…

Want to say goodbye to your thirsty Boulder lawn? ‘Garden in a Box’ offers native grasses that use half the water

By Tim Drugan

March 6, 2023

For those who survived the Marshall Fire — either losing their home or sustaining significant damage — a free lawn replacement is now available from a local nonprofit. But it isn’t just rebuilders who should consider grass alternatives. As Colorado water becomes more scarce, lawns are one of the easiest places to conserve. 

Continue reading…

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BRL picks

📕 Go as a River: Boulder Bookstore and KGNU Radio Book Club will host a live recording on Thursday, March 9 at 6:30 p.m., where Shelley Read will discuss her new book, “Go as a River.” The book tells of a young woman who struggles to survive in the wilderness after leaving her home following a tragic event. Themes of love and resilience are explored in a story inspired by true events surrounding the destruction of Iola, Colorado in the 1960s.

🏺 Learn pottery stuff: Studio Arts Boulder is starting an adult pottery class tonight that will run weekly through April. Teaching the basics of throwing pottery along with how to attach handles and glaze, the class is for those who are at least 16 and runs three and a half hours each week. The class costs $258. (Read more about Studio Arts Boulder.)

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


Tim Drugan

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: tim@boulderreportinglab.org.