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Tuesday March 28th 2023

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Boulder City Council Weighs One-Child Policy


photo by Allison Stillwell Young (flickr creative commons

Boulder City Council will this week consider implementing a city-wide policy limiting families to one child per household. The recommendation was referred by Planning Board after city staff presented data pointing out that Boulder’s population levels are driven by natural increases (births-deaths), rather than new arrivals. Much attention has been paid in the last several months to a perceived development boom, but city staff clarified that the ‘baby-boom’ taking place within existing households poses a much greater threat to those hoping to set population limits for Boulder.

Citing increased pressure from anti-growth advocates, City Council member Suzanne Jones said, “I feel slightly uncomfortable with the direction this policy takes us,” but adds, “It also seems like a good compromise. We’re not telling people they can’t have any children, we’re just setting a reasonable limit based on what our community can accommodate.” City Council member Andrew Shoemaker, the only sitting member of the council with children living at home, said he plans to vote against the ordinance but admits it will probably go through. “After two failed moratorium attempts, people feel like they’re running out of options—and truthfully, this addresses a bigger annual challenge than Google.”

Anti-growth proponent Steve Pomerance points out that when he was on council, “We really understood family planning and its impact on the quality of life. Today it seems people feel it’s okay to have 2, 3, and even 4 children. It’s not just the stress on our local school system—these children are also a strain on our public utilities with their daily baths and nightlights.”

The only zoned exception to the newly proposed ordinance is the Martin Acres neighborhood in South Boulder. Supporters felt strongly about preserving the 1950s ‘feel’ of the area, which is mostly made up of modestly-sized ranch homes, and ‘should encourage a 1950s style of family’—3.5 children and a dog.

If passed, the policy would go into place beginning June 1st, 2015 and would only apply to new births going forward. Families who already have more than one child would be permitted to stay in the city, but would be prevented from adding any additional children to their households. Staff did not elaborate on how the new ordinance would affect pregnant women, but did suggest educating local prenatal caregivers about new construction in Longmont, Lafayette and Erie.

This post originally appeared in the 2015 April Fool’s issue of the Blue Line.

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