Why are we talking about this now?  

The City of Boulder is at a crossroads. We have an opportunity right now to re-examine land use at the airport site. 

If we wait, the airport, which is currently in rundown condition, will be further developed, "improved," and literally cemented in place.

The Boulder Airport Manager and Transportation Department would like to kick off an Airport Master Plan in the near future. These plans happen once a decade or two. 

Airport Master Plan updates are funded by the FAA and follow a paint-by-numbers format dictated by the FAA and designed to plan for airport growth and "improvement".  More FAA funding, more grant obligations, more investment, construction, and growth at the airport takes us in the wrong direction, perhaps forever.

If we go down that path, the city will continue to be disempowered regarding airport management - unable to regulate noise, lead, or other impacts - while the airport grows.  

We need to seize this moment to reconsider how these 179 acres of public land can best contribute to the Boulder of the future. Now is the time to reach the voters of Boulder with a vision of new neighborhoods that are affordable to our families, nurses, teachers, fire-fighters, police officers, day care workers, elder care workers, and other essential workers and service workers. 

Why do we want neighborhoods instead of an airport? 

We need housing for people, not parking for planes! 

For all the reasons below, the right thing for Boulder's future is to decommission the Boulder Municipal Airport as soon as possible, and dedicate the site to visionary new neighborhoods.

This is our moment.

  • The Boulder Municipal Airport (BDU) occupies 179 acres of land owned by the City of Boulder, Colorado, and this land is worth $350 million or more at market rates. 

  • However, BDU is a small, hobbyist airport utilized primarily by about 200 local pilots who own or fly in private planes, resulting in an enormous and inequitable subsidy to these individuals, many of whom are not residents of the City of Boulder. 

  • The value of economic activity in a new 179-acre mixed-use neighborhood would far outweigh the economic value of our small, hobbyist airport.

  • One of Boulder's greatest needs is for affordable housing, to avoid becoming a city of the wealthy with an in-commuting service workforce. The City can ensure the creation of permanently affordable for-sale homes at this site since the City owns the land and can dictate what gets built there. 

  • The land is already owned by the City, is within the city limits, is already zoned for development, and is the last large tract of land of this size and opportunity.

  • BDU flight traffic is one of Boulder’s worst sources of noise pollution for people and wildlife, compromising quality of life and environmental quality.

  • However, the City of Boulder is prohibited from enforcing any commonsense noise regulations by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), leaving only voluntary noise reduction measures that have proven ineffective. 

  • The small aircraft that fly in and out of BDU shockingly still use leaded aviation fuel which pollutes our environment, and exposure to lead can lead to lower IQ and lifelong learning, behavioral, reproductive, heart, and other health problems especially for children. The residents and children who live near the airport and are most impacted by it include some of our city’s most vulnerable and under-served residents.

  • And yet, the FAA will not allow the City to ban or regulate leaded fuel at BDU, and the FAA has no plan or timetable for phasing out leaded fuel.  

  • BDU’s runways are not long enough for safe use by modern fire-fighting planes and the only significant emergency use of BDU is helicopter use.

  • Having an airport is not necessary for helicopter emergency services. Any new neighborhood can maintain a helicopter staging area for emergency use.

  • Ten other airports within approximately 50 driving miles of BDU offer additional and duplicate aviation opportunities to private plane owners and the public.

Decommissioning the airport in favor of new neighborhoods would be truly aligned with the City of Boulder’s commitments to equity, environmental leadership, and responsible governance.

Furthermore, it would help us to address the affordable housing crisis that is causing families to leave Boulder and school enrollment to drop.

We recognize that disentangling from FAA control will not be fast or easy, but it is the right thing to do in this era of crises of economic inequality and climate change.