Longmont: Forum Participants Comment on Development Process & Inclusionary Housing

Multiple speakers were critical of Longmont’s development process and inclusionary housing ordinance at the public forum last week. Residents who are buying into a new senior co-op housing project complained about the length of the development process, saying delays are costing them financially as mortgage interest rates rise. A representative of Richfield homes also asserted the City’s process is too slow. He noted it has taken his company 2.5 years to take a 54- unit subdivision through the planning process, and that Richfield has already spent more than three times the estimated cost in engineering fees. He was critical of the Inclusionary Housing ordinance, saying “it is not the answer.”

Partners in a new 9-unit condo project (the Crisman Condos) also spoke about the inclusionary housing ordinance and raised concerns about how it will affect their bottom line since the ordinance, which has not yet been introduced, is supposed to apply to all projects, whether one unit or 100. In addition, the developers argued the retroactive application of ordinance is unfair because they aren’t sure yet which projects must comply.

Mayor Brian Bagley said ex post facto “after the fact” legislation makes him nervous. In his opinion, the City can’t hold someone accountable for a law that isn’t in effect. The City Council asked City Attorney Eugene Mei to comment on the “retroactive” aspect of the ordinance, but Mr. Mei said his staff is still drafting the ordinance and it would be unfair to discuss it until the public hearing process, which is likely to occur in September. Mei said he is working towards a legally defensible ordinance, with the intent that it applies to as many projects as possible but refused to divulge more details.

Mayor Pro Tem Polly Christensen argued the inclusionary housing ordinance should not be cast as retroactive. She said the City used to have an inclusionary housing ordinance but that it was just “on hiatus” and that she has worked to restore it for four years. Since the development community knew the ordinance was coming, it should not be a surprise.

In response, the Crisman Condos developer explained it is impossible to secure financing with a moving target. Bankers, he said, don’t appreciate that. He said his margin is “razor thin” and said the project will go away if it can’t make margin. He also argued that the Council should consider scalability. Having inclusionary requirements apply to a small development is more of a burden. Small infill sites, like his, are hard to develop and “we are not the enemies.”

Mayor Pro Tem Christensen seemed to be moved by his comments, saying she might want to reconsider the requirement to apply inclusionary housing mandates to any size project. However, she remained adamant that the retroactive requirement should apply to developments currently in the pipeline regardless of the fact that an ordinance has yet to be introduced.

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