Governmental Affairs Local Update: Longmont, Boulder County

Bond Questions Approved for Ballot

On August 14 the City Council approved three questions for the November ballot. All three will allow the City to sell bonds to create revenue for specific projects. If approved by the voters, the principal and interest on the bonds will be paid by current sales and use tax revenues.

One question will approve bonds to make improvements at the Civic Center Complex, the Library, the Safety and Justice Center and other city facilities in the amount of $14.43 million. The second question would fund the relocation and replacement of fire station #2 and replacement of fire station #6 ($9..58 million). The third question would approve the sale of bonds to pay for rec center improvements, including Centennial Pool renovation, Sunset and Twin Peaks golf course irrigation improvements and a new maintenance facility at Ute Creek golf course ($6.815 million).

Council Discusses 2018-2019 Work Plan

On August 14, the City Council discussed its 2018-2019 work plan which came out of the Council retreat in May. Using Envision Longmont as a guide, the Council discussed the actions they could take in the next 20 months to support the overall community vision and agreed on three overall focus areas: housing, transportation and development/redevelopment.

In terms of housing, the vision is to ensure Longmont has a “full spectrum of attainable housing for all incomes and stages of life.” Council goals during this time period include: issue a request for proposals (RFP) to construct affordable/workforce housing, identify two sites for affordable housing, issue RFP for development of mixed income project on city land and determine feasibility of a county-wide ballot initiative (for affordable housing).

The Council’s transportation vision is “connected, efficient, innovative, affordable local and regional transportation.” The 2018-2019 work plan will focus on advancing Peak Rail, including providing funding for it and meeting with elected officials from other Boulder County jurisdictions to develop shared messaging and understanding. What is “Peak Rail?” The City’s transportation planner, Phil Greenwald says, “Peak Rail started from a conversation between our City Council and RTD staff where RTD mentioned that our corridor members should explore a lower-cost version of commuter rail as a ‘starter service.’ What the corridor members, working with RTD staff, came up with is using the existing rail infrastructure and existing push/pull locomotive (traditional trains) technology, creating a low-cost NW Peak Rail service.”

The vision for Development/redevelopment is “thoughtful development and redevelopment of the focus areas in Envision Longmont that keeps the end goals in balance (environment, economic, social).” Goals for 2018-2019 include the adoption of the updated Land Development Code, provide funding for LDC implementation, participate in the in the Main Street Corridor Plan (Midtown/North Main Focus Area), review the current draft and provide direction on changes to (and implementation of) St. Vrain Blueprint (St. Vrain Creek Corridor Focus Area) and continue the conversation about the future of the Sugar Mill (Sugar Mill/ Highway 119 Gateway Focus Area).

Although the Council had a long discussion about its vision and work plan, the conversation was incomplete, so we can expect to see this topic on upcoming agendas. However, examples from the draft work plan were included here to provide an idea of the Council’s anticipated priorities.

Council Makes More Inclusionary Housing Decisions

The City Council had one last discussion about the proposed inclusionary housing program before the ordinance goes through the public hearing process in September. Developers had raised a series of concerns and this was the Council’s opportunity to weigh in on those issues.

Developers had been particularly worried about the effective date of the program. Some on Council, particularly the Mayor Pro Tem Polly Christensen, had previously argued the effective date should be retroactive, requiring developers to produce affordable units if an application had been submitted last year when the Council began discussing its desire to implement the program.

After a long discussion, the Council voted 5-2 to make the effective date 10 days after the ordinance is adopted. Developers are not happy with this decision because unless the project’s final plat is approved before this date, they will still have to comply with the 12 percent affordable housing mandate, but it will affect fewer developments. From Council comments, it appears the threat of lawsuits convinced them to choose a later effective date. Bonnie Finley and Polly Christensen dissented with the majority. Finley has been vocal about her opposition to inclusionary housing, saying “this is a horrible idea.” Christensen would have preferred to make June 26 the effective date, saying it would be a “fair compromise.”

The second issue was how to calculate the payment-in-lieu (PIL) option. After another lengthy discussion, Joan Peck made a motion to use the “replacement cost” model with a sliding scale for smaller developments. This is the same PIL requirement that the City’s previous inclusionary housing program utilized. It is calculated based on what it would cost the City to build the same home. It will range between $22,000 and nearly $50,000 depending on the size of the unit. Mayor Bagley was not comfortable with this decision, saying “We are playing with our housing economy…. All we are doing is adding $22,000 to the price of a home.” The motion was approved 4-3, with Bagley, Martin and Finley dissenting.

Another concern raised by developers was the inclusionary housing requirement for homes affordable to those between 81 and 100 percent AMI. Mayor Bagley argued making these homes subject to inclusionary housing didn’t make sense because they are already affordable. He made a motion to include a “zero” option for developments for this income level, meaning there would be no inclusionary housing requirement for developments meant for this income group. It passed 5-2, with Polly Christensen and Joan Peck dissenting.

At Councilman Waters’ request, the Council also considered suggestions to reduce the cost of residential development offered by the Longmont Economic Development Partnership. The Council agreed it made sense to require developers to pay impact fees at the time of certificate of occupancy rather than when building permits are pulled, which will save developers from paying the fees up front. City Manager Harold Dominguez announced staff is looking at the development process and will be making recommendations to make the process more efficient, which will also reduce developers’ costs. Dominguez hopes to get the recommendations to the Council this fall.

Development Code Approved

On August 14 the City Council gave final approval to set of major updates to Longmont’s Land Development Code (LDC). The LDC regulates items related to the physical development of the City including annexing, zoning, subdividing and developing property, appropriate uses for specific properties, building placement and height, building design, parking, lighting, and landscaping, among other items. Staff says the LDC allows for more creativity and innovation in new development. It goes into effect on September 1.

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