Government Affairs Update: Longmont

January 25, 2019


Development Code Update Will Emphasize Environmental and Social Factors

At the end of a very long meeting the Longmont City Council discussed its priorities for Land Development Code updates. Finally, a motion was made by Mayor Bagley directing staff to complete updates related to housing (including inclusionary housing requirements), a sustainability system to evaluate development applications, historic preservation standards and regulations to protect environmental corridors such as the St. Vrain River by August 1, 2019. From Council’s emphasis on these issues, it appears this Council is focused on more stringent development requirements with more of an environmental and social focus.

Metro Districts Ordinance Passes First Reading

Longmont’s Municipal Code does not currently permit the creation of metropolitan districts solely for the purpose of supporting residential development. An ordinance to allow residential metro districts was approved on first reading January 22 by a narrow 4-3 vote with Polly Christensen, Joan Peck and Aaron Rodriguez opposed.

The establishment of a metro district provides a means to assist local government in facilitating development and growth by providing a developer with more affordable mechanisms to finance, construct, operate and maintain public improvements. According to State statutes, metro districts are limited to providing specific services, including streets, parks and recreation, water, sewer and transportation, among others. Fort Collins, Greeley, Johnstown and Loveland are examples of cities in Northern Colorado that allow residential metro districts.

Eligible operating and capital costs are financed through the authorization and sale of general obligation bonds which are secured by property taxes from the property within the District.  Tax revenues may be coupled with one-time development fees on property within the District and ongoing fees and charges for improvements and services furnished by the District. The tax-exempt nature of the bonds generally results in significantly lower infrastructure financing costs than would be the case with private financing alternatives.

From the Council’s discussion, it appears most of its members have a lot to learn about metro districts. They didn’t understand that metro districts are required to create a service plan that must be approved by the local government that has jurisdiction. So, in the case of Longmont, the City Council would have significant control, including the ability to specify which improvements could be provided by the district and how many additional mills of property tax the developer can charge residents.

Polly Christensen voiced strong opposition to allowing residential metro districts in Longmont and pulled the ordinance off the consent agenda so she could articulate her concerns. She said the City must “protect citizens” and “many metro districts in Colorado have gone bankrupt” (this is not accurate). She said the only benefit for allowing metro districts is to save developers “a whole lot of money.” Aren Rodriguez said he didn’t understand the legal mechanisms, which made him nervous. Joan Peck said she was worried metro districts would be a means by which to circumvent inclusionary housing requirements. The City’s Redevelopment Director Tony Chacon explained metro districts would be required to meet the City’s inclusionary housing ordinance.

The ordinance is scheduled for 2ndreading next month. Given the amount of opposition to the ordinance, it is hard to predict whether the ordinance will stay on schedule.

Note: The following publication is a good summary for REALTORS® and consumers:

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