Government Affairs: Larimer County

July 25, 2019

County Moving Ahead With Ballot Measure?

Larimer County Commissioner Tom Donnelly and two staff members met with the Loveland City Council on July 23 to discuss the County’s proposed half-cent sales tax for transportation and county facilities. Donnelly said the time is now because of the current and projected growth in Larimer County. He warned the Council, saying “This is a serious problem, if we don’t take action soon, we won’t find a viable solution.”

In its current form the County is proposed that the sales tax formula would be split, with 45-50 percent going to fund County roads, 10-15 percent for transit and 35 percent for facility expansion (human services, justice center and corrections).  The City Council had a variety of questions and commented on the timing for the proposal since Loveland is pursuing its own sales tax (see below).

Leah Johnson asked why the Council wasn’t hearing about this initiative until now. Donnelly reminded her that City staff are members of the County’s technical committee that is selecting the list of projects that would get funding from the tax. In addition, City residents had been asked about the County tax proposal as part of the City’s own poll. According to Donnelly, over 60 percent of City voters expressed support for both sales tax measures.

Dave Clark and Don Overcash wondered why the County didn’t separate the facilities and the transportation funding into two separate ballot questions. Donnelly argued the two are “more unified than you might think” because it’s all about mitigating the impacts of growth.

In the end, the Council did not communicate any formal support or opposition for the ballot measure. Fort Collins’ City Council had been scheduled to discuss this at their July 23 meeting, but City Engineer Chad Crager said it was pulled because the County’s proposal is still in flux. Fort Collins staff have likewise been involved in creating a project list but have expressed concerns with the proposal, including a lack of flexibility with the project list, a lack of transit solutions and a lack of public outreach. It remains to be seen if the County will proceed with the ballot question for the November election but information has been posted on the County’s website:

Comp Plan Update Approved

On July 17 Larimer County’s Comprehensive Plan was formally adopted after a two-year planning process. The Comp Plan provides a long-range vision for Larimer County. In that sense it does not include a lot of detail; rather, it sets the stage for a variety of new regulations.

Matt Lafferty, the County’s Principal Planner, said now staff will begin re-writing the Land Use Code (LUC). The Comp Plan recommends modernizing County regulations because the current LUC is outdated and restricts the flexibility of new housing types and development patterns. For example, language defining and regulating accessory dwelling units (ADUs), smaller housing types, short-term vacation rentals and tiny homes will be added or revised. This work will be significant for real estate professionals.

The issue of housing affordability is highlighted as a key issue in the Comp Plan and affordability is also identified as a priority issue in the County’s strategic plan. Staff has just begun to draft a Larimer County Housing Plan. To read the Comp Plan, which includes housing data and implementation strategies, follow this link:

Commissioners Discuss Glade Reservoir Project

The Larimer Board of County Commissioners met with staff and Board members from Northern Water to discuss the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), the most controversial component of which is the proposed Glade Reservoir north of Fort Collins. The County and Northern are preparing an update to an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on the project to satisfy the County’s 1041 permitting requirements.

Commissioners Tom Donnelly and Steve Johnson explained that the County had adopted 1041 regulations to make sure the County had a seat at the table and ensure citizens have input on projects such as NISP. Donnelly said he felt NISP would be the commissioners’ “most important, longest legacy.” Johnson added that the project was “the biggest opportunity this Board will face.” Commissioner John Kefalas emphasized that he would approach the deliberations on NISP with “an open mind.”

Northern staff reminded the Commissioners that the project would add 40,000 acre-feet of water storage for Northern Colorado and that Northern intends to include $900 million worth of recreation infrastructure for Glade. The recreational use of Glade will net the County between $13 and $30 million a year in economic benefit, according to analysis.

The Commissioners will meet with Northern representatives in September to discuss the updated IGA. In the meantime, public input continues to be encouraged. It is expected that the County’s public hearing process on the 1041 permit will begin in January 2020.

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