September 27, 2019
Council Debates Metro District Project
The Fort Collins City Council voted 4-3 against a resolution approving the service plan for the Northfield Metro District(s) on September 17. Councilmembers Cunniff, Pignataro, Gorgol and Gutowski voted to reject the service plan, while Mayor Troxell, Mayor pro tem Stephens and Ken Summers voted to approve it.
Then, on September 24, the Council voted to reconsider the project on October 1. Councilmember Ross Cunniff was the sole no vote. He was clearly angry, saying the decision to reconsider the project was “a corruption of our process” and that the project represented an “affordable housing fantasy land with no guarantees.”
The proposed project would be built on 56 acres north of Vine Street on the west side of Lindenmeier Road/Lemay Avenue. As envisioned by the developer, it would include 442 residential units and a mixed-use center. A mill levy cap of 50 mills would support the development.
To comply with the City’s metro district policy, 65 of the residential units would be affordable to residents making 80 percent of the average median income (either for-sale or for-rent). In addition, the free market units (priced between 80 and 120 percent of the AMI, between $295,000 and $440,000) would be LEED certified.
The metro district would fund the construction of a new major arterial road (Suniga) and replace and upsize an old sewer line. A representative of the developer said metro district financing was needed to make the project happen. The parcel is unusual because it is within walking distance to downtown, but it has “significant” groundwater issues, which is why the land has remained vacant.
Councilmembers Gorgol, Pignataro and Gutowski voted against the service plan on September 17 because they argued the project didn’t offer any significant public benefits. The Council is already planning to schedule meetings to revisit the City’s new residential metro district policy, which some (especially Ross Cunniff) feel is too vague. In addition, they argued all the units should have LEED certification; they didn’t understand why the affordable units were excluded.
It is expected that the developer will have to offer more specific information and guarantees concerning the affordable units in order to get approval for the project when it is reconsidered on October 1. However, it is unlikely Cunniff will vote in favor of it regardless of what the developer is willing to give. He has consistently argued that inclusionary zoning and other affordable housing policies would be preferable to allowing metro districts.