In this issue…
Highway 119 Update
Council to Consider Metro District Policy Change
Septic Transfer of Title Inspections
Council Moves Forward with Plan to Preserve Mobile Home Parks
Samson Joins City Council
Hall Elected Mayor Pro Tem
New Transportation Funding Strategies Uncertain
New FHA and GSE Loan Limits
Carson on Affordability
Highway 119 Update: The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has had Colorado Highway 119 on its priority list of projects but previously lacked the funding to do anything. The passage of the Republican’s priority bill, Senate Bill 1 in 2018, allocated hundreds of millions of dollars for transportation projects and CDOT is finally ready to begin work on 119.
It has been estimated the total cost to implement the total package of multi-modal improvements for the corridor is $250 million; CDOT’s Transportation Commission didn’t allocate that much for 119. Instead, the Commission approved $30 million. So CDOT will have to “piece meal” corridor improvements, just as it has done for other critical projects in the State. Engineers identified the intersection of Highways 119 and 52 as the culprit in major traffic backups on 119 so the goal of the $30 million project is to improve traffic flow.
As part of the initial phase of the project, the intersection will be redesigned and CDOT will install adaptive traffic lights, which adjust the timing of green light cycles to match traffic conditions, along Colo. 119 from U.S. 287 to 47th Street. CDOT is working with Longmont, Boulder and Boulder County to determine new designs for the intersection.
Council to Consider Metro District Policy Change: On December 3 City Council member Polly Christensen tried to get support for an ordinance to prohibit residential metro districts. She didn’t explain why the policy change was needed or urgent. Tim Waters described Christensen’s motion as “ill-advised” and “rash.” Joan Peck suggested a study session as a first step, creating enough support to approve the revised motion 4-3, with Christensen, Rodriguez, Peck and Hidalgo-Fanning voting in favor.
The Council was scheduled to discuss metro districts the following week on December 10, but the discussion was postponed after over 60 minutes of public comments on the topic. Mayor Pro Tem Aren Rodriguez suggested the delay, saying that it would be better to wait until January 7 for a special City Council “pre-session.” Rodriguez argued that such a venue would allow for more discussion without “the constraints of Roberts’ Rules of Order.” He said, “this Council has been fractured since the election. We need to come to consensus as a new Council…”
After prolonged discussion the Council voted 5 to 2 to support Rodriguez’ motion. Polly Christensen voted against the motion, saying it was unfair to the public since people expected the discussion that night. Joan Peck also opposed the motion. Earlier stated she didn’t want to allow public comment on January 7, especially from developers. The details on the location and time of the “pre-session” will not be available until December 13.
Septic Transfer of Title Inspections: Larimer County is planning to implement new septic regulations in the Fall of 2020. Properties with on-site wastewater treatment systems (OWTS) will require an inspection by a certified third-party inspector to identify any conditions requiring repair. The inspection will also verify the design of the system is consistent with its current use (meaning it is appropriately sized for the home’s number of bedrooms). Inspection reports will be submitted to the County’s Department of Health and the Environment prior to closing.
Chris Manley, Environmental Health Officer for the Department’s Environmental Health Services Division, said transfer of title inspections are not currently required by Colorado law but will likely be mandatory in the future. Manley, and Environmental Health Director Shaun May, said their intent is not to delay closings. Once the inspection has been done the responsible party (either the owner or buyer) will have 180 days to complete any necessary repairs. The “Acceptance Document” issued by the Department if the inspection meets the regulations in effect when the OWTS was permitted will be valid for 12 months.
County staff is very aware that the success of the program will hinge on getting septic professionals certified. Hanley and Mays said if there aren’t enough certified inspectors, the County will delay the launch the program if needed. It is the County’s intent to work with all three local associations to get feedback, as well as conduct outreach to septic professionals. More information will be available in the coming months. 250 listings in IRES have sold or are on the market as of December 6, 2019.
Council Moves Forward with Plan to Preserve Mobile Home Parks: The City Council gave staff approval to create specialized zoning for mobile home parks. In addition, the Council wants to see more information about two other concepts: licensing parks as businesses for more effective regulation and initiating a City purchase of a park.
Mobile homes are seen as an important form of affordable housing. Within Fort Collins there are 10 manufactured housing communities and approximately 1,400 home sites. An additional 14 communities and an additional 2,100 home sites exist within the Fort Collins Growth Management Area (GMA). Several of the largest communities are also immediately adjacent to City limits. The City will consult and collaborate with Larimer County in considering in strategies for the mobile home parks outside City limits.
Staff told the Council that mobile home residents face specific difficulties because it’s expensive and sometimes impossible to move a mobile home out of a park. Older homes aren’t always movable and might not be new enough to meet the requirements of other parks. At least one park in Fort Collins doesn’t allow owners to remove their homes from the property.
Creating a manufactured housing zone district is the most effective strategy to preserve mobile home parks, according to staff. Specialized zoning could insulate parks from the risk of closures because redevelopment approval would require a public review process and the approval of City Council.
However, specialized zoning presents a challenge because it is downzoning and impacts the property rights of the owners. Owners of manufactured housing communities in other towns have opposed this tactic. According to a staff memo, there have been legal challenges to manufactured home zoning across the country, either as examples of a takings or spot rezoning. In many circumstances, the zone districts have been upheld, especially if it can be demonstrated a reasonable economic use of the property remains.
The Council implemented a one-year moratorium on mobile home park redevelopment in August, but that could will end sooner if policy changes are put into place before August 2020. It is expected the new mobile home park zone regulation will be considered by Council in April. If it is approved the moratorium would end.
Samson Joins City Council: After a recount Andrea Samson was declared the winner of Loveland’s Ward 2 seat by three votes. She was sworn into office on December 10. Before leaving the dais that evening, Leah Johnson said she is proud of the collaboration she had with her colleagues. That collaboration isn’t “always agreement but it’s part of the push and pull … that makes Loveland amazing.” The Council will elect a mayor pro tem on December 17.
Zasada Wins! After a recount, Realtor® Kristin Zasada was declared the victor in a close race with Stacy Suniga for the two-year, at-large seat on Greeley’s City Council. Zasada won by 15 votes. Zasada and Ed Clark were sworn in on December 10.
Ed Clark offered a prepared speech and said, “the economy, public safety and thoughtful planning for growth are my priorities.” He added that the city needs housing for all income levels, and more water and water storage.
Hall Elected Mayor Pro Tem: The new City Council unanimously elected Dale Hall as mayor pro tem without discussion on December 10. There were no other candidates.
In addition, Mayor Gates announced Council liaison appointments to boards and commissions. The mayor will serve on the Greeley Water and Sewer Board. Brett Payton will serve as Greeley’s representative on the regional metropolitan (transportation) planning organization (NFRMPO). Kristen Zasada will serve on the Downtown Development Authority and the City’s Historic Preservation Commission. Dale Hall will serve on Upstate, the Weld County economic development organization.
New Transportation Funding Strategies Uncertain: Governor Jared Polis told the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance last month that the region would see benefits from the extra $625 million he hopes the Legislature will budget for the Colorado Department of Transportation next year, on top of the $300 million he approved in the current state budget.
In 2017, Senate Bill 267 authorized $1.8 billion in long-term bonds for transportation backed by leases on government buildings. On top of that, the state budget is required to pitch in $50 million a year. Last year Senate Bill 1 put $495 million into roads, bridges and alternative transportation in 2018, and $150 million this year.
The Metro Mayors Association are considering regional taxing strategies, effectively giving up on a statewide solution, given recent history. The idea isn’t widely supported yet, but the call gets louder every time a statewide ballot measure fails.
However, that strategy has opponents, too. Fix Colorado Roads, a coalition of business groups, takes a dim view of a piecemeal strategy saying it would “balkanize” the state. Rural areas wouldn’t be able to raise enough funding through that approach.
It remains to be seen whether the Legislature will consider new long-range funding in 2020 or focus on cleaner, greener vehicles and transit.
New FHA and GSE Loan Limits: As expected, FHA just published its 2020 loan limits. The FHA high-cost limit is the same as the GSE limit – $765,000. The FHA floor (the lowest FHA limit) also rose to $331,760. Nearly every county in the country saw an increase in their loan limits.
The way that loan limits are calculated, all counties within the same Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) benefit from the highest limit in that MSA. Over the last year, the government changed some definitions of MSAs. The result is that 11 counties, who were removed from their nearest MSA, will see decreases in their loan limits, but none of these counties are located in Colorado.
The 2020 loan limits are available here. These limits are effective from January 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020.
Limits for MSAs in Northern Colorado:
Boulder County – $626,750
Fort Collins/Loveland – $437,000
Greeley (Weld County) – $385,250
Carson on Affordability: Speaking at the first-ever Real Estate Forecast Summit, U.S. Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Ben Carson called affordable housing “one of the real challenges of our time.” Carson said the Trump administration’s White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing is looking at a range of solutions, including the elimination of regulatory barriers—such as zoning restrictions, density restrictions, and wetlands rules—that add to the cost of construction.
Carson said the council is looking at what can be done at the federal level to incentivize change, but private industry, he said, will bring the best answers to the housing inventory and affordability challenges. “Real answers don’t come from the federal government,” he said. “They come from the people with boots on the ground, who are actually the stakeholders who are involved with the issues we are dealing with.”