Regional Government Affairs Update November 9, 2020 đźŹˇ

Boulder County
Democrats Continue Winning Tradition: Boulder County voters elected two more Democrats to replace term-limited Deb Gardner and Elise Jones on the Boulder County Board of Commissioners. LAR-endorsed candidate James Crowder was defeated by Marta Loachamin, who received 76 percent of the votes for the District 2 seat. Loachamin and Claire Levy (District 1) will join Matt Jones on the Board in January 2021. A Republican hasn’t served on the Board for nearly three decades.

Larimer County
Democrats Sweep County Commission: With 53 percent of the votes, Kristin Stephens won the right to represent District 2 on the Board of County Commissioners, replacing term-limited Steve Johnson. Stephens’ election creates a vacancy on the Fort Collins City County on which Stephens currently serves as Mayor Pro-Tem. 

Jody Shadduck-McNally beat Ben Aste in the District 3 race with 53 percent of the vote. She will replace Tom Donnelly, who was also term-limited. 

Why did voters prefer the Democratic candidates? The answer to that question could only be answered by an exit poll. However, “blue wave” has been a phenomenon in Larimer County politics since 2018 when voters chose John Kefalas for Commissioner (District 1) and Bob Overbeck for County Assessor. In this election county voters also chose a Democrat for District Attorney.

Note: The Fort Collins Board of REALTORS® and Loveland-Berthoud Association of REALTORS® had endorsed Bob McCluskey for District 2 and Ben Aste for District 3. 

Voters Reject Sales Tax: 59 percent of Loveland voters said no to Ballot Issue 2A, a one percent sales and use tax increase for infrastructure, public safety and City services. This is the second time in two years that the City has unsuccessfully attempted to increase the City’s sales tax, which hasn’t been increased in decades.

Ballot measure 2A was supported by the Loveland-Berthoud Association of REALTORS® and the Loveland Chamber of Commerce.

Property Rights Theme of Council Discussion on Code Amendments: Recently staff presented a list of proposed amendments to Loveland’s Unified Development Code (UDC). The amendments discussed were described as major, relating to substantive, complex issues. All of the amendments had been reviewed and unanimously by the Planning Commission. 

The City Council spent most of its time discussing the recommendation to add a definition of family to the UDC. The definition is important because it is tied to the concept of occupancy limits. Staff explained that the UDC does not include that definition, although the previous development code capped occupancy at 3 unrelated people per unit, based on the notion that the average home has three bedrooms. However, the Council was not persuaded that the current lack of a definition poses a problem or that a residential occupancy limit was needed.

Staff explained that the UDC defines a small rooming house as four to eight unrelated people living together. But the Council did not see the inclusion of rooming house definition as necessitating a definition of family. 

The Planning Commission recommended adding a definition of a family as “any number of persons who are related by blood, marriage, adoptions, guardianship or custodial relationship, who live together in a single housekeeping unit and share common living, sleeping, cooking and eating facilities.” The Commission suggested the related occupancy limit for a home should be “an unlimited number of family members plus two unrelated persons or up to four unrelated individuals.”

Mayor Pro Tem Don Overcash asked if there was a problem the City was trying to solve. Councilmember Steve Olson agreed, saying he didn’t think the City should tell private property owners how many people should be allowed to live in their homes. Bob Paulson, the City’s Current Planning Manager, told the Council the code amendment could be written in such a way to remove occupancy limits for single-family homes.

The other major amendments, accessory structure size limits and minimum lot sizes required to allow the construction of accessory dwelling units also prompted a lot of questions from the Council. Councilmember Andrea Samson said she didn’t want to give neighbors the right to tell her she couldn’t build a larger ADU on her lot, while Dave Clark wanted more information on the Planning Commission’s ADU size limit recommendations, saying he wanted to understand its rationale.

It appears the accessory structure and ADU amendments will move forward in a public hearing process, but the family definition and its related occupancy limits will be “extracted” from the amendment list and subjected to further research. 

Note: Occupancy limits have not been controversial in Loveland. However, in other Northern Colorado cities, this topic has been the source of much discussion, particularly in Boulder and Fort Collins where advocates argue allowing greater occupancy in single-family homes would help housing affordability. Historically, increasing occupancy limits in these towns has been fiercely opposed by residents in some neighborhoods, with parking constraints and neighborhood character cited as reasons to protect lower occupancy limits.  

Weld County
GARA-Endorsed Candidates Elected to Board of Commissioners: All three candidates supported by the Greeley Area REALTORS Association were elected to the Board of County Commissioners. Perry Buck, who formerly served in the General Assembly representing House District 49 received 62 percent of the vote for the At-Large seat. Incumbent Mike Freeman received 65 percent of the vote. Lori Saine, who previously represented House District 63 was elected to represent District 3 with 55 percent of the vote.

Note: Weld County continues to buck the Democratic trend in Colorado. A Democrat hasn’t served on the Board of County Commissioners since 1992.

Voters Pass Ballot Issue 2I: 73 percent of Greeley voters approved the extension of the Food (sales) Tax through December 2026. Revenues from the Food Tax help fund public buildings, parks, streets and recreational facilities. The City Council had been very concerned the ballot issue would face challenges, given the economic repercussions of the COVID pandemic but evidently voters are confident the tax’s revenues are put to good use in Greeley. The Greeley Area REALTOR® Association supported Ballot Issue 2I. 
Colorado Association of REALTORS®

CAR Endorsed Candidates Succeed: All of CAR’s endorsed candidates won seats in the Colorado General Assembly. This includes incumbents Joann Ginal (Fort Collins), Hugh McKean (Loveland) who is likely to be the House Minority Leader for 2021, and Jeni Arndt (Fort Collins).

Freshmen legislators endorsed by CAR include Barbara Kirkmeyer, the former Weld County Commissioner, who will represent Senate District 23, new Boulder County House Representatives Karen McCormick and Tracy Bennett, Tony Van Beber (Severance), Mike Lynch (Larimer County) and Dan Woog (eastern and southern Weld County).

Note: CAR was mostly successful with its positions on ballot measures as well. Proposition EE, the tax on vaping and tobacco was approved by 68 percent of the voters. Proposition 117 to require a vote on enterprise funds passed with 52 percent of the vote. Proposition 118, which CAR opposed, was approved by 57 percent of Colorado voters. Prop. 118 will create a tax to fund a paid family leave program.

Exemption on Manufactured Home Sales: Did you see the November 5, 2020 memo from the Division of Real Estate explaining when a real estate broker can sell a manufactured home? According to Director Marcia Waters, a broker can sell a manufactured home when there is and involved in the sale and the broker does not own the land. This includes sales where a lot lease is involved if the broker is negotiating the terms of. a separate land lease with the owner of the land where the home already sits or will be installed in the future in addition to selling the manufactured home OR the sale of the manufactured home is in conjunction with the sale of the land. 

Read the entire memo here:

Consequences of the Gallagher Amendment Repeal: By approving Amendment B, voters repealed the Gallagher Amendment, relinquishing its stranglehold on local tax policy and untangling one of the key threads in Colorado’s “fiscal knot.” In the short term, the Gallagher Amendment repeal means homeowners will forgo a projected 18 percent property tax cut in 2021. However, the passage of Amendment B also eliminates one of Colorado’s few laws to mitigate the impact of rising housing prices. As a result, observers predict property tax bills will likely go up for many Coloradans next year due to rising property values. 

President-Elect Biden’s Housing Proposals: Undoubtedly the National Association of REALTORS® has been quietly analyzing Joe Biden’s real estate-related policy proposals even though NAR steers clear of endorsing presidential candidates. Presumably, we’ll hear more from NAR in the weeks ahead. 

In the meantime, what Biden said during his campaign may shed some light on what we can expect to see once he takes office in January. Biden called for investing $640 billion over 10 years to provide access for all Americans to housing that is affordable, safe and healthy, accessible, energy-efficient and resilient, and located near good schools with a reasonable commute to jobs. 

He said he planned to do this by ending redlining, discriminatory and unfair practices in the housing market, providing financial assistance to help people buy or rent through a tax credit and fully funding rental assistance, increasing housing supply and improving it by lowering the cost and increasing energy efficiency and accessibility.

Regarding the tax credit proposal, Biden indicated he wants to help first-time homebuyers by creating a new refundable, advanceable tax credit up to $15,000. The tax credit would be provided when buyers make the purchase rather than when they file taxes the following year.

At the same time, it has been reported that Biden intends to eliminate 1031 exchanges as part of his “Plan for Mobilizing American Talent and Heart to Create a 21st Century Caregiving and Education Workforce.” The Plan will cost $775 billion over 10 years and will be paid for by “rolling back unproductive and unequal tax breaks for real estate investors with incomes over $400,000 and taking steps to increase tax compliance for high-income earners.”

See this Forbes article for some interesting comments on Biden’s Plan:

Gardner Loses Senate Race: Cory Gardner, who served as one of Colorado’s two Senators lost his bid for a second six-year term. He was defeated by former Governor John Hickenlooper, who received 54 percent of the votes. NAR had endorsed Gardner, who had been consistently strong on real estate-related issues and was ranked as one of the least partisan members of Congress.

Note: NAR also supported incumbents Rep. Joe Neguse (CD-3), who won with 62 percent of the votes and Rep. Ken Buck (CD-4) who won with 60 percent of the votes.

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