Revisions to Mobile Home Sales Regulations: Boulder’s City Council passed an ordinance on Feb. 16 designed to solve concerns related to challenges faced by homeowners when selling mobile or manufactured homes. Owners of these homes reported park managers or owners interfered, discouraged, or delayed sales or purchases. The ordinance requires park managers to provide information on park rules and leases within three days and expands the timeline to provide notice of buyer approval or denial of entrance into the community to 10 business days, among other new requirements.
The Council was pleased with the ordinance, which passed unanimously. “This project helps preserve affordable market-rate housing in Boulder,” said Adam Swetlik. Mayor Sam Weaver boasted that Boulder was a leader in the area of manufactured housing, saying, “We are helping lead the State forward, so this is a great step.”
City STEAMS Forward: In 2018 the City Council adopted a work plan that included a new vision for the St. Vrain River corridor from the Sugar Mill to the Fairgrounds. Staff was directed to proceed with a new planning initiative to create an “epicenter of science, technology, education, arts, and mathematics (S.T.E.A.M.)” to become a vibrant economic, residential, cultural, and entertainment district.
On Feb. 16 the City Council received an update on this project from Tony Chacon, the City’s Redevelopment Manager and Glen Van NimWegen, the new Director of Planning. COVID caused some delays but staff is ready to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for STEAM in May. Chacon said because of its history and uses the area is likely subject to some form of environmental degradation, which will qualify it as a “brownfields redevelopment area.” While this means its redevelopment will be expensive, it also means the City qualifies for brownfields grants from State and Federal agencies.
During limited comments following the presentation, Councilmember Joan Peck said she is excited about STEAM, while Mayor Pro Tem Aren Rodriguez and Councilmember Polly Christensen voiced reservations. Rodriguez said he felt the City would be better served to focus on the Highway 287 (Main Street) redevelopment program rather than the Sugar Mill site. Christensen said she agreed with Rodriguez and advised the staff to start with the commercial sub-plans for the project versus the residential component to create “an automatic rental pool.”
Note: In conjunction with this project the City hired the services of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), which will present its findings on the Sugar Mill site to the City Council later this spring. The ULI offers advice and experience on the topics of “compact development, transportation, urban design and workforce housing.”
Council Revises Stadium Ballot Language per Court Order: The Larimer County District Court ordered the City to include a contested portion of a citizen-initiated ballot measure that directs Fort Collins to purchase the former Hughes Stadium site and zone it as open lands. The City had argued some of the provisions in the ballot initiative, especially the section ordering the City to “acquire the property,” were administrative and not subject to a citizen initiative.
In a February 15 Coloradoan article, City Attorney Carrie Daggett revealed that the City is evaluating whether to appeal the District Court’s order. Nonetheless, on Feb. 16 the City Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution to revise the initiative as directed by the District Court and add it to the April 6 election.
Judge Juan Villaseñor ordered the City to submit the following language to the voters:
“Shall the City enact an ordinance requiring the City Council of the City of Fort Collins to immediately rezone upon passage of the ordinance a 164.56-acre parcel of real property formerly home to the Hughes Stadium from the Transition District to the Public Open Lands District, and requiring the City to acquire the property at fair market value to use said property for parks, recreation, and open lands, natural areas, and wildlife rescue and restoration, and further prohibiting the City from de-annexing, ceasing acquisition efforts or subsequently rezoning the property without voter approval of a separate initiative referred to the voters by City Council, and granting legal standing to any registered elector in the City to seek injunctive and/or declaratory relief in the courts related to City noncompliance with said ordinance.”
The only members of the Council willing to voice an opinion on the issue were the two who are term-limited: Mayor Wade Troxell and Councilmember Ross Cunniff. The Mayor noted he supports the motion to let the voters decide but cautioned, “Hughes owned by a state entity …. Not the jurisdiction of the City of Fort Collins… We have to be fully transparent, the desires (of the activists) won’t happen regarding the purchase. When you have an unwilling seller… it won’t clear as a sale.” Cunniff, who lives in the neighborhood adjacent to the stadium said he supported the ballot measure.
This is a complex issue. Can citizens force their government to purchase the property? What if the owner (CSU) is unwilling to sell? These questions will become relevant if Fort Collins voters approve the ballot measure on April 6.
No Consensus on Occupancy Standards: The City Council and Planning Commission (PC) held a joint meeting on Feb. 23 but the PC was unable to convince the Council to adopt its recommendation concerning a more relaxed occupancy standard.
Occupancy standards became an issue for City planning staff several years ago when they began to receive questions about the legality of various “group home” options in Loveland. The City’s new development code – the Unified Development Code (UDC) – defines four unrelated individuals living together as a “rooming house,” which is not allowed in a single-family zone, so almost any group home scenario wouldn’t be allowed in a single-family zone if more than three people were to reside there.
Staff worked with the PC to come up with an occupancy standard for single-family zones that “better fit the Loveland community,” said City planner Kerri Burchett. She reminded the joint meeting participants that the current definition allows an unlimited number of “family” members to live in a house. After some discussion, the PC decided to propose a U+3 (four unrelated people) standard and agreed that it would also be amenable to U+4 (five unrelated people).
However, the Council expressed little support for the recommendation. Councilmember Andrea Samson said, “I don’t like this.” Other councilors, like Don Overcash, expressed concern that it is discriminatory to limit the number of unrelated people living in a home since a family can include an unlimited number of people. City Attorney Moses Garcia’s comment that the lack of an occupancy standard in the UCD could create issues if the City was taken to court didn’t seem to persuade the Council, either. Only two councilors (Kathi Wright and Dave Clark) supported the PC recommendation.
Long-Range Planner Bob Paulsen tried to soothe frustrated Councilmembers, saying “There’s no tougher issue in planning than this (occupancy standards).”After a long discussion, the City Manager said staff would draft up several options to bring back in front of the Council at a future date.
The Council did agree with the recommendation to add more flexibility to the City’s accessory dwelling unit regulations. The proposal will keep the recommended building footprint of 10 percent of the total lot area, but allow a maximum square footage of 900 SF in all residential zones. The ADU will have to be smaller in building footprint than the principal dwelling and can’t exceed the height of the principal dwelling unless the ADU is accessed from an alley. Staff will now draft an ordinance including these ADU revisions for formal Council review.
Council Looks at Small Format Housing Options: Continuing its discussion of land use code changes to implement Greeley’s Housing Strategic Plan, planning staff walked the Council through options for “small format housing” on Feb. 23. The goal of the plan is to encourage more affordable housing in the City.
Most of the home concepts are related to design ideas such as “tall and skinny”, “laneway” or alley homes, accessory dwelling units, mobile home lot sizes, or tiny homes. Staff wanted the Council’s input on the designs and which zones would be appropriate for these options.
Consultants working for the City had made some recommendations such as enabling a courtyard housing pattern (good for deeper lots) and allowing smaller, compact lots. These recommendations didn’t generate much comment from the Council but some of the design concepts led to more feedback.
Mayor Gates said he “could live with all the changes” recommended by staff.
Councilmember Tommy Butler said he loved the ideas. Some of the other councilors had reservations. Kristin Zasada said she struggles with the ADU concept because there is a problem ADU in her neighborhood. She was adamant that she is “not ok” with them in the R-L zone. Dale Hall agreed with her but Brett Payton said he wanted to see options for them.
Staff will continue working with the Housing Advisory Committee on the small format housing recommendations and will come back to Council with a whole package of code changes in September.
City Seeks Feedback on Occupancy Standards: One of the options Greeley could explore to increase housing affordability is to relax its occupancy limits in most single-family neighborhoods. Currently, no more than two unrelated adults can share a home, regardless of the home’s number of bedrooms. This topic has generated controversy in many Colorado communities so the staff was instructed to gather as much citizen feedback on the issue as possible.
There are two ways to give your thoughts. A virtual Open House has been scheduled for March 1 at 6:00 pm. Register in advance for the Open House here: https://tinyurl.com/3axwbkbr
In addition, take the City’s survey. It is available here: https://tinyurl.com/yfw5u5hz
COLORADO ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
Legislative Update: The 2021 legislative session resumed on February 16 and CAR lobbyists and staff were busy reviewing hundreds of bills. CAR’s Legislative Policy Committee (LPC) met and discussed the 30 real estate-related bills introduced so far on Feb. 19.
The LPC directed CAR’s lobbying team to do its best to amend bills of most concern, for example, House Bill 1117 “Local Government Authority to Promote Affordable Housing Units.” This bill appears to be an attempt to weaken Colorado’s statutory prohibition on rent control, by emphasizing the legislature’s authority to permit local rent control ordinances as long as such ordinances provide a choice of options to the developer when requiring the construction of affordable housing units.
Note: More information on the bills of most interest to real estate will be provided later in the session. As mentioned, many bills CAR is watching are in an “amend” position. The hope is that these bills will see substantive revisions if CAR’s lobbying team and other political allies are successful.
NAR Report Outlines Policies to Address Housing Affordability Problems: Nationwide housing inventory is lower than it’s been since the National Association of Realtors® began tracking this data in 1982. To continue its work to address a problem that has long plagued American communities and has been worsened by COVID-19, NAR just released new research arguing that the nation’s affordability crisis will require policymakers to adopt localized solutions. The paper, State and Local Policy Strategies to Advance Housing Affordability, recommends lawmakers pursue solutions through three key avenues: financial policy measures; policies aimed at increasing the supply of housing and zoning; and permitting policy reform.
In a presentation, the report’s authors said Colorado one of the worst-hit states re affordability. They said the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metropolitan area is one of the least affordable markets among large-sized metro areas. Other large-size markets that are similarly unaffordable include San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara (CA), Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade(CA), and Portland (OR). Among small metro markets, the only Colorado city to make the least affordable list was Boulder.
The authors admit there are no “silver bullets” to magically solve housing affordability. They describe a variety of policies such as downpayment assistance, accessory dwelling units, density bonuses, and inclusionary zoning, saying “governments and policymakers should look for a combination of policies that best fits the needs of their communities and local housing markets.” Read the report here:
NAR’s Advocacy Agenda for the 117th Congress: What are NAR’s advocacy objectives for the next two years? The Association has four goals: Improve Access to Homeownership, Enable a Quick Economic Recovery After COVId-19, Ensure Fair Housing for All and Build Strong, Resilient Communities and Businesses. Click here for more information: https://tinyurl.com/27ukm45s