Regional Government Affairs Update March 26, 2021 đźŚş

Monday March 22nd was a painful day for Coloradoans as we learned of another mass shooting in our state. Those of us from Boulder were especially upset. I grew up on Gillespie Drive, just across the street from King Soopers. It was just a field back then where we played as kids. Now it will be memorialized as the place where innocent people were killed.

Rather than sinking into negativity, which is easy enough on a normal day when your career involves watching politicians playing games, I prefer to focus on how life is getting better. Spring is here and flowers will bloom. Soon we will be able to get together with family, friends, and colleagues without fear. The tide is turning!

Best Regards, 
  Barbara Koelzer
Regional Government Director

Boulder County
County Creates Pilot Car-Share Program: Boulder County’s “Mobility for All” Program has created a pilot car share program in Louisville at the Kestrel community (northwest of Highway 42 and South Boulder Road). Boulder County created the program in conjunction with Colorado Care Share. www.carshare.org

The County says the region has a “growing demand for accessible and connected transit serving neighborhoods of affordable homes.” The new carsharing service is designed to complement existing transit at the Kestrel community in Louisville, which includes 71 permanently-affordable homes for adults 55-and-over and 129 multi-family homes. 

Kestrel Residents also have access to RTD FlexRide, 228 & DASH Routes with a free RTD EcoPass; Boulder County offers a new on-demand, Ride Free Lafayette service that can take residents to Lafayette; Via Mobility Services and RTD Access-a-Ride provide paratransit services for older adults and individuals with disabilities; pedestrians and bikes can travel by trail to Waneka and Harpers Lakes; so this provides a natural complement.”

“This is a first in Louisville and a great opportunity to make it easier than ever to save money on transportation expenses,” said Angel Bond, Mobility for All Program Manager. We are really excited to add carsharing to the suite of transportation options that help Kestrel residents meet all of their transportation needs without having to own their own car.”

The pilot car share program, which is currently funded through 2021 by Boulder County, is expected to continue into next year, with the hope that funding can be secured to provide a shared electric vehicle (EV) with a charging station that may be available for both the Colorado CarShare EV and local residents. The initiative will include free carshare credits and deeply discounted membership and rates to Kestrel residents. This initiative is complemented by a similar carshare program in downtown Longmont that is also supported by Boulder County.

Larimer County
Commissioners Implement “Emergency” Drilling Moratorium: In a surprise move, the all-Democratic Larimer Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved an emergency 30-day moratorium on oil and gas drilling through April 15. The decision did not require a public hearing because it was an “emergency measure.” The rationale for the moratorium is to give the County reasonable time to revise the County’s oil and gas legislation to mesh with the State’s new regulations (Senate Bill-181).

Oil and gas industry representatives were unaware the moratorium was under consideration. They fear the County will implement a 2,000-foot setback and may consider reverse-backs that would further restrict drilling sites. 

Drilling is not a huge source of revenue in Larimer County however, there is oil and gas in the southwestern part of the county. One company had submitted nine drilling permit applications. Matt Lafferty, a planner with Larimer County who drafted the County’s existing drilling rules, said he is unsure how many parcels could be impacted by the moratorium and new setbacks but said he thought it would be “quite a few.”

Why should Realtors® care? Mineral rights are property rights in the same way as surface or water rights. Moratoria and extended setbacks will cause harm to the owners of the mineral and surface rights. 

The commissioners will hold a public hearing at 3:30 p.m. April 13 to take comments on whether to extend the moratorium further.

Estes Park
Town Drafting Comp Plan for Estes Valley: Estes Park received a grant from the Department of Local Affairs to help pay for the cost of developing a long-range aka comprehensive plan. Larimer County is fully supportive of the project, saying it will be “beneficial in allowing the community, Town, and County to identify unique community needs, frame shared goals, and identify means of implementing long-range plans. 

We understand that the plan will enable the Town to identify solutions for issues such as affordable housing, economic resiliency, quality design, and environmental quality and conservation as well as defining where Town expansion should or should not occur into the largely-rural unincorporated area. Additionally, the policies may help move Town and County toward a new planning Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA).” The County completed its own Comp Plan (minus the Estes Valley) in 2019.

The Comp Plan will take approximately 18 months to complete. Owners of property in Estes Park should stay informed as the process moves forward and get involved if possible.

Fort Collins
Election Looms: On April 6 the municipal election will determine four seats on the City Council – Mayor and Districts 1,3, 4 and 5. Since the City Council includes seven members total, this election has the potential to result in four new members. The new Council could set a different public policy course moving forward, depending on the will of the voters. 

The Fort Collins Board of Realtors® interviewed the candidates and endorsed the following candidates, based on their answers to real estate-related issues: Molly Skold (Mayor), Nick Armstrong (District 1), Gavin Kaszynski (District 3), Melanie Potyondy (District 4) and Jeff Hansen (District 5).

In addition, FCBR opposes the citizens’ initiative on Hughes Stadium. That ballot question asks voters to demand that Fort Collins acquire the Hughes property and zone the land for open space. Unfortunately, the City has no way to force Colorado State University to sell the property. If the measure passes, it would prohibit CSU from developing the land, regardless of the University’s wishes. 

FCBR opposes the initiative. Its position is that the City needs more housing, and the project CSU envisions would add hundreds of new homes, include designated affordable housing units. In addition, the project would add much-needed community benefits on the west side of town and would expand the City’s multi-modal transportation options.

Read more about CSU’s plans for the Hughes parcel here:

Weld County

Changes to Occupancy Standards Postponed:  In response to concerns raised by residents about relaxing Greeley’s occupancy limits, on March 18 staff announced the City would not take the new proposal to the Planning Commission on March 23 as scheduled. Instead, Planner Caleb Jackson said staff will be “taking another look and will likely make some tailored adjustments to help ease some concern.”

The staff had intended to hold a public hearing with the Planning Commission to unveil a code update that would allow more occupants to a home than is legal now. (Currently, two unrelated people may share a home, regardless of the number of bedrooms.) In the proposal unveiled on March 15, the legal occupancy limit would vary from two unrelated people allowed to share an efficiency or one-bedroom home to as many as five unrelated people allowed to share a four-bedroom home, with the number of occupants increasing by the number of bedrooms in the home. 

The new occupancy standards would apply in the R-E (Residential Estate), R-L (Residential Low Density), R-M (Residential Medium Density), and R-MH (Residential Mobile Home) zoning districts. Other zoning districts already allow an unlimited number of unrelated adults, which is not proposed to change. 

Staff did not announce a timeline for the release of the tailored adjustments. 

Legislative Update: Observers say Governor Polis has committed to giving the General Assembly $2 B of the State’s $5 Billion federal COVID recovery dollars to spend. Can you say, “feeding frenzy?”

SB-173 “Rights in Residential Lease Agreements” CAR Position: Oppose This bill heavily favors tenants over landlords.

HB-1117 “Local Government Authority Promote Affordable Housing Units” Position: Amend

It appears the bill sponsors may be willing to compromise a little. But this bill, which essentially allows rent control for affordable housing remains a great source of angst for the Legislative Policy Committee.

HB-1205 “Electric Vehicle Road Usage Equalization Fee” Position: Support
“The bill requires a road usage equalization fee (equalization fee) to be imposed at the time of annual registration on each plug-in electric motor vehicle that is required to be registered in the state. The fee is set in an amount that is estimated to achieve parity between the aggregate amount of motor vehicle registration fees and motor fuel excise taxes paid per vehicle by owners of plug-in electric motor vehicles and vehicles fueled by gasoline, diesel, or other special fuels and is annually adjusted for inflation.”

HB-1195 “Regulation Of Radon Professionals” CAR Position – Support. This bill would create minimum qualifications and licensing for radon mitigation professionals.

SB-148 “Creation of Financial Empowerment Office” CAR Position: Monitor
“The bill creates the Financial Empowerment office (office) and the director of the office (director) in the department of law to grow the financial resilience and well-being of Coloradans through specified community-derived goals and strategies. The director is appointed by the attorney general and may hire staff as necessary to perform the duties and functions of the office.”

The bill is intended to provide new tools to improve the ability of Colorado residents to manage their finances, create strategies to remove barriers to building ownership and wealth for all, “especially in low-income communities and communities of color.”

Mortgage Assistance on Hold: As of March 25, Colorado’s Emergency Housing Assistance Program will be on hold according to an article in the Colorado Sun.  The rent-assistance programs will continue to distribute federal funding available only to renters. That program, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program began taking applications on Tuesday. It replaces the state’s Emergency Housing Assistance Program, or EHAP, for tenants and the program for landlords, called Property Owners Preservation, or POP.

When the mortgage assistance will return remains unknown, but more money is expected from the American Rescue Plan, passed by Congress earlier this month. The new federal relief plan provides help nationwide, with about $19.05 billion for rent assistance, $5 billion for homelessness assistance, $5 billion for emergency housing vouchers and $9.96 billion for mortgage payments. 

The Department of Local Affairs does not know how much Colorado will receive in housing assistance from the new relief plan.

Legislative Transportation Leaders Unveil Bill Outline: After weeks of anticipation, Senator Faith Winter (Westminster) and Representative Matt Gray (Broomfield) published an outline of their $3.9 billion plan to fund transportation. The proposal hasn’t been drafted into a bill form yet, but they intend to introduce it soon. Governor Jared Polis voiced support for the proposal, in part because it supports his administration’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with funding for electric vehicles (EV) and EV infrastructure.

The proposal would create a new “road usage fee” to supplement the current gas tax that gasoline users would pay at the pump. That fee would start at 2 cents per gallon in 2023 and increase to 8 cents in 2029. Diesel would be taxed at 6 cents per gallon; the fee increases to 8 cents a gallon by 2027.

Electrical vehicles would see an increase from the $50 a year fee to $90 a year by 2032. Other fees would be imposed on car transportation services like Uber, online retail providers like Amazon, rental cars, taxis and even autonomous vehicles. 

The sponsors say it would save Coloradoans $6.3 Billion a year in wear and tear, fuel and accelerated depreciation. It would raise $3.924 to “modernize and future-proof our transportation system and stabilize funding over the next 11 years.” 

Senator Steven Fenberg, who is a co-sponsor said, “For years, Colorado has struggled to figure out a sustainable way to modernize and fund transportation. I believe this is the year we finally meet those challenges with a real solution that not only reduces congestion, but that does so with the seriousness that our air quality and climate crisis deserve…. We think it’s aggressively reasonable…and reasonably aggressive.”

The Denver Business Journal warns the “plan likely will meet significant Republican opposition due to its reliance on fee hikes that would start as soon as July 2022, both because of their fiscal impacts on Coloradans and because of what many consider their unconstitutionality in regard to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and the recently approved fee-limiting Proposition 117. It also may distress business groups that sought more than the $111.8 million annual contribution it proposes from the state government and possibly anger some environmentalists who have said state leaders should not raise EV fees as they encourage the use of zero-emissions vehicles.”

Realtor® Labor Status Threatened? The U.S. House of Representatives passed what is known as the PRO Act, a bill that aims to empower unions in the 27 “right to work” states and impose California’s Dynamex ABC test regarding independent contractor status on the country as a whole.  

If the PRO Act can attract 10 US Senators (and thus survive an expected filibuster), Realtors® who fail to self-incorporate will automatically become employees of their brokerage firm. However, NAR staffers say “the PRO Act should continue to face an uphill battle in the Senate under the current political structure. Republicans are united in opposition, and even some Democrats are opposed. As of the latest count, there are fewer than 50 members in support. …. 

Further, in the House-passed version of the PRO Act, an amendment was included that protected state definitions of “employer” and “employee” under existing state wage, hour, workers’ comp, and unemployment laws, where real estate professionals are typically classified as independent contractors. Lastly, the modification under the bill to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) does not impact the Internal Revenue Code protection (26 U.S.C. §3508) for real estate professionals, and therefore there is no direct effect on the ability of real estate agents to be classified as statutory non-employees for federal tax purposes.”

NAR remains engaged on this issue and continues to educate policymakers on the broader detrimental impact of this bill.

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