Regional Government Affairs Update July 7, 2021 🌻

When is it appropriate to mount a recall effort against an elected official? This is a legitimate question, and one voters must consider more frequently in this age of political divisiveness. 

In my opinion, a recall is only justified IF a politician has violated the jurisdiction’s charter OR engaged in conduct so egregious as to make themselves unworthy of representing their constituents. From my perspective, attempting a recall simply because one disagrees with a politician’s stance on the issues is an irresponsible use of a democratic safeguard.

What do you think?

Best Regards, 
Barbara Koelzer
Regional Government Director


LOCAL
Boulder County Longmont
ADU Revisions Approved: The City Council approved revisions to Longmont’s regulations pertaining to accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on June 29. The new language clarifies that ADUs cannot exceed one-half of the finished, above-ground floor area. The old language limited ADUs to the total finished floor area of an existing home, which resulted in some ADUs that neighbors felt were too large.

In terms of requirements, stand-alone ADUs or ADUs converted from existing detached structures like a garage must now go through the full site plan review process. Only ADUs within an existing dwelling will go through the site plan waiver process.

The definition of ADU in the Development Code was revised to clarify the difference between an ADU and a basement finish or remodel. If the proposed project includes three or more the following elements, it is considered to be an ADU: a separate entrance, cooking facilities, sanitary facilities, or separate heat and ventilation.

Finally, noticing requirements were added to the code. Previously, written notice to neighbors was not legally required although Erin Fosdick told the Council the City has been sending ADU notifications anyway. Staff suggested adding notices for neighbors within 150 of the subject property, saying this would result in notification to properties within a block. Polly Christensen disagreed, saying notification to properties within 300 feet would be better. She made a motion to that effect, which was approved by a 4-2 vote, with Marcia Martin and Tim Waters opposed. Joan Peck was absent from the meeting.

Broomfield
Castriotta Elected Mayor: Mayor Pro Tem Guyleen Castriotta was elected by her peers to serve as Broomfield’s interim mayor until the November election following Pat Quinn’s surprise resignation in May. The vote was 7-1 in Castriotta’s favor. 
Councilwoman Kimberly Groom, who is running for mayor this November alongside Castriotta, chose not to run for the interim position. According to the Daily Camera, she said, “It is not appropriate for any mayoral candidate to seek appointment or to be appointed into this position during an election cycle. A neutral placeholder is the fair approach for our community until the Broomfield voters speak this November.”

Larimer County
Fort Collins

Council Finalizes 2021-2023 Priority List: At its first retreat, the newly-elected City Council completed its two-year list of priorities. The list hasn’t been formally adopted; that will happen at an upcoming meeting. The priorities are important because they will be the focus of the City’s budget for the next two years. 

Many of the priorities relate to the environment, such as accelerating City composting, enhancing recycling education, and tree planting subsidies. Very few of the priorities relate directly to real estate. Only one, “Rebuilding communities” comes close. This priority will focus on creating  “15-minute communities,” where residents are within a 15-minute walk from public transit, grocery stores, schools, and parks.

Affordable housing is not included on the list. This is because it is already the focus of the Housing Strategic Plan. “Priorities are not the only way to get things done,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Emily Gorgol. Does this mean the new 31 priorities will simply be added to the long list of action plans and strategies that have already been adopted?

Loveland
Recall Effort Moving Forward: The Committee to Recall Don Overcash, led by attorney Troy Krenning (a former City Councilor), and Gil Barela, the Chair of the Larimer County Democrats, is almost ready to begin gathering signatures in its effort to recall Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Don Overcash. The committee is waiting for the Loveland City Clerk to approve its final petition form. 

Once the petition is approved, the committee will have 60 days to collect nearly 1,300 signatures from residents of Ward IV, which Overcash represents. His term runs through 2023. Overcash announced his candidacy for mayor in January 2021. 

The draft petition lists grievances the organizers have with Overcash, although honestly, the same criticisms could describe anyone on Council other than perhaps Mayor Jacki Marsh, and Councilmembers Andrea Samson and Rob Molloy. According to the Reporter-Herald, the complaints include “voting for projects that have increased public debt without voter approval”, refusing to condemn the actions of the Loveland Police Department related to the arrest of Karen Garner, approving “huge” incentive deals with developers, “approving every metro district,” and promoting a sales tax increase in 2019.

Overcash has done his best to stay above the fray, saying only “I’m running to be the next mayor of Loveland because we need to unite Loveland,” he said. “Everyone wants to be heard, understood and then see action.” He added that 95 percent of the votes he has made have been in consensus with the majority of councilors.

The Committee to Recall Don Overcash doesn’t have a website, but many comments relevant to the recall can be found on the Local Loveland Politics Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/787805121983684. A group has formed to defend Overcash, known as Lovelanders for Solutions. Access that website here: https://www.solutionsforloveland.com

Note: The Loveland-Berthoud Association of REALTORS® endorsed Overcash in 2015 and 2019.

Weld County
Greeley

Update on Housing Strategic Plan: Economic Development and Housing Director Ben Snow gave the Greeley City Council an update on the City’s progress in implementing the Housing Strategic Plan adopted in 2019. He said the City has made strides meeting 20 of 33 action items. 

Community Development Director Brad Mueller spoke about the Land Use Code revisions that are included in the Plan. These include adding language to encourage more housing options such as “small format” homes and infill development. The changes will be considered for adoption by Council next month. He also mentioned the staff’s desire to hire another planner to focus on creating neighborhood plans. He said the development pipeline is primed with six major subdivisions that will create over 12,000 units over five to fifteen years.

Sean Chambers, Greeley’s Director of Water & Sewer spoke to the Plan’s recognition that water is a big driver in increasing home prices. He listed some of the changes the City has made to make water dedication requirements more precise in order to reduce raw water calculations. The list included items such as requiring impact fees (known as public improvement fees or PIFs) to be based on meter size rather than units for multi-family developments, and the Terry Ranch project, which will create an additional source of raw water. 

Snow completed the presentation by saying the Plan addresses the entire housing spectrum from supportive to market-rate units. He added the City is creating 700 affordable units using private activity bonds (PABs) leveraging $28 million in PABs for $115 million worth of projects.

COLORADO ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
Legislative Update: Recently CAR’s Legislative Policy Committee met for its last update on the 2021 session. Bills passed by the legislature become law provided they are not vetoed by Governor Polis.

It was announced the legislature created an interim committee known as the Affordable Housing Task Force. Its purpose is to issue recommendations to the legislature and Governor Polis “regarding policies to create transformative change in the area of housing using federal coronavirus recovery money.” The task force will include legislators and non-legislators. CAR’s Vice-President for Public Policy, Liz Peetz, said the task force will create engagement and advocacy opportunities for CAR and its members.

Here’s an update on several bills of note from the session.

  • Senate Bill 262 “Transparency and Accountability Improvements for Special Districts” Status – signed by Gov. Polis on June 28. CAR Position: Support

This bill increases transparency and accountability about property taxes for residents. Special Districts include improvement districts, fire or water districts, and metro districts. It requires special districts to publish information such as contact information for current directors, budget information, a map of the district’s boundaries, announcements about elections to serve on the board of directors, and more. 

CAR officials say The best part of the bill is the requirement for the builder or developer of new construction to increase disclosures to residents about their estimated tax responsibilities, access to the special district website information, and a formula to calculate how it could increase. This transparency is critical for consumers to understand how much their potential mortgage and other taxes will cost them every month. 

  • House Bill 1271 “Innovative Affordable Housing Strategies” Status – Signed by Governor Polis on June 27. CAR position – Support.

This bill is one of the four bills created by CAR in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity in celebration of CAR’s 100th anniversary. It provides $48 million for grants to support affordable housing development. Nearly $38 million will be available in 2022 for award to municipalities and counties as incentive grants to develop one or more affordable housing developments in their community that add community benefit. Incentive grants can help cover tap fees, infrastructure, playgrounds and parks, and other needs and amenities for the development and surrounding neighborhood. To qualify for these funds, municipalities, and counties must adopt at least three strategies from the menu of policy and regulatory options listed in the bill. 

  • Senate bill 238 “Create Front Range Passenger Rail District” Status – Signed by Governor Polis on June 30. CAR position – Monitor.

Senate Bill 238 creates a new taxation district to fund Front Range passenger rail, which will be overseen by a board of directors. The Colorado Sun calls the bill “the most significant step yet” towards creating a rail system that would run from New Mexico to Wyoming. Six of the 17 directors will be appointed by the governor. The Board will be responsible for making the project a reality. They will have the authority to ask voters within the district to approve a tax of up to 8 cents on a $10 purchase to pay for the project. 

Governor Polis said Front Range rail will “derail this economic crisis” and help Colorado “recover faster.” Bill sponsors say Amtrak’s financial commitment to the project and Congressional support for rail in a proposed infrastructure bill, make the multi-billion project feasible sooner rather than later.

NATION
Supreme Court Rules on Eviction Moratorium: In a 5-4 ruling on June 29, the U.S. Supreme Court said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lacked authority to implement a blanket, nationwide eviction moratorium. Although the court declined to lift the ban immediately, the ruling means the current moratorium will expire at the end of July.

“This is a massive victory for property rights,” says NAR President Charlie Oppler.  “For more than a year, mom-and-pop property owners have been pushed toward financial ruin as they upkeep their properties and pay their taxes and mortgages with no income of their own.  With the pandemic waning and the economy improving, it is time to restore the housing sector to its healthy, former function.  Property owners also deserved this absolute clarity from our federal court system regarding property rights in America to avoid similar financial harm in the future.”

The eviction ban was first issued in September 2020 during President Trump’s term and was extended by President Biden several times through the end of July. With the support of NAR, the Georgia and Alabama Associations of REALTORS® challenged the orders in federal court.

Infrastructure Affects Real Estate: Recently the Counselors of Real Estate (CRE) issued a list of the Top 10 Issues affecting real estate. It was gratifying to see infrastructure included on that list. https://www.cre.org/external-affairs/2021-22-top-ten-issues-affecting-real-estate/#infrastructure.

CRE says the American Society of Civil Engineers “estimates the U.S. infrastructure funding gap in 2021 to be $2.6 trillion, up 24 percent from 2017. Not only is public safety at risk from failed water systems, roads, dams, and other shortfalls, but the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that fully closing the physical infrastructure gap could translate into 1.2  percent, or 1.5 million, more jobs across the economy.  The U.S. spends only 2.3 percent of GDP on infrastructure, while European countries spend 5% on average and China spends about 8 percent.”

Read more about NAR’s position on the topic here: https://www.nar.realtor/transportation-and-infrastructure.

Biden Appoints Acting FHFA Director: Late last month the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced that President Biden has appointed Sandra Thompson as the agency’s acting director. Thompson has served as the deputy director of the Division of Housing Mission and Goals (DHMG) since 2013.

The appointment comes after the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that the leadership structure at the Federal Housing Finance Agency is unconstitutional. The high court made the decision that removal limitations preventing the FHFA director from being fired by the president only “for cause” (i.e., neglect or misconduct), were in violation of the separation of powers.

As a result, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that the director can be fired at will by the president. In response, Biden removed FHFA Director Mark Calabria on Wednesday and replaced him with Thompson, who the administration expects to be a better reflection of its priorities in the housing finance policy space. 

The National Association of REALTORS® President Charlie Oppler released a statement Wednesday in response to Thompson’s appointment: “We look forward to continuing our work with the Acting Director as we seek to ensure all U.S. homebuyers, especially those in underserved communities, have access to affordable mortgage credit.”

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—which FHFA oversees—owns or guarantees about $6 trillion in residential mortgages.


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