Regional Government Affairs Update January 25, 2022 ❄

In the aftermath of the horrific Marshall fire, the BOLO REALTORS® put together a fabulous panel discussion on how to assist the fire victims. The panelists also spoke about how real estate agents can help clients prepare for future disasters. To learn more, follow this link:

Have you been wondering what else is going on in Longmont, Berthoud, Fort Collins or Loveland? Here’s a teaser: metro districts and rental licensing are topics for future updates.

Barbara Koelzer
Regional Government Director

Boulder County

Jones Will Not Seek Re-Election: On January 13 Boulder County Commissioner Matt Jones announced he will not seek a second term in 2022. Jones said he will spend this year helping the victims of the Marshall Fire. This means there will be one open seat in November. Claire Levy and Marta Loachamin were elected in November 2020 and have two more years in their terms.

Exemptions to Rental Licensing for Disasters:
The City of Boulder will allow exemptions to its rental licensing requirements to provide housing for victims of the Marshall and Middle Fork fires or recent wind storms. The order exempts new rental properties used to house those impacted by the various disasters from having to obtain a rental license. Owners will need to submit an affidavit of exemption showing the property is being used to house people who have been displaced by the fires or wind as well as a current rental housing inspector’s certification of rental inspection report.

The exemption applies to those who submit an affidavit and inspection report to the City Manager on or before Feb. 28. The rental license exemption issued under the order will continue until March 15, 2025.

The City’s occupancy limits, which generally prevent more than three unrelated people from living together, are not currently being enforced. Boulder is considering other creative ways to house people, including allowing short-term rentals to be rented on a longer-term basis, according to the City Manager.

Council Retreat Yields Priorities: Boulder City Council held its retreat and has come to a consensus on priorities for 2022. Three initiatives obtained unanimous City Council support, including a planning process for the core arterial network (to add protected bike lanes and other bike, pedestrian, and safety improvements), occupancy reform (conducting a comparative analysis, developing a model approach, and soliciting community input with an eye toward an eventual ordinance change), and a day shelter for people experiencing homelessness.

Housing affordability is a top priority for the Council and during the retreat, four priorities were finalized. Those priorities include revising the City’s existing code regarding inclusionary housing to create more middle-income units, and ADU code changes. In addition, the Council prioritized an ordinance to calculate density by floor area ratio (FAR) instead of dwelling units per acre and to launch the middle-income down payment assistance program.

More Reverse Setbacks:
Broomfield will continue its crusade to reduce the impact of the gas and oil industry by legislating the use of reverse setbacks. Last July the Council approved an ordinance to establish a 2,000-foot reverse setback for residential development from oil and gas facilities in pre-production. Then in October, the Council approved an ordinance to establish a 250-foot reverse setback for residential development from plugged and abandoned oil and gas wells.

At a study session on January 18, the City Council gave staff direction to create another reverse setback ordinance for producing and “shut in” oil and gas wells. (Shut-in wells may have been removed from active service in anticipation of workover, temporary abandonment, or plugging and abandonment operations. Generally, shut in wells can be restored by opening valves or by providing an energy source.)

The Council spent much of its time discussing the setback for residential areas changes to the notices provided for new residential lots within 1,320 feet of active wells. The Council agreed on reconsidering and expanding the notification process for new residential lots within 1,320 feet. This will require a larger notice area of 2,000 feet, as well as a disclosure form from the seller and consent from the buyer.

The staff will begin working on a new ordinance to bring forward to the council at a future date.

Larimer County
Commissioners Adopt Revised 1041 Regulations:
A process that began in March 2021 came to an end on January 24 when the Board of County Commissioners approved revisions to the County’s 1041 regulations. 1041 regulations are guided by state statutory authority. Local jurisdictions may designate certain “Areas of State Interest” (i.e., mineral resource areas; natural hazard areas; historic, natural, or archaeological resources of statewide importance; and areas around key facilities) as activities to be regulated to protect the public.

Larimer County added highways and interchanges to its list of activities and made some modifications to existing activities such as water and electric transmission lines, water reservoirs, and solar energy power plants. The addition of highways and interchanges is necessary, according to the regulations, because they can affect existing neighborhoods, disrupt wildlife and impact scenic and cultural resources.

The public hearing on January 24 was basically a formality with the Commissioners offering minor suggestions and tweaks. Public comment was only offered by a few individuals. A representative of the ELCO Water District said last-minute changes included in an addendum didn’t give the district any review time. Gary Wockner, head of Save the Poudre, praised the County for its work.

The revisions go into effect February 15, the same date the County’s 1041 moratorium ends. It’s difficult not to feel skeptical about the regulations which appear to be aimed at the NISP/Glade Reservoir project but will also impact new development across Northern Colorado.

Make Your Voice Heard on Climate Smart: Larimer County’s climate initiative is entering a new engagement phase with the goal of “understanding how the community wants to address climate change.” Ultimately, the strategies selected can affect you, your family, and/or your business and clients. The real estate perspective needs to be heard!

The workshops will be online (via Zoom), take place over four days (February 8-9 and 15-16) at three different time slots each day (4:30, 5:30, and 6:30 pm). Register Here.

Six Candidates for Board of Trustees:
Six candidates returned petitions to run for the April 5 municipal election in Berthoud. Three seats are available. The candidates include incumbent Tim Hardy and Karl Ayers, Ryan Berry, Alex Johnson, Sean Murphy, and Ellyn Rush. Trustee Maureen Dowker chose not to run for another term and Jeff Hindman is term-limited. Ballots for the April election be mailed beginning March 14.

Fort Collins
Council Postpones Decision on Occupancy Exemptions for Disasters:
After a short discussion, the City Council voted to postpone indefinitely a resolution that would have exempted homeowners from Fort Collins U+2 occupancy regulations to house victims of the Marshall Fire.

After criticism from a few members of the public who argued the exemption was a ploy to weaken U+2, the Council agreed that a permit-based program would be better. This would allow the City to know who was being housed and still avoid U+2 violations. Councilor Susan Gutowsky argued a safety inspection was necessary to “keep people safe.”

The Council will consider this approach at its February 15 meeting. Staff will also work on a long-term permit program as part of the Land Use Code update that could be helpful for future disasters.

Weld County
Hatch Running for Commissioner:
Elijah Hatch, who currently serves on the Weld County Council, announced he is running to replace term-limited Steve Moreno on the Board of County Commissioners.

Hatch has also served on the County’s Planning Commission. He says he is the owner of several businesses spanning many industries. Learn more about Hatch here:

Non-Potable Water Ordinance Approved:
On January 18 the Greeley City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that will make the use of non-potable water mandatory for new development in specific circumstances. In return, the City will charge the developer lower plant investment fees (PIF) for potable water.

The ordinance will apply to developments with two acres of irrigated common area or house-to-house non-potable water if the lot size is 13,000 SF or greater. A similar policy is already in effect in Windsor, Evans, Brighton and the ELCO, and North Weld Water Districts.

Council Authorizes Eminent Domain for Terry Ranch: The City Council approved an ordinance authorizing Greeley to use eminent domain if needed for the Terry Ranch project. The project will require 31 miles of pipeline from Terry Ranch to the City’s existing water transmission line.

Sean Chambers, Greeley’s Water and Sewer Director, stressed the intent to use eminent domain only as a last resort. The Project will require the acquisition of tracts of fee simple land, permanent easements, and temporary construction easements from properties along the pipeline alignment. Complicating the project is the fact that 71 property owners will be impacted.

The majority of the Terry Ranch design process is anticipated to be complete by next year. The full project may not be complete until 2040.

Ripple Effects of Larimer 1041 Moratorium:
According to BizWest, a moratorium on new water-tap sales imposed by the North Weld County Water District (NWCWD) negatively impacted the issuance of new building permits in the fast-growing Town of Severance. Development and home-building projects have been left without completion dates and the Town’s budget has been reduced by $2 million as a result.

NWCWD last fall issued a moratorium on new taps, blaming uncertainty over potential project delays for a new pipeline stretching through parts of Fort Collins and Larimer County because of moratoria put in place by Fort Collins and Larimer County to enable those governments to draft new 1041 regulations (for more, see “Commissioners Adopt Revised 1041 Regulations” above). In turn, without water tap certainty, Severance enacted a moratorium on building permits. The water district’s moratorium also resulted in an “effective moratorium” on building permits in Eaton. Other nearby communities also have been affected.

The effect of Fort Collins’ 1041 ordinance was eradicated after NWCWD representatives requested an exemption for its project and the Fort Collins City Council agreed to do so. Unfortunately, the extension of Larimer County’s 1041-related moratorium to Feb. 15 led NWWD to extend its moratorium until May 31.

The water district has announced it is working on solutions to “the distribution and capacity issues that are affecting NWCWD’s ability to serve new customers…” It hopes to have a temporary fix in place over the coming months that will allow the moratorium to be lifted. In the meantime, NWCWD hopes to begin issuing limited tap sales in February, which will ease the moratorium but not end it.

Four Town Broadband Project:
The Towns of Berthoud, Johnstown, Mead, and Milliken are working to create a regional broadband provider to serve all four towns. Because the Towns are close to one another geographically, the Towns’ leaders decided to “aggregate” demand across the nearly 20,000 homes and businesses on the Front Range of Colorado.

In October 2021, officials from all four towns were presented with the findings of the public survey with over 1,700 responses. This survey noted that area residents were limited in choices of broadband providers, that area residents experienced (on average) slower download/upload speeds than the national average, and that residents and businesses alike considered broadband an essential utility.

The towns selected Allo, based in Lincoln Nebraska, after interviewing various providers, including Loveland Pulse. Each municipality is in the process of signing a memo of understanding.

At the same time, Allo will complete a final design at its own expense. Assuming the timeline is met and a formal agreement is signed, construction could begin as early as Summer 2022. Full construction should be complete within 18-24 months.

Matt LeCerf, Johnstown’s City Manager, says he does not think the towns will own the fiber. Berthoud staff agreed, saying in a recent memo, “This option will not impact the Towns financially and is expected to expedite availability to the public.”

Legislative update:
CAR’s Legislative Policy Committee held its first meeting of the 2022 Session on January 21. One of CAR’s lobbyists told the group the legislature’s focus will be on spending federal dollars and excessive state revenue. Colorado’s revenues are in good shape; it appears there will be a TABOR refund in fiscal year 2022-2023. Short-term rentals are getting lots of attention, but few bills have been introduced or scheduled yet.

Water fight on Tap?
Governor Polis says he will “protect and aggressively assert” Colorado’s water rights after Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts announced a plan to spend $500 million on a canal and reservoir project that includes claiming access to land in Colorado under a 99-year-old compact between the states, according to the Colorado Sun.

The South Platte River Compact, approved in 1923, is a water-sharing agreement that entitles Nebraska to 120 cubic feet per second from the river during the irrigation season between April 1 and Oct. 15, and 500 cubic feet per second during the non-irrigation season. Under the compact, Nebraska can build, maintain and operate canals within Colorado’s borders that divert water from the South Platte River for use by Nebraska. It also gives Nebraska the power to buy land from Colorado landowners or gain access by invoking eminent domain. Nebraska’s move is likely to trigger lawsuits.

Ricketts and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson announced the water plan after Colorado released a report that identified 282 new water projects within the South Platte River Basin. Ricketts and Peterson warned that those projects could reduce its water flows from the river by as much as 90 percent and threaten Nebraska’s water supplies. Polis countered by saying Ricketts’ comments “seem to reflect a misunderstanding of Colorado’s locally driven water planning process,” and that the projects identified “should not be taken as formally approved projects.”

The project would include a canal in rural Perkins County in southwest Nebraska and storage facilities. Some of the infrastructure would sit on the Colorado side of the border, and might require Nebraska to invoke eminent domain against private landowners.

Longer Listing Period for HUD Homes:
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is increasing the listing period for sales of HUD real estate owned (REO) homes from 15 days to 30 days. This extension is being done in accordance with the Biden-Harris Administration’s plan to increase the supply of affordable housing available to first-time and low and moderate-income homebuyers. This longer listing period will begin with properties starting on March 1, 2022.

Details for all HUD REO properties, also known as HUD Homes, can be viewed at the HUD Home Store website.

NAR Supports Thompson: Earlier this month the Senate Banking Committee held a confirmation hearing for Sandra Thompson as the Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). NAR submitted a letter of support for Ms. Thompson’s confirmation. Ms. Thompson has served as Acting Director of the FHFA since June of 2021 and in her short time has already made a number of important policy steps related to affordability, access to credit, and modifications to the capital framework at Fannie and Freddie.

In the letter, NAR detailed the current state of FHFA and the importance of the regulator as we continue to recover from the Covid pandemic, Ms. Thompson’s actions as Acting Director, and Ms. Thompson’s deep background and qualifications that make her the ideal candidate to lead FHFA.

NAR looks forward to continuing its work with FHFA and Ms. Thompson as the full-time Director at FHFA. For now, her confirmation timeline is a little hazy but NAR is confident that she will eventually receive a Senate vote and be confirmed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: