The North Weld County Water District’s water tap moratorium and the Town of Severance’s subsequent building permit moratorium have been hot topics in the Northern Colorado real estate community lately. Severance is an epicenter of new home construction in our area. The moratoria brought this vital growth to a stop. For the latest on this issue, and a whole lot more, keep reading.
Regional Government Director
RTD’s Peak Rail Service Concept: The Regional Transportation District (RTD) announced a consulting firm has been selected to study the feasibility of extending peak-hour service rail service from Union Station in Denver to Boulder and Longmont. According to the Daily Camera, Longmont Mayor Joan Peck said hiring a consultant is “the right step for RTD to take.”
The study is expected to take about two years to complete. It will provide updated engineering and cost estimates to determine service recommendations for communities, including Broomfield, Louisville, Boulder, and Longmont.
Additional goals include positioning the project for federal funding, planning peak service to allow for future build-out of the Northwest Rail Line, and aligning the RTD with the agency’s goals of partnering with agencies such as the Front Range Passenger Rail Service and the Colorado Department of Transportation. The peak-hour service plan would offer three morning trips from Longmont to Denver and three evening trips from Denver to Longmont.
What Peck did not emphasize is that the full northwest rail service approved as part of the FasTracks initiative in 2004 is still decades away. RTD’s projected completion date for the full build-out is 2050. The Northwest Rail Line has the highest price tag of the unfinished FasTracks projects, and is estimated to cost about $1.5 billion.
Note: Listen to CPR’s Ghost Train podcast for a good analysis and history of the FasTracks project and rail in Colorado. https://www.cpr.org/podcast/ghost-train/
Council Schedules CU South Referendum: With just a two-minute discussion, the Boulder City Council decided to add the CU South Annexation repeal referendum to the November 8 general election. The decision was made informally and will require the passage of a formal resolution later this year.
The Save South Boulder advocacy group collected enough signatures in November to require a public vote on the annexation approved by Council in September. The Council opted not to make a quick decision on scheduling the question following the defeat of Save South Boulder’s previous referendum Ballot Question 302. That question would’ve required voters to approve the details of the CU South annexation agreement. It failed by a sizeable margin with 57.68 percent of the voters opposed.
While the Council could have opted for a one-question special election, that would cost between $75 and $150,000, according to staff. In the meantime, the founders of Save South Boulder/Save CU South have filed a statement of organization to create a new campaign committee called “Repeal CU South Annexation.”
Water Cash-in-Lieu Price Increasing: The City Council directed the staff to move forward with an ordinance to increase in Longmont’s water cash-in-lieu (CIL) rate. Developments that do not provide water rights are required to pay cash-in-lieu.
Currently, the City uses a complicated methodology that has been in place since 2014. The new methodology, if formally approved in a future meeting, will be based on the cost of an acre-foot of Windy Gap water, $48,500.
In discussing the ever-increasing cost of water, City Manager Harold Dominguez mentioned the possibility of using the CIL to incentivize or de-incentivize housing, especially for affordable and attainable homes. For example, the City could offer a special lower CIL rate for these projects. Assistant City Manager Dale Rademacher added that the City could discourage larger homes with a larger CIL price. This would be implemented through additional regulations. The CIL is generally paid when the plat is approved.
Note: It is difficult to compare Longmont’s cash-in-lieu price with other local cities because they are not based on the same amount of water. For example, Longmont’s current CIL is $18,528 based on .76 of an acre-foot of a Colorado-Big Thompson unit yield. Loveland’s CIL is $40,150 based on a .9 acre-foot of a Colorado-Big Thompson unit yield and Greeley’s is $36,500 based on .75 acre-foot of a Colorado-Big Thompson unit yield.
Emergency Zoning Ordinance Approved: The Louisville City Council approved an emergency ordinance requiring only one hearing to address zoning regulations affecting structures damaged or destroyed by the Marshall Fire. The ordinance creates a process to quickly clarify discrepancies for rebuilding Marshall fire homes and issue permits. It includes a sunset provision and is relevant only for properties affected by the Marshall Fire.
The ordinance specifies an expedited rebuild process for 15 affected neighborhoods and/or subdivisions. Planning Director Rob Zuccaro emphasized the ordinance is not to rewrite zoning standards. It is simply intended to allow rebuilt homes to reflect the original character of the neighborhood. The types of issues it will affect include issues such as side yard setbacks, and yard and bulk requirements. Fire victims were supportive of the ordinance, which was unanimously approved.
No on Turion Metro Districts: Berthoud’s Board of Trustees voted 4 to 3 against approving the service plan for the Turion Metro Districts with Trustees Dower, Soricelli, Hardy, and Mayor Karspeck opposed. Two weeks before that decision, Mead’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the service plan for the Districts. Both governments needed to approve the plan because the property is located within the boundaries of both Mead and Berthoud.
For some of the trustees, the size of the project was just too big. As Trustee May Soricelli said, “The scale is alarming… Are we ready for the scale and how it will affect the Town of Berthoud?” Turion is envisioned as a 2,000-acre master-planned community with 5,700 homes and 5.3 million square feet of commercial space.
For others, like Mayor Karspeck, any metro district is suspect. Karspeck said he is “not a fan of this development. … I’ve been quoted in the Denver Post about my opposition to them (metro districts).” Surprisingly, Trustee Jeff Hindman voted in favor of the project, saying approval would give Berthoud a measure of control.
The fate of the project is unknown following the vote in Berthoud. Turion is bounded by Interstate 25 to the west, Weld County Road 11 to the east, Weld County Road 38 to the south, and Weld County Road 44 to the north. The maximum aggregate mill levy for Turion will be 70.664 in Mead and would be 73.664 in the Berthoud portion, according to the service plan. Infrastructure paid for by the metro districts includes streets, water, sewer, and recreational amenities such as a rec center. Homes were projected to cost between $250 to $850,000.
REALTORS® Oppose Rental Licensing: The Fort Collins Board of Realtors® (FCBR) released a position statement opposing Fort Collins Housing Strategic Plan’s rental licensing component. The City is gathering public input on the topic: https://www.research.net/r/FCRentalSurvey.
Staff proposes a five-year time to implement rental licensing. It would start with a pilot program in year one. If the City Council is pleased with the results of the pilot, the program will move forward. By year five roughly 25 percent of the City’s rental units would be inspected.
The FCBR statement reads as follows:
“The Fort Collins Board of REALTORS® (FCBR) would like to commend the City of Fort Collins for considering revising its current housing occupancy requirements with regards to occupancy limits and household functionality.
“Increasing occupancy limits and amending familial definitions will allow property owners to utilize their homes based upon size and the capacity of the neighborhood. The impact on larger homes would result in more efficient utilization, create more housing opportunities, as well as ease the current rising cost of housing in the city.
“FCBR strongly opposes the City’s current push towards Rental Licensing. Without a comprehensive list of tenant complaints, combined with an analysis of the impact of current regulations on the issues identified, it appears that Rental Licensing is a solution in search of a problem. Not to mention the licensing fees involved with this program would be passed on to renters thus raising the cost of living for those who can least afford it.
“It is FCBR’s recommendation that the City of Fort Collins considers the following alternatives to improving the housing shortage in our community:
- Ease restrictions for new Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).
- Allow developers to build according to zoning requirements, without adding unnecessary design standards that increase the cost of housing.
- Offer incentives to developers for higher density in return for building permanently affordable and attainable housing units.
- Create partnerships with developers, builders, and lenders to assist with the smart development or re-development of appropriate land in the City and GMA.”
More information about the rental licensing proposal is available here: https://www.fcgov.com/housing/rental-housing-strategies.
Moratorium Lifted Outside Town Delivery Area: BizWest reported that the Severance Town Council voted to lift a moratorium on building permits in areas outside the Town’s water service area last week. Severance owns water, but uses the North Weld County Water District (NWCWD) for water treatment and delivery.
Severance residents receive water either from the Town directly or through North Weld. North Weld imposed a tap moratorium September 29 but partially lifted it on February 14, allowing 50 tap permits initially and 10 per month thereafter, through the end of 2022.
The decision means that the Town will allow building permits within its boundaries in areas served directly by North Weld water, including the subdivisions of Belmont Farms, Bridal Hill/Saddler Ridge, Casa Loma, Golden Eagle Acres, Hidden Valley Farm, and Soaring Eagle Ranch.
However, the building-permit moratorium continues within the Town’s water service area. The moratorium will continue through May or until NWCWD grants the “plant investments” needed to deliver the proper volume of water to Severance.
NWCWD imposed its tap moratorium in September, blaming the 1041 regulatory process in Fort Collins and Larimer County related to the District’s NEWT III pipeline, to be built from North Timberline Road in north Fort Collins east into unincorporated Larimer County. BizWest says the District has acknowledged capacity issues for water treatment and delivery, caused by rapid population growth and expansion of dairies within the region.
What is Happening with I-25 Expansion? It’s been a while since we reported on the North I-25 project. As drivers can see, the work is ongoing from Fort Collins to Berthoud.
While it may seem that the transportation funding issue was fixed with the passage of SB21-260 last year, that is far from the case. For one thing, that bill spread funding between highways and transit. In addition, Governor Polis has called for a delay in the implementation of the gas tax increase that is part of SB-260’s funding formula following an increase in gas prices and the inflation that has plagued the U.S. and Colorado.
While Governor Polis and CDOT have been loud in their praise for the completion of I-25 south of Denver, they have been silent concerning the funding shortfall for I-25 North. We are still missing $600 million for section five from Mead (C0 66) to Berthoud (C0 56). It could be years to finish the project with the State’s current emphasis on greenhouse gas emissions and transit. The only solution that observers can foresee at this point is a public-private partnership (P3) to pay for the last section of the expansion.