Small Business Bill Signed

On September 27, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010 (H.R. 5297). Under this bill, which NAR supported, the U.S. Treasury would be authorized to lend up to $30 billion to interested community banks to further expand lending to small businesses.
As an incentive for participating community banks to increase small business lending, their interest rate would be adjusted relative to the amount of their small business lending activity. It is estimated that community banks could use the $30 billion lending fund to leverage up to $300 billion in new loans to small businesses. Additionally, the bill enhances Small Business Administration (SBA) programs and provides $12 billion in tax breaks for small businesses.

New Poll Says Amendments Failing

Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101 are now struggling to find support, according to a 9NEWS-Denver Post poll conducted by Survey USA. However, large numbers of voters remain undecided.

According to the poll, Amendment 60, which seeks to lower property taxes, only has 10 percent support in the survey. Forty-eight percent of voters are opposed to it while 42 percent remain uncertain.

Amendment 61, which seeks to restrict bonding and borrowing by government, is also only supported by 10 percent of those surveyed. It’s opposed by 49 percent while 40 percent are uncertain.

Proposition 101, which seeks to lower income taxes and vehicle registration fees, is doing the best of the three tax measures, but still only 12 percent of the respondents support in this poll. Forty-four percent opposed the measure and 44 percent are undecided.

“The general rule of thumb is that you want to be in the 50s or 60s at this point intime,” said Political Analyst Floyd Ciruli. “That’s because late deciders tend to go overwhelming against ballot measures. For the conflicted or the ill-informed, no is the safer vote.” Note: CAR and many local associations and business groups oppose the three measures. For more information visit: http://www.coloradorealtors.com

City Working on New Development Review Process

City of Loveland planning staff received approval from former City Manager Don Williams to hire a consultant to help the department streamline and improve its development review process. According to Planner Bob Paulsen, the main criticisms have been that the process is too slow, lacks integration and needs to be repeatable, consistent and dependable. Paulsen says the new system will be “cutting-edge” allowing electronic submissions and designed to make it easier for developers to understand and move through the process. He estimates that the new process will be in place by January 2011.

Staff Unveils Neighborhood Compatibility Proposal

City staff has completed its draft of proposed development regulations to preserve neighborhood compatibility in residential construction and remodels. The problem, according to some, is that scrape-offs or pop-ups change the look and feel of older, established neighborhoods.

The key elements are as follows: 1) Regulation of Certain Design Elements – Eve height, window height, configuration of windows, height of front entry, roof pitch, dormers and building materials (i.e. brick, siding, wood, concrete, etc. on the structure); 2) The Block Face Average, Plus 50 percent – the new allowable size for any home alteration or rebuild; 3) Required Design Review by Landmark Preservation Commission – City staff has not yet decided when during the review process this will occur; 4) Reinstatement of Design Assistance Program – A voluntary program where financial assistance is made available to the homeowner to work with architects and/or designers on compatibility; 5) Change to the Point of Measurement of Height of Roof – Currently, the height is measured from the finished grade (where the soil meets the structure), but will be changed to property line. According to city staff, this would be a small change, since 4 feet is the most rebuilt homes are being raised and 6) Close the Volume “Loophole” – An attempt to prevent a one story home built with two story volume, such as a vaulted ceiling.

The ordinance implementing these regulations will be considered by the City Council on first reading Dec. 7. In the meantime various citizen groups and committees (Planning & Zoning, Landmark Preservation Commission etc.) will review the proposal and provide feedback. Note: For more information contact Michelle Jacobs, Government Affairs Director for FCBR, mjacobs@fcbr.org

Sign Code Revisions Minor

Larimer County is considering minor changes to its Sign Code. The only proposed change to the provision related to real estate signs is minor and intended to clarify the existing code so that signs advertising single-family or two-family homes may be up to eight square feet whether they relate to new properties or existing ones. Vacant land signs are still limited to half that size.

Issue arises over Firestone Comp Plan

Proposed changes to Firestone’s Comprehensive Plan would move the town’s prospective borders to Longmont’s city limits. The plan marks possible development west of Interstate 25, between Colo. Highway 119 and Weld County Road 20, wrapping around Longmont’s 2008 annexations near the St. Vrain River. Longmont and Firestone have been in conversation about content and scope of an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) for several months and are now exchanging draft language for the IGA. The Longmont City Council voted to request that Firestone to delay adopting its comprehensive plan and master plan map until the IGA is finalized with the goal of creating common rather than overlapping boundaries.

A letter to the Firestone Trustees drafted by Mayor Brian Baum said, “The development pressures facing southwest Weld County affect Longmont and Firestone as well as other nearby communities. These development pressures, coupled with locally inconsistent land use policies, have led to both a complicated and competitive situation between municipalities in this area. The recent litigation between Longmont and Firestone was settled with the intent that both communities would increase our level cooperation on land use and boundaries in this area. (Therefore) we would request that Longmont and Firestone continue work on the IGA and complete it before Firestone completes is comprehensive plan update.”

Election Committee Eliminated

The City Council voted 4-3 to disband the Election Committee during the first reading of an ordinance amending the Longmont Fair Campaign Practices Act. Council member Gabe Santos made the motion, arguing the City has capable staff that can fulfill the responsibilities formerly held by the Committee.

Council member Sarah Levison was clearly displeased and angrily said, “So much for transparency….Dismembering and discounting the ability of the electorate to be a partner in elections is unwise. This is a tremendous error and set-back to the democratic process.” Brian Hansen and Sean McCoy agreed with Levison.

McCoy took the opportunity to criticize the LAEC one more time, making an odd comparison between the decision to eliminate the Election Committee and the funding for the LAEC, asking why it was OK to add to staff responsibilities to review campaign allegations but not to undertake all economic development responsibilities. He predicted, “We are going to take a serious step backwards.” Note: Considering the acrimony, time and financial cost associated with the Election Committee, it was a prudent decision to eliminate it.

McCoy Floats New Rationale to Cut Economic Development Corp. Funding

During a meeting to receive final direction on the 2011 budget, Council member Sean McCoy attempted to persuade his fellow
Council members to cut funding for Longmont Area Economic Corporation (LAEC) one more time. He argued that the LAEC Board of Directors’ decision to change Council representatives’ status on the Board to non-voting, was done without notification.

Council member Gabe Santos retorted that the notification was made and the rationale for the decision was to avoid conflict on contracts impacting the LAEC. Brian Hansen agreed with McCoy, calling the decision to change the City’s representatives “suspicious”. Council members Sarah Levison joined Hansen and McCoy in voting to continue a discussion on the matter, but they were outvoted. Then the Council voted 5-2 to approve the LAEC budget allocation with McCoy and Hansen dissenting.

Land Use Code Amendments for Victims of Fourmile Canyon Fire

The County has moved quickly to draft Land Use Code text amendments to facilitate rebuilding of structures damaged or destroyed in the Fourmile Canyon fire. As drafted by staff, the proposed regulations would give residents affected by the fire two years to rebuild their homes without applying for site plan review as compared with current regulations that only give residents six months.

In addition, the proposal would allow residents to rebuild up to 10 percent larger or 300 square feet, whichever is greater and the square footage can be redistributed so owners can add garages or studio. Owners would also be allowed to build in a better location to take advantage of better solar orientation or a construct a shorter driveway. Currently regulations would not allow any of this flexibility. The amendments will be considered by the Planning Commission on October 20th and by the County Commissioners on October 24th.

Commissioners Decide to Appeal Church Case

In spite of the cost and seemingly against reason, the Boulder County commissioners voted unanimously to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the County’s case against Rocky Mountain Christian Church’s expansion plans. In explaining the decision the Commissioners said lower-level federal 2 court decisions have “left us with a great lack of clarity” about how and whether local governments can apply their land-use regulations to religious institutions and create “a double standard” for development applications. The Court would have to decide if the case was worthy; if not the lower court rulings would stand and the County would have exhausted the appeal process. Even if the Court decides to hear the issue, it would be several years before the County would have its day in court. Note: The County’s deadline to actually file a petition to the Supreme Court was today, Oct. 15 but there is no word yet as to whether that occurred.