Sales Tax Increase Approved

Even though the question did not spell out exactly how all the additional revenue would be appropriated, over 60 percent of voters in Fort Collins approved a question asking them increase sales and use tax by of 0.85. Although asking for a tax increase during tough economic times seemed illogical, the City was able to persuade people to support it by threatening to close or limit popular amenities like the Mulberry Pool, the Northside Aztlan Community Center and the Senior Center.

The tax, which will expire in 10 years unless renewed by voters, is expected to bring in more than $18.7 million a year in additional revenue. The money will be divided following a formula set by the ballot language: 33 percent for street maintenance; 17 percent for other transportation needs; 17 percent for police services; 11 percent for fire services; 11 percent for parks maintenance and recreation services and 11 percent for other community priorities as directed by the City Council. This could include economic development, environmental programs and/or neighborhood services.

Note: Voters in the Poudre School District also approved a mill-levy override although other regional school districts that desperately needed the money chose not to ask the voters approve such a measure in this election.

Neighborhood Compatibility Regulations Moving Forward

 

Regulations governing home size and design in the older East and Westside neighborhoods located on both sides of College Avenue adjacent to the Downtown area will be the subject of another City Council work session on Nov. 23. However, at a recent meeting with members of the Fort Collins Association of REALTORS® staff admitted that they have not come up with a final recommendation regarding the formula to limit home size.

Working with a Citizens Advisory Committee comprised of a few area residents and professionals associated with building, design and real estate, staff created the concept of a “block face average” to use as a standard. The idea is that taking the average size of a home on one block face (on one side of a street) somehow represents the appropriate size for a new or remodeled home. The formula could be block face average plus 50 percent – or it could be block face average plus 100 percent – or even a maximum home size of 2,000 SF but at this point no one is certain what staff will propose.

Staff admitted the block face average concept has not been used anywhere else in the United States and that they have no data as to how the limits could impact home values. The City is holding an open house on the proposal TODAY, Nov. 15, from 4:30 to 7:30 PM in the Community Room, 215 N. Mason.

Note: The first reading of the neighborhood compatibility regulations has been postponed from Dec. 7th to Jan. 4, 2011.

New Floodplain Maps Pose Dilemma for City

Longmont’s proposed FasTracks rail station and the Southeast urban renewal district would be in reach of a 100-year flood, according to a newly drafted flood map of the St. Vrain River. More precise modeling methods led to the inclusion of some areas that were not in the 100-year-floodplain map in the past, such as the Golden Ponds Park area and an area around Main Street, from the tracks down to about Colorado Avenue. The study is still a draft and must be submitted to FEMA for review and approval prior to becoming part of the official Flood Insurance Rate Maps. In the meantime staff will continue to analyze mitigation alternatives that can be used in conjunction with future redevelopment projects such as the RTD station site and the Southeast Urban Renewal Area.

Council Approves Incentives

On a 6-0 vote the City Council gave final approval to a plan to give about $250,000 in development fee rebates to OnCore Manufacturing Services. The company expects to build a 58,800-square-foot site in the Clover Basin Business Park and expects to grow from 134 to 180 employees in two years. And yes, a local REALTOR® helped OnCore find its new site, ensuring the company, and its primary jobs, stay in Longmont.

Council Says No to Homeowner Transportation Fee


Recently the Transportation Advisory Board asked the City Council to consider a transportation maintenance fee. The Board considered the idea of imposing a new fee on parking spaces but decided such a proposal could be unpopular. Instead, the Board recommended adding a maintenance fee to residential (and possibly commercial) utility bills. However, several members of the Council were cool to the idea, noting that a fee would not require a public vote. Other options to which the Council appeared more amenable were allowing advertising on bus shelters or perhaps a public bond issue to fund transportation.
 A transportation fee could range from $15 to $58 per household annually, according to an early draft of the proposal. At the highest rate, the fee would generate up to $7.9 million a year. Boulder’s Director of Public Works for Transportation will investigate more specific options for the Council to consider sometime next year.

 

 

Tree Ordinance Passes Second Reading

Boulder homeowners will be required to care for trees on their property that are within public rights-of-way. The new regulations — which must still be approved on a third reading — specifically requires residents to provide a sod-free mulch around the base of trees that are less than 6 inches in diameter and provide enough water to keep them healthy. The rules apply to trees that are on, or adjacent to, private property and within a public right-of-way.

 

The City’s landscape architect said the purpose of the ordinance is to ensure that Boulder’s more than 400,000 trees stay healthy. In addition to the care provision, the ordinance requires people to inventory trees on their property as part of the site review process. After the City approves a development plan, a property owner would be obligated to maintain the trees approved as part of the plan.

The council decided to hold off voting on a third proposed change that would create a licensing system for arborists who perform commercial work on trees in Boulder. Some Council members expressed concern that the licensing requirement could make it more expensive for residents to perform routine maintenance on trees. City staff will continue on a second tree protection ordinance that could include ways for the city to give certain trees “landmark” status and set rules for when and how trees can be removed from private property.

 

Vote on Open Space Tax Very Close

The Boulder County Clerk has until Nov. 16th to count and verify all the ballots in an effort to determine if voters approved a sales tax increase for open space. County Issue 1B asked voters to increase sales taxes by 0.15 percent — or 15 cents on a $100 purchase — for 20 years to buy new open space land. At this point, the measure is passing by 743 votes.

The Clerk’s Office hasn’t finished counting 2,597 provisional ballots. An automatic recount would be triggered if the margin is within 0.5 percent of the side with the greatest number of votes.

Real Estate Tax Rumor Alive and Well

Another email flying around the Internet is causing concern in the REALTOR® community. The email warns that homes sold after 2012 will incur a 3.8 percent tax as part of the Obama administration’s Health Care reform bill. The email includes a link to a Republican Congressional blog to prove its veracity, but unfortunately, the blog, like all propaganda, simplifies the issue and leaves out important information.

According to NAR, “the bill included a provision that imposes a new 3.8 percent Medicare tax for some high-income households that have “net investment income.” Any revenue collected by the tax is dedicated to the Medicare hospital insurance program. This new tax applies only to households with Adjusted Gross Income of more than $200,000 for individuals or more than $250,000 for married couples. Since capital gains are included in the definition of net investment income, an additional tax obligation might result from the sale of real property.

Keeping in mind that the new 3.8 percent Medicare tax is assessed only when the $200K/$250K AGI limits are exceeded, the amount of net investment income subject to tax is the LESSER of 1) total net investment income OR 2) the excess of AGI over the $200K/$250K AGI limits. However, even when the AGI limits are met, the new tax would not be applied to capital gains that result from the sale of a home, since the existing home sale capital gains exclusion rule still applies – $250,000 (individual)/$500,000 (couple). So if the gain from the sale of the primary residence is below that amount, then NO Medicare tax will have to be paid on the gain. The new Medicare tax would apply only to a home sale gain realized in excess of the $250K/$500K that pushes the filer’s AGI over the $200K/$250K income limits.

USDA Ends Rural Loan Program

In spite of Congressional approval of a Continuing Resolution in late September that specifically mentions funding for the USDA Section 502 rural housing program, the USDA announced on October 1 that it would no longer fund the program.  Instead, conditional commitments will be issued.  On October 13, NAR President Vicki Cox Golder sent a letter to the USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack, urging that the agency restore the funding. In the current arrangement, lenders are hesitant to offer a loan without a full guarantee of the program, which means that rural families cannot access the program.

Foreclosures Under Scrutiny

State and federal authorities plan to investigate how foreclosures are handled, according to Colorado Attorney General John Suthers. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Federal Reserve are among the federal regulators expected to join an investigation announced by the attorneys general of all 50 states on Oct. 13. One of the key issues is whether lenders or their representatives provided improper affidavits in the 23 states that handle foreclosures through the courts.

Colorado is the only state in the nation that relies on public trustees or country treasurers to handle foreclosures. The State requires owners of a mortgage (or a legal representative) to sign two certifications. Suthers said his office will look into whether those attorneys have actually seen the original evidence of debt and the trail of assignments required as a mortgage changes hands from one party to another. Suthers is one of seven attorneys general on the executive committee of the combined state probe. He emphasized that the attorneys general aren’t alleging misrepresentation, but want to test the “veracity” of the process.

Note: During a NAR webinar on the issue, presenters said that in almost all of the cases against the so-called “robo-signers”, problem cases arose when liens were not removed from titles, rather than improper foreclosures on properties owned by people who had not missed mortgage payments. Jeff Lischer, a policy analyst for NAR, said that in spite of widespread media reports, the regulators and banks are working cooperatively to solve foreclosure errors. Government officials say a blanket national moratorium on foreclosure sales would do more harm than good. For its part, NAR argues that the market is already fragile and is urging banks to put more resources into short sales and loan modifications. Lischer said NAR hopes the problem will be solved within a few months but that the situation is fluid and rapidly changing.