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.

Flood Insurance Extension Passed

Congress has unanimously approved a one-year extension (until September 30, 2011) for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). A long-term extension has been a top legislative priority for NAR.  Earlier in 2010 the NFIP lapsed, causing major disruptions for REALTORS®. With program authority now extended for a year, it is expected that attention will now turn to proposals to reform and ensure the financial soundness of the NFIP. While the House passed its reform bill (H.R. 5114) earlier this year, it is unlikely that a comprehensive reform bill will move until the 112th Congress goes into session next year.

REALTORS® Endorse Hickenlooper

The CAR Board of Directors ratified a recommendation from the Political Survival Committee to endorse John Hickenlooper for Governor. Hickenlooper supports REALTOR® issues and has been a friend to our industry. In addition, the Directors also approved recommendations to endorse Cary Kennedy for Treasurer and John Suthers for Attorney General. Note: The By-Laws passed in 2009 require that the Directors ratify recommendations from the PSC for state-level candidates.

Did you receive your Blue Book?

The Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly just mailed a copy of the “Blue Book” — otherwise known as the State Ballot Information Booklet — to each registered voter household. The Blue Book contains a lot of information both pro and con on each ballot issue and recommendations on the retention of judges. If you prefer to read information online or did not receive a copy, here is a link to the online version:

http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CGA-LegislativeCouncil/CLC/1200536134742

Council Studies Sign Code Revisions

The Greeley City Council got its first look at the revised Sign Code on September 28. Council member Sandi Elder said as a whole the Council is supportive of the revisions although several members asked staff for changes to liberalize proposed regulations pertaining to election signs. However, there was little discussion regarding real estate signage. If passed by the City Council, REALTORS® will be allowed larger ‘for sale’ signs (seven square feet) in residential areas and for the first time, open house signs (six square feet) may be posted on and off premises. The first reading of the Sign Code ordinance is scheduled for Oct. 5 with the second reading scheduled for Oct. 19.

REALTORS® Endorse Ball

CAR’s Political Survival Committee has endorsed Democrat Rich Ball for the Senate District 15 (Larimer County except for Fort Collins). Kevin Lundberg, former legislator from HD-49, was appointed to the Senate District 15 seat when Steve Johnson vacated it to become a Larimer County Commissioner. Ultimately the decision was determined by Lundberg’s support for Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101. Even though he has an excellent voting record on REALTOR® issues, the PSC felt it was important to send a message concerning his support for ballot measures that are strongly opposed by CAR. Rich Ball is a retired real estate attorney in Loveland. In the past he represented the Loveland-Berthoud Association of REALTORS®, is well respected in the community and familiar and supportive of real estate issues. He has a long list of supporters from both major political parties, including notable Republicans Don Marostica and Bill Kaufman.

Economic Development Discussion Turns Ugly

A recent budget discussion highlighted the gulf that divides the current City Council. The topic of discussion was the distribution of one-time allocations that are considered on an annual basis. In discussing economic development and 2011 requests from the Longmont Area Economic Council, City Council member Sean McCoy took another opportunity to criticize the organization. He said, “I’m not satisfied with the results. We’re not getting the information we need. Why are we continuing to do business with an outside entity?” Economic Development Director Brad Power emphasized that there is a “stated and demonstrated benefit to working with LAEC.” However, that didn’t convince McCoy or Council member Sarah Levison, who also questioned LAEC’s “bang for the buck.”

After an hour of discussion on that topic, the Council considered requests from non-profit organizations. A group called Grow Your Own Meal, an incubator for small farm operations, requested $20,000 but Council decided to provide $10,000 with the promise of additional money if the organization can raise more money on its own. Council members McCoy, Levison and Brian Hansen objected to this decision, saying over time Grow Your Own Meal could have a long lasting benefit to the City. McCoy suggested reducing the amount allocated to LAEC to fund the aquaponic greenhouse project proposed by Grow Your Own Meal. At that point Mayor Pro tem Gabe Santos said, “Trying to compare Grow Your Own Meal with LAEC just doesn’t work.” Tempers flared as the discussion continued but ultimately there was no consensus regarding economic development, an objective that should be of paramount importance to all members of the City Council.

City Considering Character Area Designations for “Mid-Century” Neighborhoods

Using a grant from the Colorado Historical Society, Boulder hired consultants to survey various post-World War Two subdivisions in the City such as Table Mesa, Martin Acres, Edgewood and Sunset Hills. The consultants said some of the homes look much like they did when they were built and others have be remodeled to the point that they no longer represent the character of the original style.

The consultants are recommending that Boulder create “character areas” for some subdivisions, in particular Martin Acres, Highland Park and possibly Table Mesa in order to preserve the character of these neighborhoods. This could lead to design standards such as paint colors and “appropriate landscapes” rather than architectural restrictions such as those included in the Neighborhood Compatibility requirements the City implemented almost a year ago. However, City officials state that nothing will happen unless residents support it. City staff will begin soliciting feedback from homeowners in October. REALTORS® can learn more at a presentation at BARA scheduled for October 11th at 1:30 PM.

Tree Ordinance Continued

  • The Boulder City Council delayed a vote for the second time on regulations to create licensing requirements for certified arborists, obligate property owners to maintain trees on their property and City right-of-ways and set tree-protection requirements as part of the site review and subdivision standards. Under the proposal, anyone who charges fees to plant trees, prune them, cut them down or apply pesticides would have to be licensed by the City. “Landscaping or a mulched sod-free base around the tree and sufficient irrigation” are specified as homeowner responsibilities in the ordinance. Concerns about the licensing requirement led the Council to continue the discussion.