This will be my final Regional Government Affairs Update because I retire on May 27 after 19 wonderful years. A new Government Affairs Director will be on the job soon, never fear.
I took the liberty of including a few snippets of information that may not be government affairs-related per se, but that I thought you’d find interesting.
I appreciate you. Working for all of you has been my honor and a pleasure.
Regional Government Director
Ignition-Resistant Requirements in Eastern Boulder County: The Board of County Commissioners approved changes in construction requirements for ignition-resistant materials in Wildfire Zone 2 (the plains and grasslands of unincorporated Boulder County) at a public hearing on May 12. The changes were prompted by recent wildfires, including the Marshall Fire.
Staff said the update is an urgent matter, which is why it is being addressed as a stand-alone proposal. A more in-depth evaluation and examination of ignition-resistant materials as part of the larger code update that involves moving from the 2015 Codes to the 2021 Codes is underway. “This larger update and review will consider requirements for all wildfire zones as well as the possibility of creating a new, more nuanced framework for categorizing and regulating wildfire hazards county-wide,” according to the staff memo. It is anticipated the broader update and adoption of the 2021 codes will occur later this year.
Ron Flax, the Deputy Director of Community Planning and Permitting said the new requirements will have a “minimal” cost. New homes must have Class A roofing materials and a three-foot non-combustible perimeter. Exterior walls, fences and decks must be constructed of noncombustible or ignition-resistant materials.
More information is available here: https://tinyurl.com/jc8fx6fx. The County is also implementing a Wildfire Partners pilot program to educate homeowners.
To read a story about that in the Daily Camera, click here: https://tinyurl.com/2p8hxj33 .
As part of this review process, a temporary pause on the issuance of building permits for new structures and certain additions in Wildfire Zone 2 not affected by the Marshall Fire is in effect through June 6, 2022. That is the start date for the new regulations. The pause does not apply to property owners who are building new structures and certain additions, so long as they commit to rebuild according to the new requirements
East Boulder Subcommunity Plan Approved: After three years, the Boulder City Council unanimously approved the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan on May 17 after hours discussing the final amendments recommended by the Planning Commission. Real estate professionals should care because the Plan could lead to 5,000 new homes in the next 20 years, a figure that represents more than 10 percent of the City’s housing stock.
Th documents with more information are available here:
Trustee Resigns: Trustee Christiaan van Woudenberg announced his resignation from the Board of Trustees on May 10. He did not state a reason for the resignation, which took place immediately.
With this vacancy, the Board of Trustees had two legal avenues according to the Town Charter. for moving forward. They could hold a Special Election to elect a new Trustee or appoint a new member using any process agreed upon by the Board. Mayor Justin Brooks proposed the Board consider appointing Dan Hoback.
Mayor Brooks said, “This will enable the Board to maintain focus on conducting the business of the Town as efficiently and effectively as possible. The last municipal election was just certified in the last month and Mr. Hoback received the next highest votes on the ballot, which was rather close. I believe this is a clear indication of the will of our community for who they want to serve on the Board.”
The Board voted unanimously to appoint Hoback, who was sworn into office immediately afterwards.
Indoor Sprinklers Nixed: On May 23 the Superior Board of Trustees passed an ordinance 5-2 to allow homeowners rebuilding after the Marshall Fire to do so without requiring indoor sprinklers. This is an exception to the Town’s adopted residential building code (IRC).
Homeowners asked the trustees for the exception because of rebuilding costs and other affordability issues related to under-insurance. Trustees said they were overwhelmed by the feedback they’d received on the topic.
Additional Metro District Requirements Approved: The City Council has been working on its Loveland metro district policy since 2016. The Council continued its efforts on May 24, adding more review criteria to the City’s Model Service Plan.
The Model Service Plan (MSP), which is essentially a list of all the requirements developers must comply with in Loveland, went from 12 to 16 criteria. The MSP is critically important because it must be approved by the City Council for a metro district project to proceed.
The Loveland-Berthoud Association of REALTORS® supports the additional criteria because they protect consumers and increase requirements to educate buyers and owners of metro district properties. Here’s a list of the most important changes:
- A metro district’s mill levy debt is capped at 50 mills.*
- Any material modification of the service plan requires notice to residents and City Council approval.
- The website for each metropolitan district must have a calculator that is easily accessible and calculates the total property tax and district or Home Owner Association fee obligation on an annual basis within the district based on an individual entering a mortgage amount and interest rate.
The vote to approve the additional criteria was unanimous. The Council thanked LBAR for its partnership on the metro district disclosure issue for the last six years. Gauging from many councilors’ comments, additional requirements will be considered in the near future.
*This is the same as the limit in state statute but previously there was no limit in Loveland’s MSP. The Council could have restricted the debt limit even further, as a home rule city.
Council Discusses Strategic Plan Progress Report: Several items discussed during a progress report to the City Council regarding the City’s Strategic Plan relate to our industry. The widening of US 34 between Denver Avenue and Boyd Lake Avenue is complete. However, grant funding has not been secured to complete the widening to three eastbound lanes from Rocky Mountain Avenue to Boyd Lake Avenue.
Projects related to the expansion if I-25 are well underway. The City’s study of I-25 improvements was completed in 2017. CDOT’s I-25 Express Lanes Project resulted in the redesign and construction of Highway 402 interchange, which opened in October 2019. The U.S. Highway 34 interchange is next on the Express Lanes project list, with entire project scheduled for completion in2022.
Note: Don’t forget; CDOT still has not secured funding of the expansion of I-25 south of Berthoud between State Highways 56 and 66. Sadly, this project is not a priority for CDOT.
It was also mentioned that the Community Partnership Office is continuing its ongoing work with the Loveland Housing Authority, Loveland Habitat for Humanity and Aspen Homes related to the City’s affordable and attainable housing initiatives but the report did not mention anything specific concerning the initiative or specific goals.
City to Consider More Metro District Requirements: The City Council discussed additional metro district requirements at the May 3 City Council meeting. The discussion was informal and intended to provide the staff with a better idea of Council’s inclinations.
The discussion was timely, said Acting Community Development Director Becky Safarik, because there is a need for some “housekeeping” amendments to update the regulations and because the City Council and Planning Commission have expressed an interest in developing what she described as “higher standards” for metro districts to warrant the extra mill levy that the districts impose on property owners.
The Council agreed that the routine code updates could advance right away. It is likely a related ordinance will be ready for the Council by mid-summer.
Several councilors expressed interest in “extraordinary public benefits” after some prompting by Safarik. Deb Deboutez said, “I want to require more amenities from metro districts.” Tommy Butler seemed to agree with Deboutez, saying he wants to see “an entire menu of amenities….”
The rest of the Councilors didn’t reveal their thoughts on the matter, but it was agreed Safarik will bring back a list of ideas to consider. If the Council decides to move forward with any additional requirements, it will require stakeholder input from groups such as developers, GARA and the public.
It’s important to remember that any additional requirements, either “amenities” or “extraordinary benefits,” will only increase the cost of metro district homes. It’s ironic that officials criticize metro districts as expensive but at the same time make them even more so by requiring more features. Should developers be penalized for using the metro district financing tool?
Council Supports Transportation Grant: The City Council approved a resolution in support of the City’s INFRA transportation grant. The idea for the grant came from City Councilor Johnny Olson, who was formerly the Director of CDOT for Region IV.
If approved by the federal government (U.S. Department of Transportation), the grant would pay for the construction of reconfigured US 34 interchanges at 47th Avenue and 35th Avenue, and mobility hubs to facilitate regional transportation connections. The total cost for the project is $117 million. If the federal grant is approved, it would provide $70.5 million (60 percent). The City of Greeley would pay $31.5 million, CDOT would kick in $8 million, and the regional planning organization (NFRMPO) would give $7.5 million.
USDOT will announce the grant recipients this Fall.
COLORADO ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
Legislative Update: The 2022 session adjourned on May 11. This session was marked by a spending spree as legislators decided how to spend about $2 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money from the federal government. The CAR’s lobbying team and the Legislative Policy Committee did a great of job killing bills that are deleterious to real estate and working to amend bills that couldn’t be eliminated.
Affordable Housing benefited from the ARPA money, with $178 million in grants for local affordable housing and infrastructure. Some of the money will be targeted at communities that embrace higher density development, energy efficiency and reduced parking requirements. Additional packages of $125 million and $25 million were allocated for other affordable housing programs. $35 million will help mobile home residents buy their own communities. CAR successfully removed a clause of the mobile home bill (SB-260) that would have set a precedent for rent control.
One of the last bills of the session, House Bill 1362 “Building Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” would have required municipalities to adopt building codes with high-energy efficiency and low-carbon emissions standards by 2025. After concerns were expressed by local governments who want to retain their control, and natural-gas distribution companies who feared such codes would have eliminated their energy source as a new-construction option, sponsors softened the requirements to give cities more flexibility to decide their own codes and give them more time to do so.
Liz Peetz, CAR’s Vice-President for public policy, says the final bill is very different from what was introduced in January. CAR and its coalition partners worked diligently to advocate for amendments to make the bill more locally inclusive and factor in affordability for the code writing process.
A full report on the outcome of the session will be released by CAR soon.
Environmental Threat Tool: Denver media were quick to pick up on the news that a free online tool has been created by the nonprofit First Street Foundation to help property owners find out how flooding and wildfires could impact their homes. Given the 2013 flood and recent fires in our state, it is natural owners would want to know. The question is, how accurate is the data? Who will use it, and could it impact home prices?
You can learn more and try out the tool here: https://riskfactor.com/
Here’s an article about the tool from the Colorado Sun: https://tinyurl.com/Risk-Factor-Article
Impact of Institutional Investors: Institutional investors are large organizations, such as banks or hedge funds that make substantial investments on the stock exchange. They have been a common topic of conversation lately. It’s been said that these investors are buying “a lot” of properties in Colorado.
Several questions come to mind. How many is a lot? How does Colorado compare to other states?
A study from the National Association of REALTORS® sheds light on these questions. The study reveals Institutional investors in residential properties made up 13.2 percent of all homebuyers in the United States in 2021, and 14 percent of the buyers in Colorado.
Does 14 percent qualify as “a lot?” Decide for yourself after reading the study. https://tinyurl.com/NAR-investor-study