The legislative session will probably end at the end of the month, but legislators are not slowing down. They’re preparing to introduce a 190-page transportation bill that will impact every Coloradoan. To learn more about this bill and how it will affect you, keep reading!
Regional Government Director
Council Feedback on CU South Annexation: The City Council provided its thoughts on the general concepts related to the so-called CU South Annexation project recently. The staff said a vote on the annexation is anticipated later this year. The related flood mitigation project will happen quickly to protect properties in the area. CU has volunteered 80 acres for the project. 36 acres will be needed for the mitigation, leaving 44 acres for open space.
Overall, the Council opined that great progress had been made on the annexation agreement. Some of the concerns brought up included what would happen if the property was sold to a third party. Would the City’s requirements and guidelines be enforced? Yes, said the City attorney. Boulder can legislate restrictions using zoning, he said.
There were also many questions and comments concerning restrictions to the types of buildings and activities that will be allowed on the parcel. For example, the draft agreement prohibits “large research buildings, large-scale sports facilities, first-year student housing” or fraternity/sorority houses. This precipitated a long discussion about sports facilities and whether capping any such use at 3,000 spectators was adequate. Concerns were also raised about noise and parking related to athletic events.
Staff explained that the priority for the parcel will be housing for university staff and students. Building heights will be limited to that of single-family homes currently in the area. It was noted that many neighbors have said they don’t want the property developed at all, but the restrictions and prohibitions described during the Council’s discussion are designed to minimize the impact on neighbors.
One of the last Councilmembers to speak was Aaron Brockett. After other councilors voiced their concerns about growth and impacts, Brockett simply said there is “a desperate need for housing… (the annexation plan should) tilt in that direction.”
Cunniff Pushes Plan to Delay NISP: At the tail end of the April 20 City Council meeting, Councilman Ross Cunniff pushed a suggestion that could have far-ranging ramifications for the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP). Fort Collins has opposed the project, which if approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, will include a new reservoir (Glade) north of the city.
Cunniff’s idea is that the City should draft new 1041 regulations for city-owned land related to NISP. He explained other jurisdictions had used a similar tactic as justification to “pause” projects while the regulations are drafted, and he had already determined such a strategy is perfectly legal.
Cunniff argued the evaluation of this possibility should happen “in short order” by the new City Council. A majority of the Council supported his proposal (except Mayor Troxell and Ken Summers) and the City Attorney agreed to add this project to her department’s work list.
Note: The environmental community often uses lawsuits as a strategy to stall projects and Cunniff’s idea is similar. He and his allies can’t stop NISP but they can make it take longer to build and cost Northern and the communities that need NISP to provide water millions of dollars.
Council Approves Revised Metro District Policy: On April 20 the City Council voted to adopt the revised Metropolitan District Model Service Plan by resolution. The revisions were a year in the making; the City had put a moratorium on considering new metro districts while the plan was being reviewed.
All new metro districts must meet the requirements listed in the City’s model service plan. The moratorium allowed staff to hone in on the public benefits any proposed development would need to include in order to be considered.
New components added to the service plan include a required pre-application conceptual review with the City Council and a point-based evaluation system. The evaluation system clearly defines the Council’s priorities which are energy and water efficiency, affordable housing and neighborhood livability. Applications will receive 10 points for energy and water conservation/efficiency attributes with the maximum given for net-zero homes, but only 5 points for affordable housing (10 percent of residential units don’t exceed 120 percent of the AMI) and neighborhood livability (trails, open space, etc.).
During the question-and-answer period, it became clear early on consumer disclosure is a key concern even though Planner Ryan Mounce said the City’s regulations have included an extensive required disclosure since 2019. Multiple Council members asked the staff to ensure additional disclosures ensure buyers understand the “unique situation” of buying in a metro district. In addition, Councilmember Emily Gorgol suggested Realtors® need “more education” to make sure they present the disclosure clearly to clients.
The City’s policy requires the following requirements:
- Publication of metro district annual reports and fiscal statements on the City’s website.
- The District must host a minimum of three meetings annually.
- The disclosure form must be given to purchasers before they enter into a sale agreement. It must include the following information – the maximum number of mills that can be levied; the maximum property tax that can be collected based on the estimated average assessed value of a property; a chart comparing property taxes in the district to taxes outside the district, and the contact information for the District’s board of directors.
Some Councilors don’t seem to understand basic economics and the effect of additional requirements on the price of new homes. For example, Susan Gutowsky asked staff to explain why developers would only be required to deed-restrict 10 percent of their projects for affordable housing. Staff had to explain that the affordable housing requirements affect the cost of free-market units. Mandating a higher percent of units to affordable housing would further increase the cost of the other units.
At the end of the discussion, outgoing Mayor Wade Troxell reminded his colleagues that developers don’t “just take,” saying they are one of the reasons Fort Collins is such a nice place to live. He warned that the “market can’t be over-prescribed by seven people on a Tuesday night. I hope there aren’t pitfalls in this (new model service plan).”
Gorgol Elected Mayor Pro Tem: The new members of Fort Collins’ City Council were sworn in on April 27 and the retiring members (Wade Troxell, Ken Summers and Ross Cunniff) were thanked for their service. New Mayor Jeni Arndt thanked the outgoing Councilmembers and now former Mayor Troxell in particular. She stressed inclusion and civility moving forward.
Jeni thanked the Council and Troxell in particular. Inclusion and civility important.
Councilmember Emily Gorgol had lobbied her colleagues for the right to serve as Mayor Pro Tem and was elected unanimously without discussion. New Councilors sworn in include Shirley Peel, Tricia Canonico and Kelly Ohlson.
City’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Regulations Revised: The City Council unanimously adopted changes to its Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) provisions of the Unified Development Code on April 20 without discussion. The changes are designed to encourage the construction of more ADUs in Loveland.
The key revisions include: 1. Reduction in the minimum lot size required for an ADU from 10,000 square feet to 7,000 square feet; 2. Clarification of design standards; 3. Establishment of limitations for the building footprint size based on the lot size and a maximum floor area of 900 square feet; and4. Allowance for conversion or expansion of an existing structure to an ADU.
Note: For property owners with adequate space, ADUs are a great way to house an aging family member or make additional income by ADU rental.
City Pursing Funding for River Financial Plan: The City of Loveland currently has no money to pay for river maintenance, mitigation, or river channel stability, but the City Council is interested in discussing proposals to fund a Big Thompson River Financial Plan. The goal of the plan is evaluation funding alternatives for strategies to protect life and property in the event of another flood. Many property owners in and around low-lying areas of the City near the Big Thompson don’t have “million-dollar resources” said Chris Carlson of the Public Works Department.
Staff said Boulder, Longmont and Fort Collins have plans for their rivers following the 2013 flood. The plans are managed and funded through municipal stormwater utilities; the three governments increased their stormwater fees to pay for the plans. Loveland adopted the Thompson River Corridor Master Plan in 2019. The Plan laid out a vision for critical steps to improve resiliency and mitigate flood hazards but has no funding attached to it.
The work session discussion on April 27 was just the initial conversation on this topic, said Public Works Director Mark Jackson. Councilmember Dave Clark described the river corridor as “the jewel of Loveland. If we can start now mitigating it …it is huge.” He said he isn’t opposed to a fee, as long as residents understand it. Mayor Marsh noted that “money less expensive to borrow right now,” and she voiced support to move ahead. Staff will return with recommendations and options regarding how to pay for the plan.
Northern Settles Lawsuit with Environmental Groups: The Northern Water Municipal Subdistrict has reached an agreement with a group of environmental organizations to settle federal litigation designed to stop the Windy Gap Firming Project and construction of the Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Berthoud. The settlement ended nearly two decades of years of fighting and litigation over the project.
In a statement, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District said it will pay $15 million over multiple years to the Grand Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to Colorado River watershed protection in Grand County. In exchange, Save the Colorado, Save the Poudre, WildEarth Guardians, Living Rivers, Waterkeeper Alliance and the Colorado Sierra Club will drop their lawsuit.
The Windy Gap project moves water from the Western Slope as part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project and has been in operation since 1985. Chimney Hollow will be located west of Carter Lake and would store up to approximately 90,000 acre-feet of water to be divided between 12 water suppliers ranging as far south as Broomfield to as far northeast as Greeley.
The settlement clears the way for Northern Water to begin construction on the $600 million reservoir this summer.
COLORADO ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
Century of Opportunity Bills Move Forward: In honor of the 100th anniversary, CAR sponsored a package of bills designed to incentivize affordable housing known collectively as the Century of Opportunity Legislation Moving Forward:
Century of Opportunity Legislation Moving Forward
HB21-1271: Department Of Local Affairs Innovative Affordable Housing Strategies
- Supports and incentivizes local governments to remove barriers and adopt best practices for affordable housing development. Bill Status: The bill passed the House Transportation and Local Government Committee Wednesday and is now headed to the Appropriations Committee.
- This bill will strengthen personal financial literacy curriculum standards to ensure Colorado’s students are prepared for a bright future. The new curriculum standards include information regarding costs associated with preparing for homeownership, obtaining a degree or credential, how to choose, manage, and repay student loans, how to apply for federal, state and institutional financial aid, how to save for retirement, and how to manage personal credit card debt. Bill Status: The bill passed the House and is introduced in the Senate where it will be scheduled for its first committee hearing soon.
- Creates a statewide pilot program enabling residents residing in properties selected by the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) to opt to have rent payments reported to consumer credit bureaus. Reporting rental payments allows renters to build credit in much the same way as homeowners build credit through the reporting of mortgage payments. Bill Status: The bill passed the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee and awaits a hearing in the Appropriations Committee.
- Under this bill, the Division of Housing would report on the total amount of money the division or the state housing board received from any federal, state, other public or private source during the prior fiscal year and how they are spending these dollars and report on what type of housing they are supporting (rapid re-housing or supportive, rental, or homeownership) and how many units are being produced or preserved with these dollars. Bill Status: The bill passed third reading in the House and will next go to the Senate for further discussion.
More information is available here: https://coloradocenturyofopportunity.com
Transportation Bill Draft Finally Drops: Sponsors finally released a draft of the transportation bill that has been discussed in general terms for more than a month. The bill will be introduced on Tuesday, May 4. It will raise a total of approximately $3.8 billion for transportation, which as define includes measures to reduce greenhouse gases and promote the use of electric vehicles.
The bill includes an array of new fees, including a road use fee on gasoline that will grow from cents a gallon to 8 cents a gallon, as well as other fees on all kinds of “road users,” including delivery vehicles and ride-share providers like Uber. The bill creates 3 new enterprises to manage the revenues. Unfortunately, the general fund contributions are simply stimulus funds from the federal government and not a long-term commitment to transportation funding. Some expert observers saying the bill is “taking from roads to funding electric vehicles and greenhouse gas reduction.”
The 190-page bill is expected to pass because of its powerful supporters, including Governor Polis and leadership in both the House and the Senate — Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg (Boulder), House Speaker Alec Garnett (Denver). The bill was drafted by Senate Transportation Committee chair Faith Winter (Westminster) and House Transportation chair Rep. Matt Gray (Broomfield).
Survey – Government Intervention for Affordable Housing: According to an article in the Colorado Sun, David Flaherty of Magellan Strategies commissioned an affordable housing poll because he was curious as to how the topic ranked now among voters. According to the survey of 508 registered voters, most State voters think Colorado has an affordable housing problem and want the government to intervene to solve it.
The poll indicates voters approve of specific policy solutions like rent control and inclusionary housing to increase affordable housing. 69 percent of the respondents support inclusionary housing. 68 percent support rent control. Flaherty said that although many people polled were unfamiliar with regulatory tools beyond rent control, many backed alternatives that were offered in subsequent questions.
Many people polled described affordable housing as a basic necessity that should be accessible to everyone.
Seventy-four percent said finding affordable housing in their community was a “big” or “somewhat of a” problem. Another 19 percent said it’s not too much of a problem or said it’s not a problem at all. “The cost of housing has gone through the roof, and I think the survey is picking up a lot of that sentiment,” Flaherty, a veteran Republican pollster said, “That’s a good 10 points higher than what we would normally see.” Flaherty added, “Government intervention in this area is definitely welcome, where before there was apprehension.” Note: How would “government intervention” affect the free market? Would rent control help renters but hurt landlords?
Treasury Issues Homeowner Assistance Fund Guidance: The recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act included $9.9 billion in relief for homeowners to be administered through a new Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF). These funds, which will soon be made available to eligible homeowners through their states, may be used for assistance with mortgage payments, homeowner’s insurance, utility payments, and other specified purposes under the law and guidance.
The HAF was created to prevent mortgage delinquencies and defaults, foreclosures, loss of utilities or home energy services, and displacement of homeowners experiencing financial hardship after January 21, 2020. The law and guidance prioritize funds for homeowners who have experienced the greatest hardships, limits eligibility based on need, and can only be used for certain qualified expenses.
The statute requires the Department of Treasury to provide a minimum of $50 million for each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. These allocations will be based on homeowner need determined by reference to (1) the average number of unemployed individuals; and (2) the number of homeowners with late mortgage payments or foreclosures.
See NAR’s Summary for more information on the HAF and Treasury guidance.