August Governmental Affairs Update Part 2

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Governmental Affairs Update

Barbara Koelzer: Regional Government Affairs Director

August Part 2 –  2014

LOCAL
Boulder County
Commissioners Put 2 Measures on the Ballot: The County expects that by the end of 2014 it will spend a total of nearly $80 million on flood-related projects. Over the next 5 years, it is anticipated that a total of $217 million will be spent on recovery, with the vast majority being spent on major repairs to public infrastructure.

Officials estimate there will be a $56 million shortfall between the amount spent on flood recovery and the amount received in reimbursement. A portion of this funding gap will be paid with money from the General Fund; however, there is not enough fund balance to cover the total shortfall.

County officials stress flood recovery projects are paid in full up front and reimbursed later, therefore the County must plan for $217 million in expenses over the next 5 years, not just the $56 million gap. On August 12 the County commissioners placed County Ballot Measure IA on the November ballot. It asks voters to approve an additional sales and use tax of .185 percent, which is expected to raise $9.8 million annually through 2019.

In addition, the Commissioners approved County Ballot Measure 1B, which asks the voters to extend the existing human services safety net mill levy (.9 mill) for fifteen years. The revenues are used to fill the deficiencies in state and federal funding for housing and human services programs in the county. Officials say there have been significant increases in requests for food assistance (food stamps), childcare assistance and other programs.

Longmont
Council Adds Streets Tax to Ballot: The City Council voted unanimously to place a measure on the November 4th ballot asking voters to approve a 10-year extension of the three-quarter cent sales tax for street maintenance and improvement. The longer time frame will allow for planning and coordination with other government entities such as CDOT. If approved, the tax will be in effect through 2026. Since 1986 all street improvements have been funded by this tax, according to staff. Staff has a significant list of projects it hopes to fund if the tax is approved, including improvements on Hover and Ken Pratt.

Should Longmont Create More Affordable Housing? At a study session on August 19th the City Council considered the scarcity of rental housing and the issue of affordability in general. The big question, which remains unanswered, is how to pay for it? Ironically, during the same meeting, staff noted that the City still has a $1.7 million dollar budget gap, even though the City has worked to reduce its initial $5 million gap for the past several years.

Councilman Brian Bagley suggested, perhaps facetiously, that if affordable housing is a top priority for the City, then the Council should figure out which services the City should discontinue in order to pay for more housing. A majority of the Council agreed that rental housing is the most important issue. Most also agreed that developer incentives should be considered. Some suggested the City should survey residents to access support for a potential sales and/or property tax to fund affordable housing programs.

Mayor Coombs and Council member Polly Christensen argued that inclusionary zoning (IZO) should be reconsidered. They said that perhaps the City’s prior IZO program just needs to be tweaked. Christensen went even further, saying Longmont is one of the only cities left in Boulder County with any developable space. She argued that “it’s a privilege to building in Longmont… and developers should do their share.”

Council member Sarah Levison repeatedly advocated for a building permit fee that could be dedicated to affordable housing. No other Council members expressed support for her idea. (It is also possible such a fee would violate TABOR since the fee could not be linked to a specific service.)

Kathy Fedler, Longmont’s CDBG and Affordable Housing Programs Coordinator, argued that a real estate transfer tax (RETT) is a successful revenue stream in 40 states (the actual number of states with a RETT is 36, according to NAR). A RETT would require an amendment to Colorado’s constitution, something Fedler said affordable housing advocates are currently discussing. Council member Christensen liked this idea, saying it would be “a very simple thing the City could explore.”

Fedler had no suggested affordable housing target that the City should consider as a goal. The Council asked for a complete list of possible funding options as well as research into the affordable housing “best practices” in effect in Colorado and across the nation. Council did not set a deadline by which staff should return with this information. The idea of convening another task force to make recommendations to Council was discussed in passing without any specific staff direction.

Larimer County
3rd Candidate Makes Commissioner Ballot: Fort Collins resident and perennial candidate Eric Sutherland successfully petitioned his way on the November ballot. Sutherland cites problems with government transparency as his main reason for running.

He claims that the County over-collected revenues from the 1997 courthouse sales tax that will be used to pay for the new County facility in downtown Loveland. In addition, he argues the construction of the building is tied to the success of a risky economic development scenario (the South Catalyst Project). Note: Sutherland is unaffiliated with a political party. Nonetheless, his decision to petition onto the ballot is likely to hurt Democratic candidate Kathy Gilliland who already facing an uphill battle in trying to unseat Republican incumbent Lew Gaiter. (Members of FCBR and LBAR will interview all 3 candidates on August 25.)

Commissioners Place Jail Tax on Ballot: On August 19th the Larimer County Commissioners formally adopted a resolution to ask voters to extend the .015 percent jail sales tax, which currently generates $7.5 million a year and is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. The tax would only provide for ongoing maintenance and operations of the jail. The High Park fire in 2012 and the floods of 2013 have strained the County’s resources and the sales tax extension will ensure the County is able to provide other services. Note: In 2008 the Sheriff’s Department accounted for 55 percent of the County’s budget. That year the County asked voters to approve a tax to build a detox and mental health facility at the jail but it lost by a 62 to 38 percent margin. Will voters approve 3 tax measures this fall? That remains to be seen.

Fort Collins
REALTORS Concerned About Parking Standards in TOD: For the past year the City of Fort Collins has been reviewing parking standards for the Transit Oriented Development overlay district. The overlay is designed to encourage higher levels of density and design that supports transit style developments primarily along the Mason Corridor, but does extend around CSU’s Campus.

While offering support for most of the proposals, the Fort Collins Board of REALTORS will begin lobbying for the inclusion of offsets that would encourage affordable options for average wage earners in addition to low income housing. FCBR is also concerned about a proposal that would require new minimum parking standards for non-residential units. The parking standards are scheduled for consideration by City Council in October.

Judge Overturns Fracking Moratorium: On August 8 Judicial District Judge Gregory Lammons ruled to overturn the fracking moratorium approved by Fort Collins voters last November. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association challenged the results of that election. The judge said that the moratorium violated a May 2013 operator agreement signed by the City, which allowed former Fort Collins Field owner Prospect Energy, LLC to frack wells in city limits. City officials will have seven weeks from the official filing to decide if it plans to appeal the court’s decision, said Interim City Attorney Carrie Daggett.

Loveland
Downtown Working Group Unveils Vision: A group of business leaders presented its strategic plan for downtown Loveland to the City Council on August 12. The 17-member group, brought together by Economic Development Director Betsey Hale, includes Mindy McCloughin, Loveland Chamber CEO, former mayor Gene Pielin, developer Troy Peterson and Harry Devereux of Home State Bank. The group hopes to create a Downtown Development Authority (DDA), similar to those in Fort Collins, Greeley and Longmont.

The creation of a DDA would require a vote of property owners within the boundaries of the district (the exact boundaries have not been defined) and the group hopes to schedule that vote to occur in February 2015. The role of the DDA would be foster economic development and revitalization. Among the many goals of the group is the establishment of a working relationship with area REALTORS and developers to highlight business and residential opportunities downtown.

Of course, plans such as this require funding. The group is asking the City Council to allocate $50,000 a year for 10 years. This request will be included in the process of creating the 2015 City budget, which is normally finalized by November. Another study session is planned for October.

NATION
Poll Finds Anemic Gas Tax Support: A new poll finds the American public is divided over how to address the Highway Trust Fund shortfall – none of the options polled won majority support, and several have strong opposition. Of the four options – boost the gas tax, let private-sector companies build infrastructure and charge tolls, turn funding decisions back to the states and replace the gas tax with a VMT – devolution won the highest outright support at 30 percent. A per-mile fee got 20 percent, and the gas tax got a thumbs-up from only 14 percent of those polled. Opposition was strongest for the gas tax (58 percent) and tolls (46 percent). But each of the four options had a healthy dose of “neither support nor oppose” – indicating that many American take their transportation for granted and haven’t thought about how they might change the funding structure.

Fannie Mae Revises Derogatory Credit Event Rule: According to the Denver Business Journal, a new rule imposed by Fannie Mae (Federal National Mortgage Association) could make it more difficult for would-be homebuyers who have had a short sale in the past to buy a home. The rule, which went into effect on August 16, will extend the mandated waiting period to qualify for a conventional home loan after a short sale from two years to four years.

Fannie Mae announced the rule regarding “significant derogatory credit events” in July. These events include bankruptcies, foreclosures and short sales.
The rule does make exceptions for those who can prove that a short sale occurred because of extenuating circumstances. If a borrower can prove that the short sale was the result of a lost job or wages, catastrophic event or other circumstance beyond the borrower’s control, the two-year waiting period can still be honored by Fannie Mae, but only if significant documentation is provided by the borrower.

“The presence of significant derogatory credit events dramatically increases the likelihood of a future default and represents a significantly higher level of default risk,” Fannie Mae said in its announcement of the rule. Jolon Ruch, Chairperson of the Colorado Association of REALTORS, sees the change as an opportunity for homebuyers to take more time and better position themselves for a purchase. “This can give them the opportunity to gain more income, save some more money and actually be better for everyone,” Ruch said.


 

August Part 1 – 2014

LOCAL
Boulder County
County Loses Lawsuit: A District Court Judge ruled that Boulder County exceeded its legal authority last year when it formed a Subdivision Paving Local Improvement District (LID) and assessed properties within that district to pay most of the costs of repaving those roads. The Boulder County Commissioners implemented the LID in late 2013 as the “last best option for dealing with deteriorating subdivision roads” after trying other alternatives, including individual subdivision LIDs and placing a question on the ballot last year about forming a Public Improvement District, all of which failed to pass.

The County believed a local improvement district was a viable solution for collecting money from subdivision property owners to fix subdivision roads and that this methodology was authorized by law. However, the court has ruled otherwise. In a news release the Commissioners said the County is preparing to
return all paid assessments to property owners (with interest) and take any additional actions necessary to remove the liens from all District properties. The County recorded A Notice of Withdrawal and Release for all liens created under the LID on July 31.

The vast majority of refunds (which will include an interest rate of 8 percent per annum from date of receipt of payment) are being returned directly back to the party that originally paid either the first year’s annual assessment or the full 15-year payment by the end of August. In some cases, where property ownership transferred during the eight months under the LID, refunds will be made to title companies to distribute back to the transaction parties according to their real estate settlement documents. More information is available here: http://www.bouldercounty.org/roads/plans/pages/subpaving.aspx

Boulder
Council Approves Building Permit Moratorium for the Hill: The City Council held an emergency meeting to adopt a moratorium on new development on University Hill. The moratorium is in effect through 8 a.m. Aug. 20. The City Council plans to discuss a longer moratorium at its Aug. 19 meeting. The moratorium applies in the commercial district that runs roughly from University Avenue to College Avenue, from Broadway west to 13th Street.

Although student housing seems like a perfect fit for the Hill, given its proximity to the University of Colorado, the Council wants to encourage other land uses and wants time to consider an innovation district or some other means of attracting non student-related businesses to the area. The Council is also preparing to put a short-term 0.3 percent sales tax on the November ballot that includes $3 million for lighting, tree-planting, irrigation and an “event street” on University Hill.

Observers say that the Council may be trying to placate homeowners on the Hill, who have long complained about the impact of students in their neighborhood.
Councilman Macon Cowles said, “It (student housing) might be the most profitable use of the property, but it may not represent the highest and best use as far as the city of Boulder is concerned.”

Longmont
What does Hickenlooper’s Compromise mean to Longmont? Longmont Mayor Pro Tem Brian Bagley’s presence at the Governor’s announcement concerning the compromise deal that removes two potentially devastating oil and gas ballot measures was not coincidental (see more, below). Assuming the deal moves forward, as it now appears it will, the City can stop spending time and money (rumored to be over $500,000) on its battle with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).

The City is happy to end its legal battles with the State. Congressman Jared Polis is happy because the State will not proceed with its attempt to limit local control in terms of oil and gas regulations in the precedent setting lawsuit. The deal means that Longmont will be able to enforce the regulations passed by the City Council in 2012 that COGCC argued was illegal.

Larimer County
County Puts Two Measures on Ballot: On July 29th the County Commissioners unanimously voted to put two questions on the November 4th ballot. One resolution extended and amended the Help Preserve Open Spaces (HPOS) sales tax Initiative

If approved by voters in November, the Help Preserve Open Spaces sales and use tax of quarter-cent will extend for 25 years beginning January 1, 2019 when the current sales and use tax sunsets. The amended issue changes city/county revenue splits to an even 50-50. To date the County’s portion of the current tax has conserved about 33,000 acres in fee title and conservation easements, as well as 83 miles of trail.

The County’s decision must be disappointing to the City of Loveland. When asked if the City Council planned to oppose the measure, City Manager Bill Cahill said, “The Council already made its views and position very clear to the County – both in person at a Study Session, and later by being the only vote against the County’s recommended proposal at the County Open Lands Board meeting.  The County heard the message, but elected to go a different path.  Their decision is made and won’t be retracted, given the required time frames for the election.” Note: Observers take this comment to mean that the City Council will not be vocal in its opposition to the ballot measure.

The BOCC also certified a measure for November’s ballot for a county-wide sales and use tax to finance a new Animal Care and Control Facility. A citizens’ petition collected signatures to bring the measure forward. The new facility would be built on land owned by the Larimer Humane Society. The 0.1 percent sales and use tax begins January 1, 2015 and ends when the debt is paid or by December 31st, 2020. The current Larimer Humane Society shelter was built in 1974.

Weld County
Erie

Town Tries to Stop Rumors: In an effort to address widespread rumors, the Town of Erie announced it has established a “Rumor Mill” on its new website (www.erieco.gov). The first topic addressed, not surprisingly, was oil & gas activity.

To view the Rumor Mill go to the Transparency tab at www.erieco.gov and click on Rumor Mill. Rumors can be reported by email: rumormill@erieco.gov. Town officials’ frustration with rumors is understandable, but does anyone think the rumor mill will succeed? Those who perpetuate gossip are rarely interested in the facts.

REGION
MPO Creates Congestion Survey: The North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization has placed an online survey about congestion issues on its website, www.nfrmpo.org. The 12-question survey asks participants to define traffic congestion and its causes.

The North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization, a federally required transportation entity, works on regional transportation issues. Its governing council is made up of representatives from 15 regional governments, including Greeley, Fort Collins and Loveland. The survey is part of the organization’s Congestion Management Process, which is federally mandated. The process is designed to identify regional congestion locations and the causes of congestion and outline performance measures for tracking transportation trends.

Polis Approval Rating 37 Percent? The 2nd Congressional District is considered a Democratic stronghold and Jared Polis has coasted to victory since winning a three-way Democratic primary in 2008. But according to the Denver Post, Polis’ bankrolling of ballot measures dealing with fracking and drilling may have upset Coloradans. George Leing’s campaign released poll data that they say shows a Republican can win the race.

Polis’ approval rating is 37 percent with 38 percent of voters having an unfavorable opinion, according to the poll. Asked whether Polis deserved re-election, 37 percent said yes, while 43 percent said it is time to give someone new a chance. However, 64 percent of the voters had never heard of Leing, the Republican candidate who hopes to defeat Polis.

STATE
Hickenlooper Announces Oil and Gas Compromise: Gov. John Hickenlooper announced a last-minute compromise that will keep initiatives 88 and 89, pushed by Congressman Jared Polis, off the November ballot. Initiative 88 would have required 2,000-foot buffers between oil and gas wells and buildings, while Initiative 89 would create a constitutional environmental bill of rights and more local control.

Polis agreed to pull his ballot measures if Reps. Frank McNulty and Jerry Sonnenberg removed initiative 121 from the ballot, which would prohibit cities and towns that have banned fracking from receiving severance tax revenue generated by oil and gas development elsewhere in the state.
After a bit of posturing, McNulty and Sonnenberg agreed. Colorado Concern, a pro-business group, also agreed to pull initiative 137, which would require a petition circulated for signatures to include an initiative’s estimated fiscal impact.

Now the Governor will convene a 18-person task force to craft recommendations to reduce land-use conflicts related to the proximity of oil and natural-gas facilities near homes, schools, businesses and recreation areas. The group will make recommendations to the legislature with a two-thirds majority, or issue majority and minority opinions.

As part of the deal, Hickenlooper will ask the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to dismiss litigation challenging the City of Longmont’s ordinance banning fracking. 
The Governor is also prepared to enforce a setback rule that encourages oil and gas companies to locate wells 1,000 feet from buildings rather than the current 500 feet.

Kudos to Governor Hickenlooper for crafting a palatable compromise. Congressman Polis’s measures were not polling well and this, as well as pressure from the Democratic party, undoubtedly played a role in his decision to withdraw his measures from the ballot.

NATION
Transpogeddon Averted: Highway and mass transit programs funded by the highway trust fund gas tax received a last-minute reprieve after the Senate passed a GOP House-crafted $11 billion 10-month extension of the tax they had overwhelmingly rejected two days ago. But as happy as transportation interests will be to have something in place, the bill’s passage nevertheless represents a defeat for asphalt, trucking and other business groups that have long pushed for a hike in the gas tax and a five- or six-year transportation bill.

The Senate’s 81-13 vote sent the legislation to President Barack Obama for his signature mere hours before the Transportation Department said it would need to begin cutting payments to states and on the brink of a five-week congressional vacation. Failure to act would have put 700,000 jobs at risk, according to the administration.

Note: Congress predictably waited until the last minute to reauthorize the gas tax and set up another show down in 10 month’s time. After its August recess, Congress must address the reauthorization of MAP-21, the two-year general fund allocation that augments the dwindling revenue from the gas tax to fund transportation projects though October 2014.


July 2014

LOCAL
Boulder County
Boulder
BRT Becomes Priority for Northwest Line: Bus rapid transit (BRT) and not rail, is moving to the top of RTD’s priority list for the Northwest Corridor. RTD’s Board of Directors adopted the recommendations of the Northwest Area Mobility Study (NAMS), a collaborative effort with northwest area governments and transportation partners to achieve consensus on a set of recommendations to improve mobility in the area. The study was initiated in response to significant cost increases and delays associated with building and operating northwest rail – the 41-mile commuter rail line from Denver to Longmont included in RTD’s FasTracks program, which was approved by the voters in 2004.

The NAMS report acknowledges that rail is a “longer term goal” although it recommends an annual evaluation to accelerate the implementation of rail. However, this recommendation is only included to appease rail advocates given that the cost of rail is prohibitively expensive and appears to be completely unfeasible.

RTD has applied for a federal grant to fund planning studies for the Colorado 119 and U.S. 287 arterial BRT corridors. Results of that application are expected this fall.

Entities that participated in the study along with RTD and CDOT are 36 Commuting Solutions and North Area Transportation Alliance; the cities of Arvada, Boulder, Broomfield, Lafayette, Longmont, Louisville, Superior and Westminster; Boulder County; Colorado Department of Transportation, the Denver Regional Council of Governments and the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Boulder
City Continues Work on Housing Strategy: The City of Boulder is continuing to work on an updated Comprehensive Housing Strategy (CHS). The project, which began in 2013, is designed to strengthen the City’s affordable housing programs, expand the opportunities for middle-income families and explore approaches to provide housing for needs not being met by the current housing market.

At a recent study session the Council reviewed a variety of documents that will guide this project, including a list of assumptions. From the assumptions it is clear that the City intends to continue its current policies, including its inclusionary zoning requirement. There is an acknowledgement that
there are no “solutions” to Boulder’s affordability challenges. Demand to live in Boulder will always outstrip the housing supply. However, the City believes “the situation can be improved.”

It is also assumed that it’s too late to preempt or significantly address Boulder’s loss of affordable detached single-family homes. There is not enough land to add the necessary supply, nor are there the financial resources to provide the necessary subsidy to a large enough number of middle-income households.

Some of the ideas being considered are facilitating the creation of additional high density housing choices such as townhomes, duplexes, co-op housing and accessory dwelling units. Next, the Council will need to finalize the strategy’s goals after which a list of policies and tools can be developed. The goal is to bring the final document to Council for review and approval by the winter of 2015.

Read more about the CHS here:
https://bouldercolorado.gov/housing/comprehensive-housing-strategy

Larimer County
Municipalities Divided on Open Space Tax Proposal: The Fort Collins City Council announced its support for the County’s proposal to increase the County’s share of the quarter cent open space sales tax revenue from 42 to 50 percent. However, the Loveland City Council expressed concerns with the proposal, which is opposed by Loveland’s Open Lands Advisory Commission.

The difference between the two jurisdictions is that Fort Collins has an additional city open space tax while Loveland does not. Loveland staff estimate the city would lose over $250,000 a year if voters approve the new split. This creates a dilemma for Loveland, which is working to acquire more land along the Big Thompson River corridor. In 2013 Fort Collins received 33 percent of the open space tax distribution and Loveland received 16.7 percent. The remainder of the cities’ split went to small communities such as Estes Park, Wellington and Berthoud. The County’s 42 percent split amounted to $4.7 million last year but it argues a larger portion of the tax revenue is needed to pay for operations and maintenance on its holdings.

The County doesn’t have a lot of time to convince Loveland to support the new proposal if it wants to get the language on the ballot this fall. Commissioner Tom Donnelly, who joined the Loveland City Council for the discussion, said the proposal isn’t perfect but that there were worse options out there such as the possibility of a new open lands citizen initiative that could take matters out of the hands of elected officials or the expiration of the tax (which is currently scheduled to sunset in 4 years).

The Loveland City Council wants more detailed information before it makes a final decision. It is important that the elected officials reach a consensus for many reasons, most obviously to show voters that all the jurisdictions are in agreement; otherwise the passage of the ballot question could be jeopardized in November. The argument could be made that if open space is a priority in Loveland, then its voters should also approve a Loveland tax to supplement the tax revenues the City receives from Larimer County just as Fort Collins voters have done.

Loveland
Fracking Moratorium Defeated: Voters in Loveland rejected a ballot measure that called for a local moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in a special election
on June 24. Five other Northern Colorado towns have already approved similar anti-fracking measures – Fort Collins, Boulder, Longmont, Lafayette and Broomfield.

The election was closely monitored on both sides of the issue because of the potential for multiple ballot questions regarding fracking at the state level this fall. (see more, below). Oil and gas industry representatives said the vote shows that anti-fracking measures can be defeated at the ballot box. Fracking opponents said the Loveland vote did not reduce their optimism that their measures would be successful this fall.

REGION
Group Lobbies Chairman of House Transportation Committee re I-25: The Chairman of the US House of Representative’s Transportation Committee, Bill Shuster (PA) held a field hearing in Colorado at the behest of Congressmen Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman in preparation for the reauthorization of MAP-21, the federal transportation funding legislation that expires this fall. The hearing gave a group of local officials the opportunity to lobby for North I-25 funding.

Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, the chair of the North I-25 Elected Officials Coalition, focused on MAP-21’s freight management plan. The highway already sees 40 million tons of freight each year and its movement is impeded by slow speeds. She added that the freight traffic is projected to increase to 200 million tons annually in just 9 years.

Loveland City Council member Joan Shaffer reviewed the EIS (environmental impact statement) for North I-25. The EIS includes two additional lanes in each direction north of Highway 66 (one general purpose lane and one tolled lane). She said CDOT is currently “freshening” the EIS, which was released in 2011.

Chairman Shuster said he was impressed with the freight focus and liked the fact that there appears to be a unified coalition lobbying on behalf of the region. He said he wants a five to six year reauthorization for MAP-21 but predicted that any highway trust fund (HTF) reauthorization will be a shorter fix to take Congress through the election year.

The private sector can help by continuing to educate the public regarding the plight of our highway infrastructure and make sure voters understand the importance of reauthorizing MAP-21 and the HTF, according to the Chairman. He made no promises to help Northern Colorado secure funding and reminded the group that MAP-21 specifically prohibits “earmark” funding for particular projects.

Note: Like everything related to Congress, the field hearing was partisan. Chairman Shuster is a Republican and was invited by GOP colleagues. None of the Democratic Congressional representatives were present (and it is unlikely they were invited, either.)

Denver’s Failed Affordable Housing Program: According to a recent editorial in the Denver Post, the City’s “affordable housing ordinance has been a failure…. In the past five years, for example, it has resulted in only 16 affordable units being built.”

Twelve years ago Denver approved an inclusionary zoning ordinance (similar to the ordinance that was revoked in Longmont a few years ago).  It required developments with more than 30 units to deed restrict 10 percent of the units for people earning less than the median income. However, the ordinance also allowed developers to pay cash-in-lieu of meeting the requirement (which the editorial calls “sidestepping” the requirements). Now the City’s cash-in-lieu fund amounts to over $7 million.

A City Council member is trying to drum up support for revisions to fix the ordinance. Under her proposal, developers would have to pay the City more money to opt out of the ordinance in high-demand areas, such as downtown or around transit areas and would require the City to higher cash rebates ($20,000 per unit) to the developer. Whether this proposal will gain support from the rest of the City Council remains to be seen.

STATE
Governor Still Trying to Craft Oil & Gas Compromise: Prospects are not looking good for a special legislative session this summer to consider stricter gas and oil regulations. The governor has worked hard to get both sides to the table but faces enormous hurdles with time running out.

First, he has to get consensus in the gas and oil community, which is currently split into two camps. One group is willing to accept the compromise language proposed by the governor as the lesser of two evils. The other group does not support the Governor’s compromise language and is more confident that the industry would win at the ballot box. This faction doesn’t want to negotiate with Congressman Polis who is leading the charge to create more regulation.

Polis is promoting several ballot initiatives and has the financial resources to gather the 86,000 plus signatures necessary to put the questions on the November ballot if stricter regulations are not passed in a special session. But he has stipulated that language introduced in a special session could not be amended by the legislature, which would extremely unusual. He says he will not engage in the issue again until 2018 if the compromise language is passed in a special session.

The Colorado Association of REALTORS and the Colorado Home Builders Association are also involved in the discussion. The big issue for both groups is Polis’s 2,000 foot setback ballot initiative. The setback measure would not only dramatically reduce potential drilling opportunities by as much as 40 – 50 percent, but would restrict new residential development as well.

Note: According to an article in the July 8 edition of the Denver Business Journal, a decision by the Colorado Home Builder’s Association (CAHB) on July 3rd to support the Governor’s draft compromise legislation led to the resignation of several CAHB lobbyists as well as multiple board members. This further demonstrates the difficulties and divisiveness of the issue.

Observers wonder if Congressman Polis’s strategies will backfire on him. The oil and gas industry, backed by the business community, is furious with him. If he pushes the Governor too far he could harm his standing with his fellow Democrats at the state level. And if he doesn’t go far enough his environmentalist allies could become disenchanted.

NATION
Gas Tax Funding Could Be Delayed: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has written all the state DOTs (departments of transportation) to warn them that it will have to delay highway funding reimbursements if Congress doesn’t act to shore up the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), soon. A federal tax on gasoline and other fuels is the primary revenue source for the HTF.

The fund has suffered because the per gallon tax hasn’t been increased since 1993 and vehicles have become more efficient. “The situation remains dire,” Foxx wrote in a June 19 letter that came about six weeks after states were first formally warned of an impending shortfall in the trust fund’s highway account. The trust fund cannot run a deficit thanks to the Antideficiency Act, so DOT is left with few options as the balance continues to fall. There is no consensus in Washington DC as to how to deal with the HTF. As of this writing, it will expire in 23 days unless Congress does something.

FHA Confirms 203k Loans OK for Mitigation: On June 24, the FHA responded to a request from NAR and other groups, regarding the use of the 203k rehabilitation/renovation loan program for flood mitigation.  In the letter, dated February 6, 2014, NAR and the coalition asked FHA to confirm the eligibility of the Federal Housing Administration’s FHA Section 203k program for the rehabilitation of homes that have not been damaged in a flood, but are at risk of damage from future flood events.  The 203k has been used in flooded areas to rebuild homes, and the coalition wanted assurance that the program could be used for mitigation prior to a disaster.

In its response, FHA confirms that, “the mitigation of flood risk to an existing home either through relocation or elevation of the existing structure is permitted by the 203k program.”  While the program has required the retention of the existing mortgage, following Superstorm Sandy, “FHA issued a waiver of the requirement that the existing foundation remain in place for eligibility under the 203k program through Mortgagee Letter 2013-36 for homes where the current foundation would not meet flood elevation requirement, local codes or FEMA requirements.”

NAR Pushes for Rural Credit Availability: NAR recently submitted a statement to the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Rural Development, and Credit for a hearing entitled, “A Review of Credit Availability in Rural America.”  In the statement, NAR stressed the importance of access to credit for all homebuyers, and described the specific challenges for rural communities.

The statement urged three changes to expand access to credit: 1) update the definition of “rural”, which hasn’t been changed since 1974; 2) allow the Rural Housing Service (RHS) to utilize direct endorsement lenders, to speedup transaction time and lessen the burden on RHS staff; and 3) resist calls to limit access to federal programs. NAR made similar pleas recently with House and Senate Appropriations Committees, urging them to allow RHS to use direct endorsed lenders as part of the FY 2015 Appropriations process.

 

 


 

 

June 2014

In this issue…

A Message from Barbara Koelzer:
What do municipal planning efforts and gubernatorial vetoes have in common? Not a lot to be honest, except that they both relate to issues that impact our industry. You can read about these topics, and others, in my latest update.
Local

Boulder County
Boulder
Council Discusses Business-Related Traffic Congestion: At a recent study session the Boulder City Council discussed the impact of businesses on traffic and parking congestion as part of the ongoing effort to update the Transportation Master Plan. Boulder is a city in which 60 percent of the workforce commutes into town, mostly because of the high cost of housing. And the cost of housing, of course, is a result of the City’s policies.

However there does not seem to be any acknowledgement that the City is “reaping what it has sown.” Instead, it appears that the Council is considering putting more responsibilities on new and existing businesses. The City can require transportation demand management plans that require businesses to encourage workers to use alternative transportation – but it can’t make employees take the bus. That didn’t stop some members of Council from opining that the City should make those existing plans enforceable. One council member likes the idea of requiring workers to pay a special fee to park in private lots or satellite parking garages to shuttle workers into town.

The ongoing discussion of whether to offer a community-wide Eco pass also came up, with some Council members saying this benefit would motivate a majority of workers to use RTD. As one Council member noted however, Boulder doesn’t have the transit infrastructure that larger cites have and forcing more employees to utilize RTD would just create another problem, even if it were possible.

Boulder can’t have it both ways. A vibrant community needs economic development to pay for city services. How many new businesses would want to locate in Boulder if they had to require employees to take a shuttle to their workplace? The Transportation Master Plan calls for diverse transportation policies. Somehow, the idea of forcing employees to take the bus doesn’t sound equitable. Another Transportation Master Plan study session is scheduled for the fall.

Longmont
City Extends Permit Fee Waivers for Flood Repair: On the advice of staff, the City Council approved a resolution extending Longmont’s permit fee waiver program for flood-related repairs through September 2014. Building department staff told the City Council that homeowners in flood-affected neighborhoods requested the extension. Some waited for spring runoff to begin/end before reconstructing their basements, and therefore were not in a position to rebuild before the fee waiver program ended in December.

The resolution also decrees that permit fees paid for flood-related improvements within the affected areas between the expiration of the last extension (December 31) and June 10th will be refunded. The repairs do not have to be completed by September 30th but the permits for the repairs must be taken out prior to September 30.

Larimer County
Loveland

City Embarks on Comp Plan Update: The City’s long-range planning guide, the Comprehensive Plan, is periodically reviewed and a major update is scheduled to be complete in 2015. Staff say that much of the 2005 Comprehensive Plan and the 2011 Implementation Plan is still relevant, so changes will focus on updating the community baseline, crafting a guiding vision, integrating land use and transportation plans and projects, framing the plan in terms of sustainability and healthy lifestyles, and generating a robust land use plan.

It’s important that LBAR members get involved in the update. How and where the City grows is one of the most important priorities of a comp plan. According to information posted on the City’s new Comp Plan website, “Low density residential, including large estates, is the most dominant future land use at 41 percent of the total, with medium and high density residential representing 12 percent. New residential development will continue to be predominantly single family homes located in the northwestern and southeastern sectors of the City.” http://www.createloveland.com/documents/LandUse%20Snapshot.pdf

The Update kicked off with visioning workshops on June 11 and 12. During the fall, opportunities and constraints will be identified. More public input will be taken over the winter. The draft and final plan preparation will take place in the spring of 2015 and the City’s goal is to have the plan adopted by summer 2015. Keep track of the Update and see information as it’s posted, www.createloveland.com.

REGION
Proposed Reservoirs Would Have Made Difference This Spring: Northern Water says that if Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) had been operational, the Poudre River’s spring runoff and the damage it created would have been reduced. Not only that, but both the proposed Glade and Galeton reservoirs would have stored huge volumes of water this year, protecting the region against future drought. “This is one of the better water years we’ve had recently,” said Carl Brouwer, NISP project manager. “This is a great year to illustrate the value of Glade Reservoir in storing the excess snowmelt runoff.”

With the Poudre River peaking at almost 6,000 cubic feet per second and remaining above 4,000 cubic feed per second (CFS) for two weeks, NISP could have diverted 1,000 cfs. “This would not have stopped all flooding downstream in the Greeley area, but it certainly would have reduced the magnitude,” Brouwer added.

The recent year’s variation in water has also provoked more discussion about new storage in the state, including NISP. The period from 2009 to 2011 was a wet period and produced more than one million acre feet of water over and above what is legally required to Nebraska. Glade and Galeton would have been full entering 2012, which proved to be one of the driest years on record.

The NISP supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement is scheduled for completion later this year. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will then release the document and conduct public hearings in 2015.

STATE
Governor Vetoes Transportation Bill: On June 4 Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed SB 14-197 “Transportation Enterprise Transparency Act” and signed an Executive Order that will improve transparency, accountability and openness relating to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) High-performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE). “We firmly believe that government should always strive to be transparent and accountable,” Gov. Hickenlooper wrote in a letter to the Colorado Senate. “We support SB 14-197’s provisions that improve transparency, accountability, and openness in public-private partnerships. … Unfortunately, SB 14-197 is not just a transparency bill — it also inappropriately constrains the business terms of future P3 (public private partnership) agreements.”

“In committee, private sector representatives warned that the bill’s rushed process and lack of business community input could result in unintended consequences,” the governor’s letter says. “Those worries were shared by city and county officials concerned about limiting future P3s. We share those concerns. With legislation of this complexity, it is critical that all stakeholders and partners be actively engaged in a robust and thorough process to ensure good outcomes and good law; we fear that was not the case with SB 14-197.”

The order also calls for discussions between the Governor’s Office and General Assembly members to create a “Center of Excellence,” which would establish P3 best practices, including programs for ensuring transparency and openness. “This will help all of us be more deliberate about P3s moving forward, without sacrificing opportunities for economic development and investment,” the governor’s order says.

Urban Renewal Bill Rejected: Gov. Hickenlooper vetoed a bill on June 6 that would have increased restrictions on urban-renewal developments, saying that while he understood the intent of the measure, the financial requirements placed on cities in the bill were excessive. HB-1375, sponsored by House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso (Loveland) would have required county officials to get at least one seat on urban renewal authority boards and would have mandated that cities set aside the same percentage of their sales-tax revenue for the areas as the percentage of property-tax revenue that counties give up in the deals. Hickenlooper said that he accepted the addition of a county representative on the boards, but felt the cities’ sales-tax requirement could curtail use of the tools.

“Unfortunately, HB-1375 goes a step too far,” Gov. Hickenlooper wrote in his veto letter to the Legislature. “The bill’s provision that mandates the percentage of property tax increment not exceed the percentage of allocated municipal sales tax increment does not account for the complexity and variety of urban renewal projects. We understand the concerns that such inflexibility could hamstring projects that might benefit from the use of these programs,” the governor said.

Gas and Oil Compromise Appears Unlikely: As has been widely reported, Gov. Hickenlooper is trying to avert the onslaught of gas and oil initiatives being supported by Rep. Jared Polis and anti-fracking activists by trying to craft a compromise, which would then be considered by the legislature in a special session. Rep. Polis has agreed to pull the 9 initiatives he has filed if the legislature approves more restrictive rules. However, last Friday he stated that the compromise bill as currently drafted doesn’t go far enough. He supports additional language suggested by the Sierra Club that would elevate health, welfare and safety, including as it pertains to the environment and wildlife — above the extraction of oil and gas minerals — in deciding whether a local government’s regulations “destroys” an energy company’s ability to produce the resources.

Coloradoans for Responsible Reform (CFRR) is one of several business-related groups campaigning against additional gas and oil restrictions. While CFRR argues avoiding a November ballot fight is in the best interest of Colorado, the organization says that fear of losing in November should not be the primary motivator for a special session. CFRR states that its research shows that an overwhelming majority of Coloradans oppose a ban on oil and gas.

NATION
House Passes 3 Percent Fix: NAR Government Affairs has been closely monitoring the implementation of rules by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  As part of the implementation of the Qualified Mortgage (QM) regulations, CFPB included in the 3 percent cap on fees and points, amounts paid to affiliate title companies and insurance escrows when there is an affiliate involved in the transaction.   Unaffiliated charges are not included in the cap.

For the past three and a half years NAR has been working with regulators to highlight the problems that a distinction between affiliated (those title companies with a business agreement with a real estate brokerage and lender) and non-affiliated title companies created with regard to the calculation of points and fees.  Although a recent proposal from the CFPB was designed to address some concerns, NAR continued to push Congress to clarify and fix the 3 percent cap through a legislative remedy that levels the playing field for affiliates.

On June 9 the House of Representatives approved, on a voice vote, H.R. 3211, the Mortgage Choice Act.  This NAR-backed bi-partisan legislation is narrowly focused to provide equal treatment for affiliated title fees compared to unaffiliated title fees and clarify the treatment of insurance and taxes held in escrow.

Although some consumer groups have opposed the legislation on claims it could weaken the QM ability to repay provisions, the bill maintains the important consumer protections and sound underwriting required under QM and promotes access to affordable mortgage credit.

The bill will move to the United States Senate for consideration later this summer.  Legislative prospects at this point are not clear but it is hoped the House action will encourage the Senate to move quickly on the Mortgage Choice Act.

Feds Impose Big Fine for Inadequate Affiliated Business Disclosure: On May 28, 2014, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a consent agreement and $500,000 fine to a real estate firm for inadequate disclosure language in an affiliated business disclosure. Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) affiliate entities must disclose relationships to consumers at or prior to the time of referral and make clear that consumers are not required to use the affiliate.  In the case in question the disclosure form deviated from a sample disclosure published in the regulations by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The CFPB consent order requires the forms to be completely synchronized with published sample including placing the same emphasis on key words.  View the HUD sample form here:
http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/housing/ramh/res/resappd

 


May 2014

Local

Boulder County
Boulder
Council Discusses Business-Related Traffic Congestion: At a recent study session the Boulder City Council discussed the impact of businesses on traffic and parking congestion as part of the ongoing effort to update the Transportation Master Plan. Boulder is a city in which 60 percent of the workforce commutes into town, mostly because of the high cost of housing. And the cost of housing, of course, is a result of the City’s policies.

However there does not seem to be any acknowledgement that the City is “reaping what it has sown.” Instead, it appears that the Council is considering putting more responsibilities on new and existing businesses. The City can require transportation demand management plans that require businesses to encourage workers to use alternative transportation – but it can’t make employees take the bus. That didn’t stop some members of Council from opining that the City should make those existing plans enforceable. One council member likes the idea of requiring workers to pay a special fee to park in private lots or satellite parking garages to shuttle workers into town.

The ongoing discussion of whether to offer a community-wide Eco pass also came up, with some Council members saying this benefit would motivate a majority of workers to use RTD. As one Council member noted however, Boulder doesn’t have the transit infrastructure that larger cites have and forcing more employees to utilize RTD would just create another problem, even if it were possible.

Boulder can’t have it both ways. A vibrant community needs economic development to pay for city services. How many new businesses would want to locate in Boulder if they had to require employees to take a shuttle to their workplace? The Transportation Master Plan calls for diverse transportation policies. Somehow, the idea of forcing employees to take the bus doesn’t sound equitable. Another Transportation Master Plan study session is scheduled for the fall.

Longmont
City Extends Permit Fee Waivers for Flood Repair: On the advice of staff, the City Council approved a resolution extending Longmont’s permit fee waiver program for flood-related repairs through September 2014. Building department staff told the City Council that homeowners in flood-affected neighborhoods requested the extension. Some waited for spring runoff to begin/end before reconstructing their basements, and therefore were not in a position to rebuild before the fee waiver program ended in December.

The resolution also decrees that permit fees paid for flood-related improvements within the affected areas between the expiration of the last extension (December 31) and June 10th will be refunded. The repairs do not have to be completed by September 30th but the permits for the repairs must be taken out prior to September 30.

Larimer County
Loveland

City Embarks on Comp Plan Update: The City’s long-range planning guide, the Comprehensive Plan, is periodically reviewed and a major update is scheduled to be complete in 2015. Staff say that much of the 2005 Comprehensive Plan and the 2011 Implementation Plan is still relevant, so changes will focus on updating the community baseline, crafting a guiding vision, integrating land use and transportation plans and projects, framing the plan in terms of sustainability and healthy lifestyles, and generating a robust land use plan.

It’s important that LBAR members get involved in the update. How and where the City grows is one of the most important priorities of a comp plan. According to information posted on the City’s new Comp Plan website, “Low density residential, including large estates, is the most dominant future land use at 41 percent of the total, with medium and high density residential representing 12 percent. New residential development will continue to be predominantly single family homes located in the northwestern and southeastern sectors of the City.” http://www.createloveland.com/documents/LandUse%20Snapshot.pdf

The Update kicked off with visioning workshops on June 11 and 12. During the fall, opportunities and constraints will be identified. More public input will be taken over the winter. The draft and final plan preparation will take place in the spring of 2015 and the City’s goal is to have the plan adopted by summer 2015. Keep track of the Update and see information as it’s posted, www.createloveland.com.

REGION
Proposed Reservoirs Would Have Made Difference This Spring: Northern Water says that if Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) had been operational, the Poudre River’s spring runoff and the damage it created would have been reduced. Not only that, but both the proposed Glade and Galeton reservoirs would have stored huge volumes of water this year, protecting the region against future drought. “This is one of the better water years we’ve had recently,” said Carl Brouwer, NISP project manager. “This is a great year to illustrate the value of Glade Reservoir in storing the excess snowmelt runoff.”

With the Poudre River peaking at almost 6,000 cubic feet per second and remaining above 4,000 cubic feed per second (CFS) for two weeks, NISP could have diverted 1,000 cfs. “This would not have stopped all flooding downstream in the Greeley area, but it certainly would have reduced the magnitude,” Brouwer added.

The recent year’s variation in water has also provoked more discussion about new storage in the state, including NISP. The period from 2009 to 2011 was a wet period and produced more than one million acre feet of water over and above what is legally required to Nebraska. Glade and Galeton would have been full entering 2012, which proved to be one of the driest years on record.

The NISP supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement is scheduled for completion later this year. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will then release the document and conduct public hearings in 2015.

STATE
Governor Vetoes Transportation Bill: On June 4 Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed SB 14-197 “Transportation Enterprise Transparency Act” and signed an Executive Order that will improve transparency, accountability and openness relating to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) High-performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE). “We firmly believe that government should always strive to be transparent and accountable,” Gov. Hickenlooper wrote in a letter to the Colorado Senate. “We support SB 14-197’s provisions that improve transparency, accountability, and openness in public-private partnerships. … Unfortunately, SB 14-197 is not just a transparency bill — it also inappropriately constrains the business terms of future P3 (public private partnership) agreements.”

“In committee, private sector representatives warned that the bill’s rushed process and lack of business community input could result in unintended consequences,” the governor’s letter says. “Those worries were shared by city and county officials concerned about limiting future P3s. We share those concerns. With legislation of this complexity, it is critical that all stakeholders and partners be actively engaged in a robust and thorough process to ensure good outcomes and good law; we fear that was not the case with SB 14-197.”

The order also calls for discussions between the Governor’s Office and General Assembly members to create a “Center of Excellence,” which would establish P3 best practices, including programs for ensuring transparency and openness. “This will help all of us be more deliberate about P3s moving forward, without sacrificing opportunities for economic development and investment,” the governor’s order says.

Urban Renewal Bill Rejected: Gov. Hickenlooper vetoed a bill on June 6 that would have increased restrictions on urban-renewal developments, saying that while he understood the intent of the measure, the financial requirements placed on cities in the bill were excessive. HB-1375, sponsored by House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso (Loveland) would have required county officials to get at least one seat on urban renewal authority boards and would have mandated that cities set aside the same percentage of their sales-tax revenue for the areas as the percentage of property-tax revenue that counties give up in the deals. Hickenlooper said that he accepted the addition of a county representative on the boards, but felt the cities’ sales-tax requirement could curtail use of the tools.

“Unfortunately, HB-1375 goes a step too far,” Gov. Hickenlooper wrote in his veto letter to the Legislature. “The bill’s provision that mandates the percentage of property tax increment not exceed the percentage of allocated municipal sales tax increment does not account for the complexity and variety of urban renewal projects. We understand the concerns that such inflexibility could hamstring projects that might benefit from the use of these programs,” the governor said.

Gas and Oil Compromise Appears Unlikely: As has been widely reported, Gov. Hickenlooper is trying to avert the onslaught of gas and oil initiatives being supported by Rep. Jared Polis and anti-fracking activists by trying to craft a compromise, which would then be considered by the legislature in a special session. Rep. Polis has agreed to pull the 9 initiatives he has filed if the legislature approves more restrictive rules. However, last Friday he stated that the compromise bill as currently drafted doesn’t go far enough. He supports additional language suggested by the Sierra Club that would elevate health, welfare and safety, including as it pertains to the environment and wildlife — above the extraction of oil and gas minerals — in deciding whether a local government’s regulations “destroys” an energy company’s ability to produce the resources.

Coloradoans for Responsible Reform (CFRR) is one of several business-related groups campaigning against additional gas and oil restrictions. While CFRR argues avoiding a November ballot fight is in the best interest of Colorado, the organization says that fear of losing in November should not be the primary motivator for a special session. CFRR states that its research shows that an overwhelming majority of Coloradans oppose a ban on oil and gas.

NATION
House Passes 3 Percent Fix: NAR Government Affairs has been closely monitoring the implementation of rules by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  As part of the implementation of the Qualified Mortgage (QM) regulations, CFPB included in the 3 percent cap on fees and points, amounts paid to affiliate title companies and insurance escrows when there is an affiliate involved in the transaction.   Unaffiliated charges are not included in the cap.

For the past three and a half years NAR has been working with regulators to highlight the problems that a distinction between affiliated (those title companies with a business agreement with a real estate brokerage and lender) and non-affiliated title companies created with regard to the calculation of points and fees.  Although a recent proposal from the CFPB was designed to address some concerns, NAR continued to push Congress to clarify and fix the 3 percent cap through a legislative remedy that levels the playing field for affiliates.

On June 9 the House of Representatives approved, on a voice vote, H.R. 3211, the Mortgage Choice Act.  This NAR-backed bi-partisan legislation is narrowly focused to provide equal treatment for affiliated title fees compared to unaffiliated title fees and clarify the treatment of insurance and taxes held in escrow.

Although some consumer groups have opposed the legislation on claims it could weaken the QM ability to repay provisions, the bill maintains the important consumer protections and sound underwriting required under QM and promotes access to affordable mortgage credit.

The bill will move to the United States Senate for consideration later this summer.  Legislative prospects at this point are not clear but it is hoped the House action will encourage the Senate to move quickly on the Mortgage Choice Act.

Feds Impose Big Fine for Inadequate Affiliated Business Disclosure: On May 28, 2014, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a consent agreement and $500,000 fine to a real estate firm for inadequate disclosure language in an affiliated business disclosure. Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) affiliate entities must disclose relationships to consumers at or prior to the time of referral and make clear that consumers are not required to use the affiliate.  In the case in question the disclosure form deviated from a sample disclosure published in the regulations by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The CFPB consent order requires the forms to be completely synchronized with published sample including placing the same emphasis on key words.  View the HUD sample form here:
http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/housing/ramh/res/resappd

 


 

 

 

LOCAL

Boulder County
Comp Plan Update Targeted by Environmental Activists: During the routine update of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan, a group called the Boulder Rights of Nature (BRON) began to lobby for changes to the Environmental Resources Element (ERE). The group believes that all of nature has inalienable rights, just as human beings do. This includes all animals of course, but goes beyond to include life forms such as algae and even amoebas. The group asserts that corporations exploit nature as property due to the inadequacy of current laws. BRON’s goal is to enact an ordinance in all communities that recognizes the rights of nature and punishes violators.

The desire for inclusion on the part of County staff and the Planning Commission led to BRON’s involvement on the update to the ERE which has already been in consideration for over a year. A working group consisting of two BRON representatives (one of which is the president of the Boulder Audubon Society) and two individuals who do not share BRON’s views, the executive director of the Farmers Alliance for Integrated Resources and a member of the Boulder Area Trails Coalition, plus County staff was convened to reach consensus on ERE language. Unfortunately this working group was unable to reach any agreement and the decision on approving or amending the ERE fell back to the Planning Commission.

On June 18 the Planning Commission will vote to approve the ERE, having taken public comments last month. The Commission voted to add language intended to placate BRON, which reads, “Acknowledging our responsibility to ensure that naturally occurring ecosystems and their native species populations continue to exist and flourish in Boulder County, Boulder County will develop conservation and recovery plans for priority species of special concern.”
Assuming the Planning Commission approves the more conventional language included in the current draft, BRON’s next move will be to lobby the County Commissioners when they review the ERE.

The current language of the ERE is hardly “conservative” in that it lists 180 species 150 plants and trees of special concern, meaning that future development that could harm any of items on the list might be subject to special mitigation measures. More information about the ERE is available here: http://www.bouldercounty.org/property/build/pages/bccpupdate.aspx.
To learn about BRON, visit the group’s website: http://boulderrightsofnature.org.

Commissioners to Consider Gas & Oil Moratorium: Last June the Boulder County Commissioners voted to extend the moratorium on gas and oil development in the unincorporated county that had been in effect since February 2012 until January 1, 2015. On June 12 the Board will receive a status report and could decide to extend or amend the “temporary” moratorium. Anticipating public interest in the meeting and presumably in a desire to avoid the vocal outbursts that occurred at previous meetings, the Commissioners have announced that public comments may only be offered in writing.

Larimer County

Elected Officials Begin Open Space Tax Discussion: In 1996 Larimer County voters approved a citizen-initiated open space sales tax of .25 percent. The tax was extended by the voters in 1999 and will expire in 2018. It is likely voters will be asked to extend the tax again this November.

The revenues are divided between the County and its municipalities. At a May 29 joint meeting of the Loveland City Council, Larimer County Commissioners, Fort Collins City Council and Berthoud trustees, elected officials discussed a preliminary proposal to change the formula under which the revenues from the tax are distributed.

Currently, Larimer County receives about 43 percent of the taxes generated by the sales taxes. However, the county is suggesting that the county’s share be increased to 50 percent to cover the cost of maintaining the properties that the county has purchased and create additional amenities.

The original ballot language passed in 1996 stipulated that the county would receive not more than 45 percent of the revenues. Therefore, if participating governments agree to change the percentage of the tax allocation, it will need to be approved by county voters.

Loveland

REALTORS Oppose Fracking Ban: On May 28th the Board of Directors of the Loveland-Berthoud Association of REALTORS voted to oppose Ballot Question 1, which will be considered by Loveland voters in the June 24 special election. The question asks voters to approve a two-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

The Board adopted this position based on the following arguments:

It is counter to the beliefs of the Loveland-Berthoud Association of REALTORS to support any proposition that would impact a right under the law — be it a property right, mineral right or water right.  According to Colorado law mineral rights are considered the dominant estate, meaning they take precedence over other rights associated with the property.1

There are no fracking operations underway in Loveland at this time, with very few opportunities for drilling in the future. Many of the statements made by Protect Our Loveland have no factual basis and are simply allegations. There is no data that indicates fracking is harmful to human health, the environment or property values.

Finally, the Loveland-Berthoud Association of REALTORS supports good public policy. Asking the electorate to make decisions that should belong to the City Council is wrong. The Loveland-Berthoud Association of Realtors® trusts the City Council to make such decisions after careful and thoughtful review.

1http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/energy/oil_and_gas/best_management_practices/split_estate.html

Council Approves Housing-Related Grants: The City Council confirmed recommendations from the Human Services Commission and the Affordable Housing Commission regarding the distribution of funding the City receives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Neighbor-to-Neighbor will receive $22,500 for rent counseling. Alternatives to Violence will receive an award of $100,000 for a safe house. Habitat for Humanity will build a triplex at Willow Park with its $75,000 grant. The Loveland Housing Authority will provide money for emergency home improvements for families with incomes below 50 percent of the AMI ($16,500 a year). In total the City received $820, 587 from HUD this year. The City takes $60,329 to administer the grant money it receives.

Council Considers New Approach to Impact Fees: The City of Loveland uses a “buy-in” method to calculate capital expansion fees (CEFs) — otherwise known as impact fees — on new construction based on a per unit implied capital investment of current land uses. However, the City has hired BBC Research and Consulting to analyze the equity of the current methodology and a possible alternative known as plan based.

At the May 27 study session, BBC representatives told the Council that the buy-in method is fair. However, a plan based methodology, calculated on the proportionate share of planned infrastructure development, is an equally acceptable means of calculating fees that some members of Council might prefer. The downside to the plan based method is that it requires more data and predictions. The development of 25-year master plans for specific service areas such as the facilities plan and capitol plan would make it easier to adopt a plan based methodology if the City Council decides to change the way it calculates the fees.

The plan based fees wouldn’t necessarily result in dramatically different costs for developers though. Examples for residential single-family units provided by the consultant, illustrate this: the current Library CEF is $532.27. Using the plan based method, the fee would be $541.35. The current fire CEF is $713.30 but using the plan based method it would be $612.30.

The next step in the process will be the Budget Office presentation of the 10-year Capital Plan. This is scheduled for the first study session in June and at the first meeting in July when the City Council will consider a resolution approving the 10-year list of projects.

In addition to feedback from Council, staff will be looking for direction as to the appropriate time to set up public comment meetings on the Capital Expansion Fees. Public meetings might be scheduled in June or in July, after the adoption of the 10-year Capital Plan resolution.

STATE

Initiative has Major Implications: State voters may face a plethora of ballot initiatives this fall but perhaps the most troubling is the proposed initiative #75, the Right to Local Self-Government. The proponents have until August 4th to gather enough signatures to put the measure on the November ballot.

This initiative would change the State’s constitution, which already gives home rule municipalities and counties the “full right of self government in local and municipal matters.” The initiative would give any municipality the power to “the power to enact local laws protecting health, safety, and welfare by establishing the fundamental rights of individuals, their communities, and nature…. and the power to enact local laws establishing, defining, altering, or eliminating the rights, powers, and duties of corporations and other business entities operating or seeking to operate in the community, to prevent such rights and powers from interfering with such locally-enacted fundamental rights of individuals, their communities, and nature.”

If the initiative were to pass, local activists would have to ability to push legislation banning any activity or business deemed to be contrary to health, safety and welfare. As such, the initiative is supported by groups such as Boulder Rights of Nature, which lists fracking and GMOs (genetically modified organism) on its website in its support of the initiative. Unless voters understand the full significance of this initiative, they might sign the petition and put this measure on the ballot, meaning a great deal of money would have to be spent to educate the electorate concerning the consequences of this measure.

http://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections/Initiatives/titleBoard/filings/2013-2014/75Final.pdf

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

May 2014 Update

LOCAL
Boulder County
Longmont

Butterball Site Development Plan Unveiled: REALTORS have been speculating about the fate of the Butterball property since the rumors began circulating that the property, which has been on the market for over 2 years, was under contract. In early May a representative of the buyer, 150 Main LLC, met with City Council. He announced the company’s plan is to demolish the old plant and build a 250-unit apartment complex as well as a 40,000 SF commercial area. A later phase would add 150 more rental units to the site.

This plan fits well with the City’s vision for the property, which was rezoned to mixed use last year. Since the site is within the urban renewal district and the DDA, the developer could benefit from the tax structures in place. 150 Main LLC may request assistance in the form of fee waivers, water and sewer credits, and help with the cost of demolishing and cleaning up the site. The developer may also ask for the city to adopt a quiet zone to reduce train noise. However, these requests will be considered later in the development process. The deal is scheduled to close on August 1 with demolition beginning this fall.

Larimer County
Fort Collins

Council Finally Approves Mall Redevelopment Agreement: The City Council, acting as the Urban Renewal Authority Board, voted to approve the Foothills Mall redevelopment plan. The agreement includes a few modifications, including approval to issue bonds with 150,000 SF of leased space versus 240,000 SF.

The developer also secured a clarification regarding the required affordable housing component, which includes a total of 446 units at build-out. The City acknowledged that the developer is only required to submit a partial offset of 50 percent of the lost residential property tax increment if it doesn’t meet construction deadlines stipulated in the agreement until the residential units are completed.

The developer was stuck because of uncertainty on the part of retailers, who did not want to commit to a lease until the agreement was signed. The finalization of the agreement gives assurance to the retailers and will allow the project to move forward.

Loveland
Council Opposes Fracking Moratorium: The City Council finalized the ballot language regarding a proposed moratorium on fracking within the City of Loveland. The actual wording was proposed by the group Protect Our Loveland, which gathered signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

Unfortunately the language is vague and assumes that some entity will study the effects of fracking on property values and human health but does not require such a study during the two years the moratorium will be in effect if the voters approve it. This is one of the many reasons that the City Council also voted 5-4 to adopt a resolution opposing the measure. (Mayor Gutierrez and Councilors Farley, Trenary and Shaffer voted against the resolution.)

Ironically, there are no active oil wells in Loveland and zoning regulations already in effect would limit future development to a few isolated locations. The only area that could realistically be drilled is on the northeastern edge of the city limits.

Question 1 reads as follows, “Shall an ordinance be adopted that places a two-year moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing within the City of Loveland to extract oil, gas or other hydrocarbons and on the storage and disposal of its waste products in order to fully study the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on property values and human health?”

The Board of Directors of the Loveland Chamber of Commerce voted to oppose the moratorium. The Chamber issued a press release saying, “This ballot measure does not take into account the factual historic data and solid safeguards that continue to be in place for responsible energy development, including the city of Loveland’s thorough Oil & Gas Regulations, and would have drastic impacts on Loveland and northern Colorado economies. The ballot risks hundreds of jobs and thousands of dollars in economic activity for Loveland.”

Note: REALTOR organizations have taken different approaches to fracking moratoria. The Fort Collins Board of REALTORS opted not to take position when citizens of that city voted to approve a fracking moratorium last year. The Longmont Association of REALTORS was the first REALTOR organization to oppose a ballot question instituting a moratorium on the grounds that it violated the rights of mineral owners. LAR was also concerned about the precedent such a moratorium would set. Indeed, one of the most vocal proponents of the Longmont moratorium, Kay Fissinger, is now a consultant for Protect Our Loveland and has spoke in favor of the moratorium multiple times at Loveland City Council meetings.

Westminster
Proposal to Require Landlords to Provide Voter Info Tabled: The Westminster City Council passed an ordinance on first reading that would compel landlords to provide tenants with voter registration information or pay a fine. The proposed prompted opposition from the apartment rental industry and others who said the duty of bolstering civic participation shouldn’t fall on the private sector.

The measure would require owners of the 11,300 licensed rental properties in Westminster to provide new tenants “instructions on how to register to vote in Colorado. In 2012, Madison, Wis., required landlords in the city to furnish voter registration information to new tenants, but the rule was overturned by the state’s legislature the next year. As a result, Madison has stopped enforcing its landlord-tenant voter registration rule.

Landlords could’ve been fined as much as $1,000 if they fail to provide voter registration instructions to new tenants. Mayor pro tem Faith Winter, who first pushed the idea, said the proposed rule would be an easy way to increase greater voter turnout. Fortunately on May 20 the City Council opted to table the ordinance and instead directed the City to send voter registration information to citizens on an annual basis. The Council was scheduled to take a final vote on the measure June 9.

REGION
Elected Officials I-25 Continue to Discuss I-25: At the latest meeting of the I-25 Coalition, CDOT told elected officials that they’ll have a new proposal to begin the expansion of the highway by July. Unfortunately only $35 million of the original grant will be available for work north of Highway 66 because the remainder has already been spent on the section between US 36 and 120th Avenue. CDOT engineers said the grant could be used to purchase the required right-of-way, interim improvements or some type of public-private partnership involving a tolled lane.

In the meantime, Congressman Cory Gardner is working to get the powerful chairman of the House’s Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Bill Shuster (PA) to visit Northern Colorado this summer when he conducts “field hearings” on the reauthorization of federal highway funding (known as MAP-21). The chairman’s support will be vital to ensure transportation funding is available after this year and could help us secure some of those dollars for I-25.

COLORADO ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Legislative Update: SB 220 “Construction Defects” 220 (House sponsors Singer and DelGrosso) CAR position: Support. This bill was introduced in the waning days of the session. It would have protected condominium and townhome owners from unexpected, costly and burdensome litigation that has caused construction of attainably-priced condos and townhomes to grind to a halt. The bill would have stopped the current practice that allows a minuscule number of owners within a condominium or townhome project to enter into legal action without the knowledge or authorization of the rest of the homeowners. Condo and townhome owners have attempted to sell or refinance their homes and been told to their surprise that they can’t because legal action places a cloud on the title. Unfortunately the bill was assigned to multiple committees by Senator President Carroll as a stall tactic. This allowed legislators to use the excuse that there wasn’t enough time to get it through the legislature and the bill was killed.

HB-1375 “Modifications to Urban Renewal” CAR Position: Oppose
This bill requires county representation on the governing board for an URA and adds additional restrictions and requirements to the disbursement of the TIF revenues. It adds another layer of complication to the already complex negotiations involved in creating a URA and as such the bill was opposed by the Colorado Municipal League and economic development organizations.
In the Senate an attempt was made to modify the bill and turn it into a study but that amendment was stripped and it was approved in its original form.

NATION
HUD Announces Plan to Expand Access to FHA Loans: The Federal Housing Agency (FHA) is taking additional steps to expand access to mortgage credit for underserved borrowers, according to Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, who spoke last week at the FHA: 80 Years and Counting – Regulatory Issues Forum during the REALTOR Party Convention & Trade Expo in Washington, DC.

Donovan said lending to potential buyers with lower credit scores has fallen dramatically in recent years and announced a new blueprint for greater consumer access to credit, through a new FHA housing counseling program that will launch later this year. The four-year, two-phase pilot program, called Homeowners Armed With Knowledge or HAWK, will offer a 50 basis point reduction in the upfront mortgage insurance premium and a 10 basis point reduction in the annual premium at the time of loan origination to first-time homebuyers who complete the program.

Loans that remain in good standing will also receive reductions, which could add up to thousands of dollars in savings for homebuyers over the life of their loan. On the average FHA loan balance of $180,000, these reductions can add up to nearly $9,800 in savings over the life of the loan.

All of the details of the HAWK for New Home Buyers pilot program will open to comment as part of Federal Register Notice so the final mortgage insurance premium (MIP) reductions may change based on those comments. Fees on FHA loans make up nearly 20 percent of a monthly mortgage payment, according to NAR estimates, and they make it much more difficult for potential buyers to purchase a home.

Carol Galante, FHA commissioner and assistant secretary for housing, joined Donovan at the forum. She announced proposed changes to the agency’s quality assurance initiative, which will collect fees from lenders to conduct loan reviews to ensure lenders are following responsible lending guidelines. Galante said FHA’s quality assurance measures will provide enhanced clarity and transparency in FHA’s lending policies and provide lenders with greater policy direction, which will encourage more consumer lending, especially to underserved borrowers. She said these changes will also better protect the FHA insurance fund, borrowers, lenders and taxpayers.

More information on HAWK is available here:
http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=BlueprintAcess5_9_2014.pdf

Bennet Sponsors Infrastructure Bill: In May of 2013, Congressman John Delaney introduced the Partnership to Build America Act (H.R. 2084). The Partnership to Build America Act finances $750 billion dollar in infrastructure investment using no appropriated funds and has 63 co-sponsors (32 Republicans and 31 Democrats) in the House. Senators Michael Bennet (CO) and Roy Blunt (MO)introduced the legislation in the upper chamber in January of 2014, with bipartisan support. Senator Bennet spoke at length about the bill when he met with Colorado REALTORS in Washington, last week.

Without spending overstretched federal dollars, the Partnership to Build America Act will create construction jobs and help to improve U.S. competitiveness in the 21st century global economy. It establishes a $50 billion infrastructure fund that can potentially support hundreds of billions in loan guarantees and financing authority for state and local governments. The fund would finance transportation, energy, communications, water, and education infrastructure projects across the country.

The bill encourages U.S. companies to purchase these bonds by allowing them to exclude a certain portion of their overseas earnings from taxation. The amount that they are permitted to repatriate for each dollar of bond purchases will be determined by a competitive auction.

The Bennet-Blunt proposal establishes a $50 billion infrastructure fund that can potentially support hundreds of billions in loan guarantees and financing authority for state and local governments. The fund would finance transportation, energy, communications, water, and education infrastructure projects across the country.

The bill is not a replacement for keeping the Highway Trust Fund solvent, which is an urgent priority before Congress. But it is a bipartisan proposal to help capitalize infrastructure projects across Colorado and throughout the U.S.

Note: In meetings with both Colorado Senators, the importance of securing federal funding to expand I-25 was emphasized. Neither offered any specific comments on this issue but at least Senator Bennet is committed to financing infrastructure, as his sponsorship of HR 2084 demonstrates.


 

 

April 2014 Update

LOCAL

Boulder County

Longmont

Council to Put Road Tax on November Ballot: Did you know that road funding is the only basic city service that requires periodic renewal by voters? The City Council voted 6-1, with Sarah Levison dissenting, to ask the voters for a 10-year extension of the Longmont streets 3/4 cent sales and use tax this November.

The tax helps pay for maintenance, operation and expansion of the City’s transportation systems. In 2014 the streets tax accounts for approximately 55 percent of the street fund revenues to the tune of $12 million. Examples of other sources of transportation funding include the City’s general fund and development impact fees, the Colorado Highway User Trust Fund and state and federal grants.

In the 28 years since the tax was approved, all of the maintenance and improvements to the transportation system have been funded in whole or in part by this funding source. Using these funds, the City has been able to provide the matching funds for grants from the state and federal government that have assisted in funding many major improvements.

The tax has been in effect since 1986 but has previously required voter approval every five years. Allowing less frequent voter approval will give the City the ability to do more long range planning and give allow Longmont to be more competitive in applying for grants.

Staff has outlined a list of projects if the tax passes in November, including improvements to Hover Street between Ken Pratt Boulevard and Boston Avenue (widening to six lanes), improvements to SH 119/Ken Pratt Boulevard from Nelson Road to S. Pratt Parkway (widening to six lanes), and the connection of Boston Avenue from Pratt Parkway across the BNSF railroad to Price Road. Included with these corridor projects are related intersection improvements that bring the capital improvement total to an estimated cost of $23.7 million over ten years. The City Council must approve an ordinance for the November ballot by August 12. NOTE: Longmont is not the only municipality with a streets tax. Other communities also rely on special taxes to fund road maintenance and expansion.

REGION

Elected Officials Successful in Push for I-25 Grant Extension: The North I-25 Coalition, a group of elected officials from jurisdictions along the highway, asked CDOT for more time to come to an agreement on a project utilizing A $90 million RAMP grant. The CDOT Directors agreed, giving Northern Colorado until December to submit a plan. Perhaps the extra time will allow CDOT and the Coalition to come up with a viable project, on which all parties can agree, to begin the expansion of I-25. It is currently estimated that the total cost to complete the project as envisioned in the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) would be somewhere around $938 million in 2014 dollars.

Although we might assume transportation is a core government service, in reality it does not appear to be a priority for the state or federal governments. Here is a short summary of state and federal transportation funding. While it may look like there’s a lot of money to be had, keep the cost of the North I-25 project in mind as you read.

State of Colorado Funding

The State has little general fund money allocated for highway improvements. In 2009 the General Assembly authorized SB-228 to authorize 2 percent of the general fund revenues to the State’s Highway User Trust Fund if Colorado personal income grew by 5 percent in 2012. Unfortunately, according to CDOT’s 2014-2015 budget, that projected transfer will be zero. This means CDOT relies on the State’s Highway User Tax Fund, which is comprised of fuel taxes, registration fees and other smaller revenue sources, in addition to the State’s allocation of federal Highway Trust Fund dollars. In FY 2011-2012, the State’s total transportation revenue was $1.4 billion, including federal funding.

Federal Funding

The federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) was created in 1956 to pay for the country’s interstate highway system. The fund pays for the nation’s vitally needed road and transit projects and has operated on an 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gasoline tax that hasn’t been raised since 1993. Now it raises about $39 billion a year but is facing shortfalls of close to $20 billion annually as more efficient cars pay less into the fund while infrastructure repair costs rise. Officials estimate the fund could run short of money as early as August 2014.

Because the gas tax has not generated enough revenue, Congress has periodically passed legislation to fill the gap. Two federal programs that are commonly used by state and local officials are TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) and MAP21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century) programs. MAP21 was a two-year authorization that will require renewal by Congress this year.

Recently Colorado Senators Udall and Bennet wrote to the Appropriations Committee to include transportation funding in fiscal year 2015 budget for TIGER and MAP21. In the letter the Senators argue that these programs are necessary to fund improvements for I-25 and I-70.

The Obama administration hasproposed a four-year, $302 billion transportation bill that would bolster the trust fund with the help of corporate tax reforms, not a higher gas tax. But this approach is already being rejected by congressional leaders as unlikely to pass this year. Increasing the HTF would seem like an obvious solution, but Congress is apparently loathe to do that in an election year.

The competition for federal funding – if it is included in the FY 2015 budget – is extreme. The likelihood of the North I-25 project receiving any of those dollars seems remote. It is important to continue to request for support from our congressional delegation and to remind them that I-25 is the major north/south interstate in Colorado and that the EIS was approved three years ago. If nothing happens soon, that EIS will be out of date.

COLORADO ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS

Legislative Update: HB-1373 “Senior and Disabled Veteran Homestead Exemption” CAR Position: Support. This bill passed the House and is now being considered by the Senate. A senior who is 65 years old or older and has owned and occupied the same primary residence for at least 10 years (or the surviving spouse of such a senior) may claim a property tax exemption (exemption) for the

primary residence in an amount equal to 50 percent of the first $200,000 of

actual value. In addition, a disabled veteran who has a service-connected disability that the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has rated as 100 percent permanent and total disability, may claim the exemption

For property tax years commencing on or after January 1, 2015, the

bill specifies that has received an exemption for his or her former primary residence but moved to a new primary residence after January 1, 2014, may continue to claim an exemption for his or her new primary residence if a natural

disaster forced the move by destroying the former primary residence or otherwise rendering it uninhabitable.

HB-1375 “Modifications to Urban Renewal” CAR Position: Oppose

This bill is moving rapidly considering it was just introduced on April 11th. It was passed by the House on April 28th and was then introduced in the Senate. It requires county representation on the governing board for an URA and adds additional restrictions and requirements to the disbursement of the TIF revenues. It adds another layer of complication to the already complex negotiations involved in creating a URA and as such the bill is opposed by the Colorado Municipal League and economic development organizations.

SB-197 “Transportation Enterprise Transparency Act” CAR Position: Monitor

This bill, sponsored by Sen. Jones (Boulder) increases the public outreach on the so-called P3 (public/private) partnerships envisioned by CDOT as the only way to solve transportation funding via toll roads. It was significantly modified before it was even introduced because CDOT opposed the bill, which would’ve made negotiations public and harmed the Department’s ability to craft the agreements needed to implement tolling enterprises.

HCR 1002 “Constitutional Initiative Petition” CAR Position: Support

This resolution, which was introduced (and died) in previous sessions, would make it more challenging to gather the signatures required to put an initiative on the ballot to amend the State’s constitution by requiring signatures to come from all seven Congressional districts in the state. Currently Colorado is the only state in the country that requires the same number of signatures to place a constitutional initiative on the ballot as for proposed statutory reform. The resolution passed the House, but faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

NATION

NAR Announces Consumer Call For Action: NAR’s President Steve Brown announced that NAR is conducting the first test of the Consumer Outreach Program by launching a Consumer Call for Action (CCFA) to 85 million homeowners, including several million prospective owners, across the country. The CCFA will commence April 30, 2014, and run through mid-July (at least).

This consumer outreach will help us find out more about how we should communicate with consumers in the future. It is part of a concerted homeownership awareness, education and action campaign by NAR to demonstrate to homeowners that REALTORS share concerns with consumers on issues relating to homeownership; and that REALTORScan be counted on to articulate those concerns and stand up for consumers at the federal, state and local level.

The Consumer CFA is to alert consumers that Congress is having discussions about tax reform that include the possibility of future loss of current deductions for home interest and local and state tax deductions.

Consumers are being asked to sign a petition and or send a letter to their House of Representatives member to ask him or her to help homeowners keep their deductions.

While there is no legislation being proposed at this time in Congress to reform the federal tax code, there are Congressional discussions going on. I believe it is never too early for homeowners to know what the next Congress or a future Congress may consider that will impact their investment and their home.

This advocacy outreach to consumers is a part of NAR’s Strategic Plan and is being executed through our Community and Political Affairs Department utilizing NAR’s REALTOR PARTY advocacy tools.