Barbara Koelzer, Regional Government Affairs Director
In this issue…
Council Gives Two Ballot Measures Preliminary Approval: The City Council passed two ordinances on first reading approving the language for two of the three ballot questions voters will consider this November. One measure creates a new marijuana sales tax of 3 percent. The tax could be increased up to 15 percent without additional voter approval. Staff calculates the 3 percent tax could raise up to $290,000 a year. The second question would increase the public safety sales and use tax from 3.275 to 3.53 percent. The funds would be used to hire more personnel in the police and fire departments. Public hearings on both measures are scheduled for August 22.
Council Upholds Approval For Apartment Development: Following the Planning Commission’s unanimous approval of the Shadow Grass PUD (Planned Unit Development) in June, five appeals of the Commission’s approval required the City Council to make the final decision on the development. Shadow Grass is a 256-unit project on 13 acres just off 17th Avenue and County Line Road.
To overturn the Planning Commission’s approval, the City Council would have to find the plan did not comply with review criteria specified in the City’s development code. The residents who appealed the Planning Commission’s decision focused on various issues, primarily traffic and parking impacts, neighborhood compatibility and school overcrowding. The Council voted to uphold the Planning Commission decision 4-3, with Councilors Brian Bagley, Polly Christensen and Joan Peck dissenting. The rationale for their dissent is unclear. The video for the meeting is not yet available.
Broadband Measure Closer to Ballot: Barring any unforeseen changes in opinion, it is likely the City Council will approve a broadband measure for the November ballot on August 15. The question will ask Fort Collins voters to give the City the authority to issue securities and other debt up to $150 million to create a broadband network. It doesn’t stipulate how the service would be provided because that is yet to be determined. The Council is still discussing two models, a retail model in which service would be provided by the City and a third-party model.
The goal of the broadband project is to develop reliable, high-speed internet throughout the community (the Fort Collins GMA). The basic network would take less than five years to build and would be competitively priced. More information is available here: fcgov.com/broadband.
Council Approves NISP Comments: The Fort Collins Council approved comments on the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) directed to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission regarding the impact of the proposed water storage project on fish and wildlife resources on the Cache La Poudre River. The letter, which was approved by a 4-3 vote, states that” Fort Collins remains highly concerned about the negative impacts on fish and wildlife resources that will result from the system-wide changes that NISP will cause to the Cache la Poudre River (“Poudre River”). Fort Collins expects various negative impacts to occur even with implementation of the Plan.” implementation of the Plan.”
The letter calls for changes to NISP to improve peak flows, water quality, mitigation and (riparian) restoration and calls for independent monitoring for 50 years. Voting against approval of the letter were Ross Cunniff and Bob Overbeck, who didn’t think the letter went far enough in its criticism of NISP, and Ken Summers, who supports the project.
Payton Appointed to City Council: Attorney Brett Payton was selected to fill the vacancy created by Randy Sleight’s resignation of his Ward II seat in July. Eight residents had applied for the seat, including Payton and Lavonna Longwell, both of whom have already declared their intent to run for the seat this November. Payton has served in leadership roles on the City’s Planning Commission and the Greeley Chamber of Commerce.
Council Discusses Metro Districts: On August 8 the City Council had an educational presentation on metro districts and heard from developers who want to use these special taxing districts to pay for infrastructure and/or amenities in new subdivisions. There are several existing metro districts in the Greeley area at 10th Street and 71st Avenue and Promontory, and it is likely more there will be more in the future due to the rising costs of development. Metro districts finance improvements and services by issuing municipal bonds, which are redeemed by special property taxes. The additional property tax varies district to district, but the implications to a homeowner can be substantial. For example, property owners in Thompson Crossing (Johnstown) pay an additional 81 mills in property tax.
Larimer County currently has 106 metro districts and Weld County has 231, according to the State’s Department of Local Affairs (DOLA). Marcia Waters, the Executive Director of the Colorado Division of Real Estate, said her division had not received many complaints from consumers about metro districts, but said such concerns are referred to DOLA. REALTORS® should understand what metro districts are and be aware that the residential contract to buy and sell real estate does have a disclaimer concerning special districts in general, as follows:
8.5. Special Taxing Districts. SPECIAL TAXING DISTRICTS MAY BE SUBJECT TO GENERAL OBLIGATION INDEBTEDNESS THAT IS PAID BY REVENUES PRODUCED FROM ANNUAL TAX LEVIES ON THE TAXABLE PROPERTY WITHIN SUCH DISTRICTS. PROPERTY OWNERS IN SUCH DISTRICTS MAY BE PLACED AT RISK FOR INCREASED MILL LEVIES AND TAX TO SUPPORT THE SERVICING OF SUCH DEBT WHERE CIRCUMSTANCES ARISE RESULTING IN THE INABILITY OF SUCH A DISTRICT TO DISCHARGE SUCH INDEBTEDNESS WITHOUT SUCH AN INCREASE IN MILL LEVIES. BUYERS SHOULD INVESTIGATE THE SPECIAL TAXING DISTRICTS IN WHICH THE PROPERTY IS LOCATED BY CONTACTING THE COUNTY TREASURER, BY REVIEWING THE CERTIFICATE OF TAXES DUE FOR THE PROPERTY, AND BY OBTAINING FURTHER INFORMATION FROM THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, THE COUNTY CLERK AND RECORDER, OR THE COUNTY ASSESSOR.
Prospective buyers and their REALTORS® can Weld County assessor property tax records online to determine if a home is located within a metro district. Public records are available through IRESis.com or here: https://www.weldgov.com/departments/assessor/
Anti-Growth Ballot Measure Proponents Gathering Signatures: The Colorado Secretary of State’s office this week approved the petition format for proposed Initiative 4, which allows its backers, Daniel Hayes of Golden and Julianne Page of Wheat Ridge, to begin collecting signatures to try to get the measure on the 2018 ballot. Hayes argues growth in Colorado is “out of control.” If Initiative 4 were to be approved by voters next year it would affect all local governments in along the Front Range, from Northern Colorado down to El Paso County, limiting residential housing growth to one percent a year for two years (2019 and 2020). Initiative 4 supporters have until Nov. 30 to collect 98,492 valid voter signatures, including at least 2 percent from each Senate district based on current voter registration figures.
EPA Releases Rule to Withdraw WOTUS: Fulfilling a portion of an executive order by President Donald Trump, the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have released a proposal to rescind the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that expanded federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The proposal would nix the 2015 WOTUS rule and reinstate the definition of the streams and wetlands subject to federal oversight under the act that existed prior to its finalization. The publication of the proposal constitutes the first part of a two-step process to meet the Feb. 28 executive order directing the rule’s review. The second step will be “a separate notice and comment rulemaking that will consider developing a new definition” for the extent of federal jurisdiction under the act, say the EPA and Corps in a prepublication copy of the proposed rescission. The embattled regulation was stayed by the 6th Circuit Appeals Court in October 2015. The rule’s opponents have said it defined federal jurisdiction too broadly and granted undue control to the government. NAR will have 30 days to comment on the proposal.
NAR Opposes FHA Flood Insurance Regulation: On July 26, 2017, NAR, as part of a broad coalition of housing, lending, insurance and consumer groups, opposed a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) regulation barring lenders from accepting private flood insurance on FHA insured loans, and urged its immediate reversal. On the same day, NAR wrote the full Senate requesting support and co-sponsorship of S. 563, “The Flood Insurance Market Parity & Modernization Act” (Heller [R-NV]; Tester [D-MT]). The bill would remove additional barriers to the private market, which increasingly, is offering better coverage at lower cost than the National Flood Insurance Program.
Senate Health Care Reform Fails to Advance: On July 28, the Senate Republican leadership’s so-called “skinny” Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal bill failed to gather the 50 votes required for passage. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and John McCain (R-AZ) sided with Democrats in a 49-51 roll call vote. Released a few hours before the vote, the 8-page bill would have repealed the ACA’s individual mandate, suspended the employer mandate for 8 years, repealed an ACA tax on medical devices, increased contribution limits for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) for 3 years, expanded the ability of states to apply for waivers of some ACA rules, increased funding for community health centers, and blocked funding for certain health providers who offered abortion services.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that provisions in the bill would have resulted in 16 million fewer persons being uninsured in years 2018-2026 and a 20 percent increase in insurance premiums each year over that same timeframe. A path forward on health care reform now remains unclear. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reiterated Democrats willingness to work to address shortcomings of the ACA through the Senate’s regular bill process. NAR will continue to follow developments with an eye to those provisions that impact the self-employed and small businesses.
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