Government Affairs Update
September 2020
Barbara Koelzer, Regional Government Affairs Director
[email protected]
303.886.5675

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Boulder County
Denver Water Withdraws Appeal: Denver Water asked the Colorado Court of Appeals to dismiss its appeal of the district court’s decision in favor of Boulder County regarding the proposed expansion of Gross Reservoir. The motion ends a years-long battle between Boulder County and Denver Water over whether the project is subject to a county 1041 permitting process.

The County Commissioners were ecstatic with the decision. Elise Jones called the victory “significant.” Matt Jones said, “This is a great win. We know that the Gross Dam expansion project would have major impacts on Boulder County residents and our environment.”

Deb Gardner added, “We understand the federal agencies need to have their say, but the fact remains that Denver Water has proposed the largest single construction project ever in Boulder County.”

Water storage is a critical need in Colorado. Expanding an existing reservoir seems less of an environmental impact than constructing a new storage facility. The concern is that Boulder County environmentalists will use the 1041 process to stop the project. One has to wonder if the Commissioners would take the same tone if this were a Boulder County project instead of something that would expand water storage for Denver.

Longmont
Council Reduces Windy Gap Participation Level: In a study session on August 4, staff asked the City Council for direction on a final participation level for the Windy Gap Firming Project. Windy Gap consists of a diversion dam on the Colorado River, a 445-acre-foot reservoir, a pumping plant and a six-mile pipeline to Lake Granby. Windy Gap water is pumped and stored in Lake Granby, part of the Colorado-Big Thompson (C-BT) Project, before it is delivered to water users via the C-BT system. 

In 1999 Windy Gap participants began considering several reservoir sites to store water when Lake Granby is full. Ultimately the participants chose a site called Chimney Hollow in Larimer County, just west of Carter Lake. When complete, its 90,00 acre-feet of dedicated storage will supply 30,00 acre-feet of water each year.

Staff and the Water Board recommend a final participation level of 7,500 acre-feet, a reduction of 500 acre-feet from the previous proposal. This amount would not create an increase in rates for water users or overly stress the City’s water infrastructure. Dale Rademacher said with this participation level the City can both afford the project and meet future water needs.

During the Council Q & A, Marcia Martin said she had not originally supported the idea of extra water as a cushion but that she had been educated by the Water Board and so supports the recommendation. Councilmember Peck moved to support the recommendation. Mayor Bagley voice the sole no vote, saying “water is the currency of the future.” Final action on the allotment contract will be considered by the City Council in September.

Note: In 2017, Longmont voters approved a $36,300,000 bond issuance that will be used to obtain part of the funding for this project.

Council Calls for ADU Revisions: During the August 11 City Council meeting, Councilmember Tim Waters and Mayor Brian Bagley asked the rest of the Council to agree that changes to the City’s accessory dwelling unit (ADU) requirements should considered as soon as possible. Apparently, the Council has received complaints from downtown residents about the five-foot property setback for ADUs.

Mayor Bagley said the urgency relates to two ADUs that are currently under construction. Bagley said, (We need to) “Act before more start getting thrown up.” The motion passed unanimously but City Manager Harold Dominguez wasn’t sure when staff could fit this item on an upcoming agenda.

Residential Metro Districts No Longer Allowed: On August 11 the City Council passed an ordinance 5-2, with Tim Waters and Marcia Martin opposed, that will repeal the existing metro district ordinance and reinstitute Longmont’s 2012 ordinance. The 2012 version only allows residential development in a mixed-use metro district. It limits the residential square footage in such a development to 50 percent. Until its repeal in 2019, the ordinance resulted in no development applications.

The Mayor allowed Mayor Pro Tem Aren Rodriguez to make an introductory statement on the topic but didn’t let anyone else on Council speak. Rodriguez said, “(This is) A wedge issue for City Council.”  He added, “We’ve discussed this ad nauseum. We should come up with closure until a future Council addresses it again.” Mayor Bagley explained that he wanted to avoid “the vitriol” as the reason for prohibiting discussion on the issue.

 STATE
Income Tax Reduction Makes Ballot: On August 17, the Secretary of State’s office announced that Initiative 306, which reduces state income tax rate, has qualified for the November ballot.

Initiative 306 was drafted by Republican State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg. It would reduce the income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.55 percent.

The ballot measure would change State statute, so it must win approval at 50 percent plus one vote. The fiscal impact statement for Initiative 306 says it will reduce state revenues by $78.1 million in fiscal year 2019-20, $158.4 million in 2020-21 and $169.8 million in 2021-22.

For an individual taxpayer who earns $50,000 per year, the amount of income taxes they will keep under Initiative #306 is $40. A taxpayer earning $100,000 per year will keep an additional $80; a taxpayer earning $250,000 per year will retain $200.

NATION
Take the Census! The federal government completes a census every 10 years. It is vital that all Realtors® participate. The census will determine congressional representation, inform hundreds of billions in federal funding every year, and provide data that will impact communities for the next decade.

Census results affect planning and funding for infrastructure—including programs for highway planning and construction, Section 8 housing, federal transit, community development, and rural water and waste disposal systems. It determines how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding flow into communities every year for the next decade. That funding shapes many different aspects of every community.

If you have not participated yet, there is still time and you may do so online: https://2020census.gov/en.html

NAR Opposes Changes to Fair Housing Act: On July 23 National Association of Realtors® President Vince Malta issued the following statement after the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday unveiled its final rule implementing the “affirmatively furthering fair housing” provisions of the Federal Fair Housing Act. Following the administration’s initial proposal in January, NAR publicly commented that the changes threatened to strip away the rule’s original civil rights purpose, as mandated by the 1968 law.

“The National Association of Realtors® is disappointed that HUD has taken this step, which significantly weakens the federal government’s commitment to the goals of the Fair Housing Act,” said Malta. “The viability of our 1.4 million members depends on the free, transparent and efficient transfer of property in this country, and NAR maintains that a strong, affirmative fair housing rule is vital to advancing our nation’s progress toward thriving and inclusive communities. With the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on people of color reminding us of the costs of the failure to address barriers to housing opportunity, NAR remains committed to ensuring no American is unfairly denied this fundamental right in the future.”

Realtors® on Eviction Moratorium, Rental Assistance Policies: National Association of Realtors® President Vince Malta issued the following statement in response to the White House’s eviction moratorium executive order, “While NAR appreciates and is supportive of White House efforts to ensure struggling Americans can remain in their homes, we are disappointed in the administration’s decision to not tie an eviction moratorium with rental assistance – as they must be,” said Malta, broker at Malta & Co., Inc., in San Francisco, CA. “We now strongly urge the administration and Congress to a come to swift, bipartisan resolution that protects both renters and housing providers.”

 GSEs Impose Refi Fees: On August 13 Inman reported that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are imposing a 50 basis point fee on homeowners who refinance a mortgage backed by the government-sponsored enterprises (GSE), beginning September 1. The decision is opposed by the Mortgage Bankers Association but could theoretically convince homeowners deciding between refinancing their home or buying anew to choose the latter.

In a statement, the MBA said, “the announcement by the GSEs flies in the face of the administration’s recent executive actions urging federal agencies to take all measures within their authorities to support struggling homeowners,” MBA said in a statement. “Requiring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to charge a 0.5 percent fee on refinance mortgages they purchase will raise interest rates on families trying to make ends meet in these challenging times.”

Both GSEs specifically cited uncertainty, risks and future forecasted losses precipitated by COVID-19. The average consumer will be paying $1,400 more than they normally would, according to MBA. The September 1 deadline chosen by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) could also further hurt homeowners who did not lock in their rates yet, just days away from closing.

The refinance market has been booming, routinely posting major annual gains over last year. MBA’s most recent application survey found that refinance applications were up 47 percent year over year. “The housing market has been able to withstand many of the most severe effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” MBA said. “The recent refinance activity has not only helped homeowners lower their monthly payments, but it is also reducing risk to the GSEs and taxpayers.” The MBA said the announcement is bad for homeowners and economy recovery and urged FHFA to withdraw the directive.

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