Regional Government Affairs Update :: October 23rd, 2014

Boulder County
Council Sends Message Re Historic Preservation: The City of Boulder is serious about its historic preservation regulations. This week the City Council ordered a homeowner in the Mapleton Hill area to rebuild a “historic” shed located in the backyard.

The owner had removed the old coal shed and added a deck, retailing wall, fire pit and basketball court without requesting permission from the City. The Landmarks Board was given the case after a neighbor turned the owner in but decided that reconstructing the shed did not make up for what had been lost.

However the City Council decided to “call up” the case because it felt that it would send the wrong message were the City to decide the shed did not need to be replaced. Neighbors testified in support of the owner saying the basketball court was a neighborhood amenity but that did not sway the Council. All the items added by the owner – including the fire pit and basketball court, will have to be removed. In addition, the owner will have to build a new shed with the same footprint and style as the old one.

Note: This may be an extreme case, but clients interested in homes with historic designations should be educated regarding the regulations governing such properties. Historic preservation ordinances vary from city to city and to ignore the rules could be a very costly mistake.

City, LAEC Partner to Advance Longmont: At a recent LAEC breakfast, the economic development organization and the City unveiled a new plan to expand business opportunities in Longmont. Advance Longmont will focus on
marketing, real estate inventory, redevelopment and putting resources in play to bolster entrepreneurship and startups.

The plan was devised from the results of a study and analysis conducted by Avalanche Consulting of Austin, Texas. Organizers also hired a site-selection firm to conduct a reverse site selection to help determine what prospective companies are looking for and how they perceive Longmont.

While Longmont has comparatively low utility rates, including water and electric, a highly educated workforce, developable land and a citywide high-speed fiber-optic network nearing completion, it has some challenges that have been building overtime. The study revealed that Longmont has a ‘scattered brand,’ lack of Class A office space and outdated industrial space.

Harold Dominguez, Longmont’s City Manager, reiterated that marketing is a priority. “We aren’t getting our message out to site selectors.” Dominguez said a system has been put in place to monitor progress and measure the effectiveness of efforts made through Advance Longmont.

The consultants recommended four target industries: advanced technology, biosciences, creative arts & culinary and professional services and technology. Read the plan created by Avalanche Consulting here:

Note: The Longmont Association of REALTORS will be closely involved in the real estate-related aspects of the plan as it moves forward.

City to Receive Additional Flood Grants from State: The City Council approved agreements with the State to provide additional grants to residents affected by last year’s floods using Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery (CBDG-DR). One of the programs assists homeowners with home repairs and offers reimbursement for expenses already incurred (provided homeowners can document those expenses). Funds from this program can also be used to replace homes in cases where it would cost more than 50 percent of the pre-flood value to repair and thus will be helpful for residents of mobile home communities.

The Temporary Rental Assistance program will allow the City to temporarily relocate people whose homes will be repaired, if needed. It will also help the City work with families/individuals who were displaced from their homes by the flood and who still have not found a permanent housing solution and/or who are paying more than 30 percent of their income for rent in these temporary situations.

Finally, Longmont will administer a Down Payment Assistance Program that will provide help for residents throughout the County. The program requires that beneficiaries purchase homes in Boulder County. More information about these programs is available here:

Town Faces Policy Decision re Replacement Housing: The Lyons Board of Trustees announced a plan last month to build 60 housing units for residents whose homes were destroyed by the flood. Now the Trustees are up against a December deadline for grant proposals but are getting flak from residents.

Trustees are discussing three sites for the new units, including the 29-acre Bohn Park, the 10-acre Lyons Dog Park and a private property east of Lyons Valley Park. Anyone familiar with Lyons knows the town is constrained by geography and size, with few building sites. The Board feels these three locations are the most feasible given the time and financial constraints of the project.

But some Lyons residents are not willing to give up public land for replacement housing. A group calling itself “Save Our Parks and Open Space” (SOPOS) opposes the use of parks and open space for new housing. The question is, if not one of these properties, then where? Using either park would require approval from other entities; such land use reclassification is possible albeit difficult.

However SOPOS is not waiting to see what happens. The group submitted a petition with 193 signatures asking Lyons to allow citizens to vote on zoning changes or permitting of parks and open space even on leased portions of Bohn Park and the dog park.

The Town will now conduct a site analysis on the locations to identify the cost of building on each parcel. This analysis won’t be finished until Nov. 20, leaving the Town less than a month to choose a location and develop a design before the application deadline for Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery in mid-December.

The trustees say they will pick a site and apply for a grant contingent upon voter approval of their plans. Note: The flood of 2013 hit Lyons particularly hard. Many lower and middle class residents are still in temporary housing. One wonders if members of SOPOS would have the same position if their homes had been destroyed in the flood. The catastrophic nature of the flood requires flexibility and should generate empathy but those qualities appear to be in short supply.

Larimer County
Fort Collins
Consultants Offer Affordable Housing Recommendations: Economic & Planning Systems (EPS) has released a housing affordability policy study for the City of Fort Collins Social Sustainability Department. EPS says that the problems facing the City are “modest” at this point, noting that households with an income under $25,000 are struggling to find affordable housing.

Ideas suggested by EPS are also relatively minor, including building code changes to allow for “tiny” homes as are under construction in LaPorte, considering regulatory changes to encourage the development of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), expanding the host permit program that allows one or two additional residents for 10 months at a time, allowing extra occupants in rental programs in specific rental zones, expanding the homebuyer assistance program, fee waivers for affordable housing and possibly developing properties owned in the City’s land bank program. In addition, the consultants recommend a general across the board analysis of policies and regulations and how they affect housing costs.

In terms of long-term strategies, EPS and City staff note that Fort Collins needs to find dedicated funding sources for affordable housing. (Although staff suggested that Longmont is poised to adopt a dedicated tax for this purpose, in reality that was just one recommendation that came out of a workforce housing task force several years ago and none of the recommendations have been adopted yet.) Interestingly, EPS does not recommend an inclusionary zoning program, noting, “the requirements would not carry substantial economic value for the City’s developers.”

On November 25th the Fort Collins City Council is scheduled to hold a work session on housing affordability. The EPS report is available here:

Weld County
City Slows Impact Fee Review Process: Assistant City Manager Victoria Runkle says that the City will postpone a work session scheduled for October 28th regarding updated impact fees to allow for more discussion. Concerns have risen in particular regarding the transportation, fire and the water and sewer fees. While some of the new methodology would increase the individual fees, staff says the overall cost to build a new single-family home would increase only slightly.

Another meeting has been scheduled with stakeholders on October 28 and the City Council will hold a work session on November 25. At this point staff still anticipates the new methodology and fees will be adopted and become law on March 1, 2015.

3 Local Associations Ask EPA to Withdraw Water Rule: Following a recommendation from NAR, the Greeley, Longmont and Loveland-Berthoud Associations sent letters to the EPA encouraging the agency to withdraw the rule known as the “Waters of the United States”. NAR has been lobbying against the proposal for several years. The rule would broaden the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s abilities to regulate water under the Clean Water Act by placing more water bodies under their authority. This would result in more time consuming and expensive permits, regulatory red tape, and less economic development in communities across the country.

“Changing the scope of federal law is solely the responsibility of Congress, and over the past several Congresses, the legislative branch has repeatedly determined not to expand federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. However, finalization of the proposed rule would allow the Administration to bypass the legislative process in order to achieve its agenda,” according to NAR’s position. The U.S. Small Business Administration, a federal agency responsible for protecting the interests of small businesses, has also asked the Administration to withdraw the rule, saying it would have direct and significant effects on small businesses.

DORA Recommends Licensing of Home Inspectors: After a sunrise review this year, the Department of Regulatory Agencies has concluded that home inspectors, like other professionals involved in real estate transactions, should be licensed. The report included examples of consumers harmed by the conduct of home inspectors in the past, some of whom engaged in criminal activities in the course of conducting inspections. The report concludes, “In sum, the evidence of harm identified during the course of research for this sunrise review demonstrates financial, emotional and physical harm to consumers in Colorado.”

DORA suggests that inspectors should also be required to pass an examination and a fingerprint-based criminal history background check. A seven-member home inspector board could provide regulatory oversight of home inspectors and home inspector licensees should be required to complete continuing education.

CAR Will Become Stakeholder in Home Inspector Legislation: The Legislative Policy Committee determined that CAR should be a stakeholder in the effort to license home inspectors but not the primary group pushing for the measure. According to CAR President David Barber, Senator Nancy Spence has already agreed to sponsor the bill; now a House sponsor will be sought.

In the upcoming 2015 session, the sponsors will introduce a bill that will require the licensure of home inspectors, using the regulatory scheme suggested by DORA (see above). At this time it’s unknown which state agency would be responsible for regulating inspectors. It is also unknown how licensing would affect the cost of inspections. If regulation increases the number of inspectors the cost could decrease; however, if it results in few inspectors the price could increase. Mr. Barbour believes that the lengthy process will provide plenty of time to roll out the regulatory framework if the bill passes.

CAR Joins Homeownership Opportunity Alliance (HOA): CAR Vice President for Public Policy Ted Leighty will join the executive committee of HOA, an organization that is advocating for the construction defects legislation to encourage builders to develop more condominiums and townhomes. Earlier this week CAR’s political action committee (CARPAC) approved a $10,000 request, which will allow Leighty to join HOA’s executive committee. A bill supported by HOA and CAR died late in the 2014 legislative session. Senator Jessie Ulibarri (Adams County), has already agreed to sponsor the bill again next year. The recent decision by the City of Lakewood City Council to pass local construction defects legislation (that will no doubt be challenged in court) will help to pressure the legislature to pass the bill in 2015.

CARPAC Donates to Transit Alliance: At its fall business meetings CARPAC approved a $10,000 donation to the Transit Alliance. The Alliance “is an influential public-advocacy organization that works to enhance communities and people’s lives by cultivating a healthy, resilient and more sustainable lifestyle by supporting transit, active transportation and increased mobility.” The Transit Alliance is known for its work supporting the successful passage of RTD’s FasTracks tax in 2004 and its citizens’ academy. Its work has focused on the Denver metro area but the Alliance is poised to begin a rural pilot program this year according to its executive director, Kathleen Osher.