Government Affairs Update
Barbara Koelzer, Regional Government Affairs Director
Council Commits to Windy Gap: After a long discussion, the City Council agreed to move forward with its participation in the Windy Gap Firming Project. Joan Peck and Polly Christensen voted against the motion, saying they wanted a lower level of participation than the 10,000 acre-feet level advised by the Water Board. The Longmont Association of Realtors’ Board of Directors communicated its support for the Water Board’s recommendation.
Water discussions are always about growth, whether that is explicitly stated or not. As Gabe Santos said, this decision will protect Longmont’s future growth by ensuring an adequate water supply. Nine cities are involved in the project, including Greeley and Loveland, as well as two water districts and the Platte River Power Authority.
Comp Plan Close to Completion: Envision Longmont, the latest version of the City’s long-range plan, is nearly finished. An open house is scheduled for Wednesday, March 30, from 5:30pm to 7:30pm at the Longmont Public Library for public comment. The Longmont Association of REALTORS will review and comment on the draft.
While many concepts included in Envision Longmont are laudable, it seems like the voice of the business community is absent. In a summary of comments to date, “prioritizing bikes and pedestrians” and “incorporating food access and address agriculture more directly” are highlighted, illustrating the need for groups such as the REALTORS to weigh in with a more common sense approach.
Council Adopts Construction Defects Ordinance: With little discussion, the Fort Collins City Council adopted its construction defects ordinance on second reading. As before, Ross Cunniff and Bob Overbeck voted against it, saying they support the need for more multi-family housing but not the ordinance.
Construction Defects Ordinance Passes: The Loveland City Council also approved a construction defects ordinance on March 15. Mayor Cecil Gutierrez was the sole vote against the ordinance. He repeated the same rationale he articulated during first reading of the ordinance, saying Loveland was opening itself to a lawsuit by infringing on the State’s authority. Mark Koentopp spoke on behalf of LBAR, thanking the Council for its leadership on the issue.
COLORADO ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Legislative Update: The Home Ownership Alliance, of which CAR is a member, continues working on its construction defect legislation. The bill sponsors are still considering various approaches and the Alliance isn’t ready to introduce its bill.
HB 1310 “Oil and Gas Operators Liable for Oil and Gas Operations” LPC Position – neutral. This badly worded bill makes energy operators liable for earthquakes and such without proof. It also amends statute to make operators liable for damage to a surface owner’s property. As defenders of property rights, CAR could not go on the record opposing the bill.
HB 1334 “Inclusionary Zoning in Unincorporated Areas” LPC Position – Oppose. This bill would give county commissioners the ability to impose inclusionary zoning in rural areas. Inclusionary zoning is defined as a program that requires a given share of housing units in a proposed development to be “priced in a way that is affordable for low and moderate income households.”
Flood Advocate Reports to Congress: On March 17, 2016, the Office of the Flood Insurance Advocate issued its first annual report identifying the first set of issues to be addressed in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Among the challenges are lack of data, barriers to claims, application of surcharges, multi-year refunds, and flood proofing paperwork.
Championed by NAR as part of the Flood Insurance Affordability Act, this independent office within FEMA advocates on behalf of property owners when the NFIP issues questionable flood maps or insurance rates. The advocacy office has been established for less than a year and is still not fully staffed; yet already, the office has assisted hundreds of property owners and successfully resolved at least a dozen disputes between policyholders and FEMA or partnering insurance companies.
NAR recently sent a letter to Congress supporting the mission of the NFIP advocacy office and urged full funding for the office to assist additional property owners. NAR will continue to work to provide adequate resources for a true advocate for homeowners.
Senate Tackles Patent Reform: Last week Senators Gardner (R-CO), Flake (R-AZ), and Lee (R-UT) introduced S. 2733 a bill that would address the issue of venue reform in patent litigation cases. Last year, nearly half of all new patent infringement cases filed in the United States were filed in one judicial district. The high volume of cases filed in this district is not a coincidence. Patent Assertion Entities, otherwise known as patent trolls, take advantage of broad interpretations of current law that allow them to file their lawsuits where local rules and practices, along with physical distance, make it very expensive for companies to defend themselves. NAR supports venue reform along with a comprehensive set of patent litigation reforms aimed at curbing patent troll abuses.