Expect Changes To Flood Plain Maps: In the wake of the devastating September 2013 flood Larimer County officials want to review the County’s flood plain maps. In some cases rivers moved and/or created new channels, for example. FEMA does not require periodic review of flood plain maps but local governments often begin the process by making the request of State and FEMA officials.
The County’s Flood Overlay Zone regulations recently attracted the interest of REALTORSÒ when property owners in the McConnell subdivision in LaPorte discovered their homes are located in the overlay zone and that the designation hurt their ability to sell their properties. Structures in the overlay zone cannot be permitted for extensive renovations or rebuilt if substantially damaged. (Note: Larimer County adopted its first flood regulations 1975. In 1979 the first official FEMA flood rate insurance map was issued for Larimer County. However, the 1979 maps did not cover all waterways in the County and the LaPorte area was added later.)
Eric Tracy, the County’s Flood Plain Manager, said “substantial damage” is defined by the Larimer County Land Use Code as damage equal to or exceeding 50 percent of the market value of a structure. When a property located in the floodway overlay zone is damaged and meets this qualification it cannot be rebuilt (or renovated).
The property owners protested the situation, prompting the Larimer County Commission to consider some slight regulatory changes as a result. While the County will not remove flood damage from its definition of “substantial damage,” the Board of County Commissioners is willing to consider revising the Code to allow rebuilding in the case of non flood-related damage.
In discussing this with the REALTORSÒ, Tracy explained that FEMA recommends that local regulations exceeds the minimum criteria needed in order to qualify for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). While FEMA regulations allow rebuilding as long as a home is elevated, the County chose more restrictive regulations. Tracy cited the example of a homeowner who received a variance to rebuilding after 1976. The home was rebuilt at a higher elevation but was completely destroyed in the 2013 flood.
He added that the County also considers problems such as debris caused damage. If the County allowed a property owner to rebuild a structure in the floodway and the structure was damaged in another flood event, the debris from that structure could cause property damage or loss of life downstream. Protecting the public and emergency officials who respond to natural disasters, are also County priorities. Flash floods, such as we experience, happen with little warning and are quite different from “inundation” flooding that occurs along the Mississippi and other rivers to the east.
Tracy hopes the County will consider regulations that differentiate between areas like the Big Thompson Canyon and other areas that would not be prone to the same degree of flash flooding. For example, Boulder County recently adopted regulations that take into account high hazard areas in floodways that calculate velocity and water depth to allow for more specific predictions of which properties in the floodway are more likely to be in jeopardy. However, the County isn’t actively considering “high hazard” regulations at this time.
Judging from public comments made by the Commissioners, the County doesn’t appear to be willing to weaken its floodway regulations. Commissioner Steve Johnson said, "I think it's fairly obvious that a no-build policy in the canyon, given the last two Big Thompson floods, makes sense." The County has received federal grant money to buy some flood impacted properties from willing sellers, but has opted for a valuation system based on post-flood appraisals so that the County can help more afflicted owners, Tracy said. Note: There are nearly 500 structures in the County’s flood overlay zone although it is unknown how many of these structures are residential dwellings.
After the public meetings on the proposed code revision to permit rebuilding related to substantial non flood related damage, the amendments will be considered by the Larimer Planning Commission. It is expected that the Commissioners will hold hearings on the amendments in June.
More Growing Pains: The Town of Berthoud just held its first public meeting concerning the 184-acre Bader property, west of Taft/LCR 17 and bisected by US 287. The property was annexed into Berthoud in 2007 and rezoned to Planned Unit Development with a maximum density of 562 dwelling units (3.5 per acre) and 419,000 SF of commercial space. Recently the developer submitted a preliminary plat application for Phase 1 of the project. The plans include approximately 34 acres of commercial development, 38 acres of single family and patio homes — 172 units, with 17 acres of high-density residential.
At the same time, Prairie Star subdivision (east of LCR 17) is now under construction and the Heron Pointe annexation south of LCR 14/Highway 60 and bisected by LCR 17 was approved by the Board of Trustees in January. The neighbors, who were already upset by the Heron Pointe project in particular, are getting more irate.
A group of neighborhood activists has created a website, https://sites.google.com/site/sw42ndtaftneighbors/ to mobilize against Heron Pointe. The group hired an attorney to oversee the collection of signatures of registered voters in Berthoud to force the Heron Point annexation to a public vote (even though the property is within the Town’s Growth Management Area).
Regardless of the neighbors’ claims to the contrary, Berthoud has observed legal requirements and done as much as any government typically does to garner citizen input on these land use applications. Unfortunately for Heron Pointe opposition group, they don’t live in Berthoud and the Board of Trustees was in no way beholden to them. REALTORS should always advise clients to check the status of vacant property near homes in which they have interest. Just because a lot is undeveloped now, they should never assume that it would remain so.
Climate Action Plan Approved: The City Council unanimously approved a resolution adopting the 2015 Climate Action Plan (CAP), which will increase the City's goals for reducing greenhouse emissions in the coming years with the goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. The framework for the CAP calls for reducing carbon dioxide emissions communitywide by 20 percent compared to 2005 levels by 2020, and by 80 percent by 2030.
The Council directed the City Manager to develop an implementation plan for reaching the City's goals. Although Council members supported the plan unanimously, some also cautioned many details of the plan — what it will cost and how it will work —have yet to be determined.
Regardless of the cost there is little doubt that residential and commercial buildings will be impacted by the new goals. The 2015 Climate Action Plan Framework notes that, “The building sector is the Fort Collins community’s top energy consumer and its number one contributor to greenhouse gas emissions… efficiency alone will not enable Fort Collins to reach an 80 percent reduction in GHG emissions by 2030, efficiency and conservation measures are typically the most cost-effective approach to reduce emissions and represent the best place to start and/or expand programs. “
For new construction the Framework suggests the City continue to adopt the latest energy codes with local refinements that would require stricter standards plus incentives for builders who go above and beyond the code. For existing homes, the City will improve its programs and funding to meet customer demand for new energy saving services. It is possible that efficiency ratings requirements for homes for sale or rent could also be considered.
Lucinda Smith, the City's Environmental Sustainability Director, estimates the implementation of the CAP could cost $600 million by 2020, although savings to the community, such as lower energy bills, could total about $300 million during the same time.
Note: The Fort Collins Board of REALTORS® took a position to support the Plan, saying it “supports the current robust Climate Action Plan standards until additional details & specifics, including costs, can be made available to the citizens group, community entities, & partner communities with regard to the Climate Action Plan goals & framework. Additionally, FCBR believes that the focus of the Climate Action Planning efforts should be placed on detailed implementation strategies that balance housing, economic, cultural, & environmental needs.”
Landlord Registration Program for West Central Area? The FCBR Government Affairs Committee was not pleased to learn that the draft plan for the West Central neighborhood includes a recommendation to consider a landlord registration program. The plan will go before the City Council on March 17, leaving FCBR without adequate time to prepare a position on the issue.
FCBR has traditionally opposed any landlord registration proposal, but its bylaws don’t allow for the Board of Directors to take a position on an issue within such a short timeframe. However, individual REALTORS can voice their opinion on the West Central Area plan at the meeting on the 17. Note: The fact that the landlord registration program would only affect the West Central neighborhood is curious; landlord registration requirements rarely apply to one specific neighborhood.
Johnson Announces City Council Bid: Leah Johnson, Loveland native and small business owner, has announced her candidacy for City Council, Ward 2. Incumbent Phil Farley announced he will not seek re-election to spend more time with his family.
Johnson owns her own company, JD Consulting and is also active in the Loveland Chamber, Larimer County United Way and the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado. She said challenges facing Loveland include regional transportation, land use planning, affordable housing and water.
These challenges include regional transportation, land-use planning, affordable housing and water. Johnson's campaign website is leahforloveland.com.
Council Approves New Development Center: On March 3 the City Council approved a supplemental appropriation on first reading for a remodeling project in the Fire & Administration Building (FAB) for a development center. Using vacant space, the remodel will move the Development Center to the FAB, which will create a centralized one-stop shop for customers of development services (planning and building permitting) with space for neighborhood meetings and small commission meetings. The project is scheduled for completion by early 2016.
Take the Transportation Survey: The North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization is conducting outreach as part of the adoption process for the 2040 Regional Transportation Plan. Please take the MPO’s survey using this link 2040 Transportation Survey to provide input on important transportation issues such as congestion, transit, etc.
Littleton Voters Will Have to Approve Urban Renewal: Littleton voters approved ballot measures reforming urban renewal in the City following a special election, making it the only Colorado municipality to require voter permission for urban renewal. Voters will have to approve the use of tools such as tax increment financing or eminent domain.
The initiative’s supporters, Your Littleton Your Vote, argued that Littleton doesn't need taxpayer money to assist with economic development, and shouldn't do so without voter consent. They also objected to the city's decision last year to map out four zones — deemed blighted — where urban renewal dollars could be used. Opponents of the measure, which include the REALTORS, warned that Littleton would stunt its economic growth potential without ready access to these tools.
However the measure passed by a 20 percent margin. Opponents put another measure on the ballot to limit eminent domain powers hoping to convince voters to approve a less onerous measure, which was also approved. NAR contributed $30,000 to the losing effort, known as Littleton Strong. Note: Hopefully the successes of Your Littleton Your Vote won’t motivate other activists to try the same tactics in their communities. Public votes are not the best way to decide policy.
COLORADO ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Senate Bill-177 “Construction Defects”
CAR Position: Support. The bill was introduced on Feb. 10 and was finally heard in committee on March 18 where it passed on a 6-2 vote. On the House side Speaker Dickie Lee Hullinghorst (Boulder) opposes it. CAR and its coalition are working to find some common ground with the Speaker that would gain her support. Please make sure that you have responded to the Call for Action, which is ongoing, and encourage others to do so as well. Construction Defects Call to Action
House Bill-1260 “Change Wildfire Mitigation Tax Deduction To Credit” Position: Support. The bill was introduced on March 4 and will be considered by the Finance Committee on April 2. The bill changes the wildfire mitigation income tax deduction to an income tax credit. The bill allows a landowner a credit of 25 percent of the costs incurred performing wildfire mitigation measures, not to exceed $2,500. Any amount in excess of the landowner's tax liability in the year the credit is first claimed may be carried forward to offset the landowner's future tax liability for 5 years.
FHFA Improves Note Sale Program: On March 2 the Federal Housing Finance Agency enhanced requirements for sales of non-performing loans by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (the GSEs). In a letter last year NAR raised concerns that this disposition strategy gives investors an advantage over potential owner occupant buyers. NAR requested more information on the sale of the notes and asked FHFA to study the cost and impact of bulk note sales to institutional investors.
As part of the changes, borrowers whose loans are sold as part of the program must be considered for other relief such as a short sale. Additionally, if the home should go through the foreclosure process, for the first 20 days after a REO property is marketed, the property may be sold only to buyers who intend to occupy the property as their primary residence or to non-profits.
NAR Supports Employee Housing Bill: Representative Nydia Velazquez (New York City) has introduced H.R. 480, “Housing America’s Workforce Act”. This bill creates a tax incentive for businesses to encourage more employers to offer employee assisted housing benefits to their employees.
Employer Assisted Housing programs have been shown to be a successful private sector tool to helping lower- and middle-income families afford suitable housing where they work. Downpayment assistance, interest rate buy-downs, rental assistance, and closing cost grants are some of the tools typically included in an EAP program. NAR's Housing Opportunity program strongly supports Employer Assisted housing programs, and NAR sent a letter to Rep. Velazquez, thanking her for introducing the legislation.
Barbara Koelzer, Regional Government Affairs Director