Barbara Koelzer, Regional Government Affairs Director
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REALTOR® Running for County Commission: Sean Dougherty, former Chair of the Fort Collins Board of Realtors®, a member of the Larimer County Planning Commission, and current Chair of the Colorado Association of Realtors® Legislative Policy Committee, has announced his decision to run for the Larimer County Board of Commissioners. The incumbent commissioner for District 1, Lew Gaiter, previously announced his candidacy for governor.
In addition to Dougherty, other candidates for the seat include John Kefalas, who currently represents the residents of Senate District 14 in the General Assembly and Dan Sapienza, who works for the Health District of Larimer County. The Fort Collins Board of Realtors® and the Loveland-Berthoud Association of Realtors® will interview county commissioner candidates this fall ahead of the November election.
Council Appropriates $1.8 Million for Broadband: The Fort Collins City Council voted unanimously, with no discussion, to approve an ordinance that appropriates $1.8M to support first year start-up costs associated with recruiting and hiring personnel, consulting, equipment, and branding for the broadband initiative approved by voters last fall. The funding will come from the General Fund as a loan to the Light and Power Fund until bonds can be issued to support the total broadband build out. The bonds will be structured allowing a planned repayment to the General Fund of start-up costs supported by this appropriation. The reserves will be restored from the proceeds of the bond issuance, pending the Council’s adoption of the corresponding bond ordinance (currently scheduled for the March 20 and April 3 meetings).
Council Discusses Metro Districts: Greeley currently has several metro districts (Promontory and the former Hewlett-Packard site) but this may change. Brad Mueller, the City’s Community Development Director, told the City Council that developers say metro districts are now a necessity to pay for development. In the coming months, City Council can anticipate seeing new metro district proposals in the form of district service plans. The service plan is the means by which elected officials control both the financing terms and overall approval of this type of project.
Staff conducted stakeholder meetings with the development community which helped them to better understand decisions in the housing market. Developers explained that, in situations where land and other costs are equal, a metro district could lower the developer’s cost by $10,000 per lot. With the anticipation of seeing more metro district development proposals, staff has reviewed the City’s 11-year-old metro district model service plan. On the basis of the review, staff is suggesting a few revisions to Greeley’s model service plan, the most significant of which is a recommendation to cap the mill levy at a 70-mill maximum.
Mueller told the Council, the “model service plan provides a meaningful template for future homeowner protection, and specific individual proposals will be scrutinized by staff and the City Council before being allowed. It is expected that any new metro districts would generally be proposed in conjunction with a rezoning application, so that the total impact of the proposed development could be fully understood and evaluated by Councilmembers.” The majority of the Council appeared to be open to considering new metro districts and supported the staff’s revisions to the model service plan.
CDOT Secures Contract to Expand I-25: On January 4th CDOT announced it had finalized a contract with Kraemer/IHC to add one additional lane in each direction between Highway 14 in Fort Collins through the intersection with Highway 402 south of Loveland. The $248 million project is expected to take three years to complete. Work will begin this summer and should be finished in 2021.
The project is the result of advocacy by the North I-25 Elected Officials Coalition and the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance’s Fix North I-25 Business Alliance, in partnership with CDOT. It was paid for using a “patchwork” of funding, including a federal grant, state dollars and $55 million from local governments.
As mentioned above, the new north and south lanes will be express or toll lanes. The purpose of the express lanes, according to CDOT, is to ensure trip reliability. Region 4 Executive Director Johnny Olson says drivers who pay to use the express lanes will reduce congestion on the highway for those who chose to drive in the two existing general-purpose lanes. In addition, the toll dollars raised will be used for further expansion and enhancements.
Governor Sets Priorities: In his last State of the State speech term-limited Governor John Hickenlooper urged the legislature to work together and “giddy up” during the 2018 session. He argued the legislature should invest in the economic success of rural Colorado, increase education funding and put additional money towards transportation, broadband and water storage and delivery. However, the Governor didn’t specify how the legislature should pay for these projects, and the response from legislators depended on their party affiliation. Democrats gave the Governor multiple standing ovations while Republicans were less enthusiastic about the speech.
Legislators Split on Big Issues: It comes as no surprise that legislators do not agree on priorities for the 2018 session or how to pay for them. The Republicans came out swinging, introducing a transportation funding bill as Senate Bill 1 “Fix Colorado Roads Act,” as their highest priority for the session. The bill would use bonds to create $3.5 billion in funding for CDOT’s top list of transportation priorities, designating 10 percent for transit projects.
The Republicans argue the State should use more of the 2018 $1 billion surplus revenue for transportation. The Governor has suggested using $148 million while the GOP says that number should at least be doubled.
A letter signed by a coalition of business groups supported the Republicans’ argument. As David May, president and CEO of the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce and Chair of the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance said, “Transportation corridors are essential to sustained economic prosperity and the ability to attract new employers and retain existing industries. Another year of legislative inaction on transportation would not be helpful to Colorado’s economy.” (Interestingly, the Denver Metro Chamber, did not sign the coalition letter. The DMC is expected to put its own transportation funding measure on the ballot for November, although the details have not been made public.)
Democratic legislators want to spend more of the surplus for education and other socially-focused programs. They support new revenue sources for transportation, similar to the state sales tax measure that failed last year (House Bill 1242).
Another topic that is bound to be contentious is oil and gas. In the wake of the tragic Firestone accident last spring, Democrats are introducing bills designed to increase oil and gas setbacks. Senator Matt Jones (Boulder County) is sponsoring a bill that would give local governments, rather than the State, the ability to control oil and gas within their jurisdiction. Republicans will oppose those bills and use their slim one vote majority in the Senate to kill them if they can.
Housing, as always, will be the focus of numerous bills. CAR’s Vice President for Public Policy, Liz Peetz, hasn’t read the text for most of the bills she knows will be coming. On the opening day of the session, January 10, she told a group of Realtors® what she expects to see coming down the pike.
In particular, she said we should expect to see several different bills intended to fund affordable housing via document fee increases, legislation related to manufactured housing as well as a bill that would limit the homestead property tax exemption to seniors with income of less than $100,000. Peetz also noted that trial attorneys are pressing for a bill challenging the use of arbitration related to construction defect lawsuits and possibly a bill related to insurance reform related to this topic.
Ballot Measures on Horizon: Since 2018 is an important election year, advocates for a variety of causes are already working to get their questions on the ballot. K-12 education supporters are experimenting with eight different ballot titles. While each proposal varies slightly, each would create a new graduated income tax on individuals making more than $150,000. Some proposals would also create a new corporate tax, while others would make modifications to how personal and commercial property is taxed for schools. Some do all three. Observers also expect to see ballot initiatives related to gas and oil setbacks and transportation.
For the Colorado Association of Realtors® the most worrisome is a proposed statutory measure that would allow voters along the Front Range to limit growth to one percent in home rule cities or counties. Since it is statutory, the question would have to be approved by the legislature prior to being placed on the November ballot.
Implications of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: The Republican bill designed to reform federal income tax regulations, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” passed right before Christmas but it took NAR a while to review the page bill and analyze the implications for real estate and Realtors®. Recently NAR released a policy paper that provides answers and examples. To read the paper, visit this link: http://bit.ly/2qpRWz9
NAR Comments on Appraiser Qualifications: On January 12, 2018, NAR submitted a comment letter to the Appraiser Qualifications Board (AQB) in response to the Fourth Exposure Draft concerning proposed changes to the AQB’s Real Property Appraiser Qualification Criteria. NAR agreed with the AQB’s removal of the degree requirement for Licensed Residential appraisers, the basic appraiser qualification, and to instead require completion of 150 AQB Core Curriculum credit hours. NAR also agreed with the AQB’s increased flexibility for successful completion of the education requirements for Certified Residential appraisers.
NAR is concerned with the AQB proposal to reduce the experience hours for appraiser classifications and the impact that could have on the quality of incoming appraisers. In addition, NAR asked the AQB to allow for prior work experience to count towards the education requirements.