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The Advocate | March 2, 2021

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March 2, 2021

Welcome to the new look of the Advocate.

In my role as Director of Government Affairs, I will sending out this monthly update on the major issues impacting our members and industry in the 34 cities and 8 counties across the metro Denver area. This monthly email will also include updates from other HBAs, regulatory agencies and partner organizations, as well as highlights from our key committees, including Permitting, Jobsite Safety, Regulated Utilities, Stormwater Management and Government Affairs.

If you have any questions about the issues below or anything else happening at the local level, please contact me at mcullen@hbadenver.com or 303-551-6730.

~ Morgan Cullen, Director of Government Affairs

OSHA Survey

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and CPWR-The Center for Construction Research (CPWR) would like construction companies to complete its Fall Experience Survey. The survey aims to fill gaps in information available on common underlying causes of falls from heights. Survey results will be used to guide the development of new CPWR and NIOSH NORA Construction Section Council materials in support of its fall prevention campaign. The survey will close in April.

City of Thornton
Over the past month, the Metro Denver HBA has been meeting with staff for the City of Thornton to discuss several proposals being considered that will undoubtedly impact residential development within the municipality. The most pressing issues facing builders in Thornton is the status of the water pipeline, proposed changes to the City’s Model Service Plan governing metro districts and a staff recommendation to increase the water-resource connection fee for new development.

Water Project
While the city has begun construction on the 70-mile pipeline in the towns of Windsor and Johnstown, it has experienced delays in Weld and Larimer counties for different reasons. In Weld County, the Board of County Commissioners has reassessed the preferred location of the pipeline after debating whether it should run across private property or along the public right-of-way. To begin construction in unincorporated Weld County, the county requires a Use by Special Review (USR) Permit. A hearing is scheduled on May 5 to secure this permit and the City feels good about the necessary acquisition of easements to present to the County Commissioners.

Last year in Larimer County, the Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to deny Thornton a permit to construct the 26-mile stretch of pipeline after Thornton proposed two different site locations for the project along Douglas Road or County Road 56. The county would prefer the water be transported naturally through the Poudre River. In response, Thornton filed a lawsuit last spring to seek a final resolution to the dispute. Just last week, Eighth Judicial District Judge Stephen Jouard upheld the Larimer County Board of Commissioners' denial of a permit for the Thornton pipeline project, which means the protracted legal dispute between the local governments will continue for the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, the city will continue pipeline construction in Timnath throughout 2021 and is exploring interim solutions to deal with water supply challenges that are holding up development. The city still believes the project is on track to be completed by 2025

Metro Districts 
City staff is working on several proposed changes to metro districts and last month updated its staff recommendations based on the comments it has received. In January, the HBA submitted our concerns regarding a number of proposals surrounding mill-levy caps, fee limits, governing boards and disclosure requirements. While the HBA was encouraged by a few of the updates the city has made in the areas of disclosure and financing, we still have some continued concerns regarding the proposed mill-levy caps and fees. The HBA will be analyzing the changes and submitting follow up recommendations shortly.

Water Tap Fees
The HBA also submitted a letter to Thornton City Council outlining its opposition and concerns about the city’s proposed water-connection fee increases for new residential development. The proposed connection fees would go into effect early next year and increase the fees from $24,000 to more than $40,000 – a 62 percent increase. In the letter, we highlighted our concerns regarding housing affordability and the lack of stakeholder engagement. The HBA also offered alternative proposals  such as a graduated-fee structure and providing incentives for water efficiency. We also offered a number of alternatives that we think could help the City recoup its infrastructure investments without imposing punitive costs upon aspiring homeowners. It appears our concerns have been recognized by a number of City Council members who have asked municipal staff to work with the building community on a sustainable solution. This will continue to remain and ongoing issue for the Association and we will continue to need the proactive assistance of our membership.

City of Aurora 

O&G Reverse Setbacks 

On February 1, Aurora City Council was presented with proposed changes to regulations governing oil and gas within City limits. The proposal would repeal certain sections of the City’s Uniform Development Code and replace it with a comprehensive manual regulating oil and gas in the Aurora City Code. It does not, however, implement any new regulations on residential development like reverse setback requirements. These changes will be included in the City’s Building Code and are not expected immediately. HBA will continue to monitor the situation and keep our membership apprised of any changes.

City of Commerce City

O&G Reverse Setbacks

In February, Commerce City Council gave a first reading approval to implement a 1,000-foot reverse setback for residential development. This came after a lengthy debate where City Council seemed open at first to a compromise to reduce the setback requirements. The reverse setback ordinance is part of a large set of reforms that City Council is considering after the passage of Senate Bill 19-181. SB181 provides more control to local authorities to regulate oil and gas operations within their political subdivisions. Council members Meghan Grimes and Craig Hurst were both working to reduce the reverse setback requirement, and Jose Guardiola signaled he was open to compromise. Ultimately, Council voted 7-2 in favor of the reverse setback. The new regulations will be up for a final passage in March. If approved, the reverse setback will create challenges for residential builders in the area who already platted properties and have vested properties rights that could be compromised. The HBA submitted numerous letters and reached out to council members, voicing our concerns over the proposed reverse setbacks and that they would likely conflict with the vested property rights for builders in the area.

Town of Erie

2021 Workplan Released

In February, the Town of Erie submitted its proposed 2021 workplan to the Board of Trustees for their approval, and there are several important issue areas that the HBA will want to pay attention to and weigh in on, including metro district reform, O&G Reverse Setbacks, an inclusionary zoning ordinance, and potential building and land-use fee increases. The HBA will be busy monitoring the agendas for the Erie Board of Trustees this year and holding ongoing meetings with municipal staff through our Joint Taskforce with the city.

City of Lakewood 

Metro District Reform 

The City of Lakewood is in the process or reforming its model service plan governing metro districts and is considering a permanent moratorium on the use of metro districts in the city going forward. City Council is scheduled to take these proposals up this month. Given the precarious precedent this would set in Metro Denver, the HBA will continue to engage with council and city staff on the future challenges this would present to financing residential development in the future.

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All of the Metro Denver HBA’s Regulatory and Technical Committees are meeting regularly – Join today and make your voice heard!

As a volunteer-driven organization, the HBA's Jobsite Safety CommitteePermitting CommitteeRegulated Utilities Committee and Stormwater Management Committee help guide the HBA's events and activities throughout the year. Consider joining one — or more — if you want to build strong, long-lasting relationships and make a difference to your fellow HBA members, while sharpening your leadership skills. Please visit the HBA website for more information or reach out to Morgan Cullen if you are ready to participate.

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