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Longmont City Council Wrestles with Whether to Back Asking Boulder County Voters for Tax to Support Affordable Housing

April 3, 2019 GMT

Longmont City Council members had not reached even an informal consensus by 10:30 p.m. Tuesday about whether they would support the idea of a countywide ballot question asking voters for a tax hike to help fund local affordable housing programs.

Still up in the air, as the meeting continued, were possible positions on what kind of tax, if any, Boulder County voters should be asked to approve, and whether that should be a sales or property tax.

Also unclear was whether Longmont’s council, even if it does wind up backing a tax increase, would prefer the county put it on this year’s ballot or wait until 2020.

This is not something necessarily being pushed by the city of Longmont, said Assistant City Manager Shawn Lewis.

Kathy Fedler, Longmont’s housing and community investment manager, who also is on the steering committee of the Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership, presented a review of the options that partnership also intends to run by Boulder County’s other cities and towns later this month.

Councilwoman Bonnie Finley said she was opposed to both a sales or property tax proposal. She said she thought in Longmont, “we’re making pretty good progress” toward increasing the city’s affordable housing stock.

The council has adopted a number of policies, including a recent mandate that generally requires that new residential developments have a percentage of their units fit into “affordable” categories, and Finley said she’d like to see data about the impact of those policies.

Councilwoman Polly Christensen, however, said an affordable-housing funding effort needs to involve all of the county’s municipalities and county government.

What’s productive, Christensen said, would be to have “a collaborative impact. If we band together we can make some progress.”

Councilman Tim Waters said he would like to see information what other communities in the county are doing to increase affordable housing availability, and what housing those local governments’ policies have been generating.

As for when such a countywide affordable-housing tax question might wind up on the ballot, Waters said he would not want it to reduce the chances of any municipal measures council decides to put on its city ballot.

Earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, two people speaking during public comment argued against a countywide tax for affordable housing programs and urged the council not to support advancing such a measure to the ballot.

Architect and developer Lance Cayko, whose F9 Productions Inc. is building eight condominiums on a site at 825 Crisman Drive — a project he said would provide workforce housing to people in such Longmont jobs as teaching, policing and firefighting — said he and other developers don’t need a tax to subsidize affordable housing projects.

Instead, more flexibility is needed in local building, zoning and development codes, including Longmont’s parking requirements, said Cayko, a Strawberry Circle resident.

“Read the market. Read the people,” Cayko told council members.

Said Lance Touve, a Steele Street resident, “I don’t think it’s the government’s job to supply affordable housing.”

Touve said one of the things leading to the inability to develop affordable housing in Boulder County is a shortage of available land because of the amount of federally and locally owned properties — including city and county open space — where any residential development is forbidden.

Touve said he hoped the Longmont council would say “no to any more taxes.”

John Fryar: 303-684-5211, jfryar@times-call.com or twitter.com/jfryartc