Opinion: Kevin Gallagher– Letter to City Council about Financing Districts

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“Dear Longmont City Council, 

As residents of Rogers road who will be impacted by the Mountain Brook development,  (400 new homes on a Rural street, under a airport approach, in a high water table flood plain with only 30 existing rural homes), we remain concerned that our questions and concerns over impacts have yet to be addressed as required by the Code. As you reconsider extending special metro financing districts for residential developers, please know that it was the Mountain Brook developers who requested the law change and received it.  Please consider why they could not get financing for this highly profitable project from a bank? Council members stated the goal was to help fast track and increase affordable housing but Mountain Brook is not including any affordable housing in the 300-400 condo units, instead they are doing a pay-in-lieu which they admitted to the Planning Commission.  Their homeless veterans small homes is a separate development from the condos. .. admirable, but not affordable workforce housing. Ask yourselves why Longmont is accommodating anything a developer wants, yet citizens stakeholders and neighbors in this process have been ignored, insulted, and dismissed. Last year, the planning commission and council approved the preliminary plat of Mountain Brook despite over a dozen required elements missing, effectively giving the residents of Rogers Road no information to even understand the impacts.  We won an appeal of that decision, yet the Mayor reconsidered that vote and undid our appeal, effectively removing our voice in the process.  And, since Council has a newly found concern about ethics, please ask Members Waters and Martin to recuse themselves from any action on Mountain Brook, as they admitted to meeting the developer on the day we filed our appeals of the preliminary plat. Perhaps the district atty could also look into this. Transparency is not just a slogan.

Thank you,
Kevin Gallagher/Jim Enright
Longmont, CO

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  1. There are several errors of fact in this piece. The change in the City Code to allow Residential Metro Districts was part of a package of recommendations by the Longmont Economic Development Partnership, which were intended to balance the cash flow in financing development and construction of affordable units in order to ensure that the “ladder” of housing types at different levels of attainability that Longmont needs were financed and built. The package – affordable housing plus incentives – is so far quite successful.

    Whether Mountain Brook could have been fully financed by conventional means, and how profitable it will ultimately be, are matters of speculation, not fact. It’s somewhat disingenuous to imply otherwise. As is disclosed in the Mountain Brook Service Plan, the actual effect of Metro District financing (which is only about 1/3 of the total debt burden of the development) is to LOWER THE PROJECTED PRICES of the market-rate homes in the district so that more “workforce” homebuyers can qualify to buy them.

    Payments in Lieu are one of the statutory options Longmont’s Affordable Housing Ordinance offers. The intent of such payments is that the resulting city revenue can be used to fund the construction of public housing, or used as rental support to keep housing-burdened resident from becoming homeless. Neither form of meeting the obligations of the AHO is preferred over the other.

    Messrs. Gallagher and Enright have already appealed the decision of the Planning and Zoning board and had the benefit of quasi-judicial review by the City Council. They did not ultimately win their appeal. When Dr. Waters and I did not recuse ourselves from that judicial review because we met with a member of the Mountain Brook LLC team before their appeal was made public, and before it was known either to us or to Mr. Mulshine, they filed a CORA request on both myself and Dr. Waters. Both of us immediately offered up our phones and personal email accounts to the City Clerk’s office for inspection – just as both of us reported that meeting to the City Attorney’s Office as soon as we learned of the appeal. The CAO did not advise us to recuse ourselves from the review.

    The CORA search did not, of course, did not uncover any inappropriate communications by either Council Member regarding the Mountain Brook project. City emails revealed that the stated purpose of the meeting was to solicit Mr. Mulshine’s advice on the Sustainability Evaluation System. The full requirements of transparency were satisfied. I would be fascinated to understand what possible complaint these appellants might make to the District Attorney under these circumstances – what statute at any level they feel may have been violated.

    Finally, there’s a misuse of the terms “affordable” and “workforce” as they apply to housing stock. The 26 tiny homes of the Veterans Village are transitional housing. The eight Habitat homes which are part of the Mountain Brook development but not the taxation district, are permanently affordable – which means that persons earning 60% or less of the Area Median Income can buy them. Workforce housing is not subsidized. Nearly all the condos and townhomes in Mountain Brook are projected to be attainable to members of the workforce. It’s worth noting that the Mountain Brook developers redesigned the Mountain Brook subdivision to match the city’s vision for addressing our housing crisis (as well as other parts of Envision Longmont, such as multimodal transportation) between the concept they presented when applying for annexation into the City, and the plat attached to the Mountain Brook Service Plan.

    In addressing Longmont’s housing crisis and meeting the needs of our disadvantaged, our young, and our working population, we are all in this together. Everyone must adapt a little – even when the changes Longmont undergoes happen on our street or in our own back yard.

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