Wednesday, March 26, 2008

City Council - What, Me Worry?

by Osman Parvez
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An email was posted on the City Council hotline providing staff's initial answers to Council Member Wilson's questions. Three items are of deep concern

---Questions of Deep Concern---(staff's responses are in italics. My responses are bracketed).

7. How would property values be impacted with an interim ordinance? I know this is difficult, but we should put some thought into it.
Although we will not be able to address the economic impacts of an interim ordinance, we will try and research other communities' experiences since many communities across the country have enacted ordinances that limit the size of homes in single family neighborhoods.[Staff admits they cannot (or will not) be able to predict the economic impacts of an emergency ordinance. They say they'll *try* to research other communities' experiences. Remember, many real estate markets experiencing the worst housing correction in 20-30+ years. What community and period of time will they use? How relevant will that data be? ]

8. Will the loan to value ratio be impacted such that there will be an increase in the number of foreclosures?
As we mentioned during Council's discussion on this issue March 18, this is not something that we can assess for an interim ordinance.[Again, they can't tell you the impact. Yet, City Council is ready to vote on an emergency measure? Let me help you see the forests for the trees. In recent years, a number of homes were purchased in Boulder with little or no equity down. If you negatively impact property value by limiting potential for expansion, you may erase what little equity these homeowners had in their property. Even without job losses (anybody worried about the recession?), a reduction in value may be enough for some owners to walk away.]
9. How will a change we make impact the business health of Boulder? I know that this is also a difficult question to answer, but we must consider it in some way before launching something that may harm the whole community financially. We will not be able to assess the economic impacts of an interim ordinance, though we will do our best to evaluate potential economic impacts as part of a permanent solution.[Starting to see a pattern? They can't tell you what the business impact will be for this emergency measure. The best you can hope for is perhaps a study ahead of the permanent ordinance. In the meantime, the country's in the midst of an unprecedented housing correction, the economy is heading for a potentially long and deep recession, and Boulder City Council is readying an emergency ordinance that could rob its residents of millions in lost property value without even a basic idea of its impacts to the well being of Boulder residents or business community. Are you worried yet?.]

The full email is below along with a link to download the FAR worksheet.

---Full Email----

In response to Council member Ken Wilson's hotline questions regarding pops and scrapes issues, staff has provided some preliminary responses in italics below. As Ken indicated in his email, many of these issues will be discussed with Planning Board on April 3 and staff will bring information to City Council along with the options for an interim ordinance on April 15.

1. Could we get a clear definition of how FAR is calculated today, with some examples. Attached is a worksheet for calculating FAR that is used by applicants for building permits in the RL-1 zone today. We will provide some photos and examples of FARs of actual houses when this item comes back to Council for an interim ordinance.

2. How should we count garages in the future?
Council may choose to exclude garages in the future. However, since garages contribute to the mass of building on a site, they are currently included in the calculation of FAR. However, carports and unenclosed porches are not included in the calculation of FAR.

3. How should we count basements in the future? How much of the basement can be above ground before counting in FAR or other measure (keeping in mind that a basement is a basement and is generally space that is not annoying to neighbors unless it seriously elevates the house.

The attached worksheet illustrates how basements are counted today; however, we understand that Council and Planning Board may wish to count basements differently for an interim ordinance. We will be discussing options with Planning Board April 3 and will provide a recommendation and options for Council consideration with the interim ordinance.
4. Should we have an allowance for a home office? Home offices help prevent commuting.
Since home offices contribute to a home's size, staff would not recommend exempting home offices from FAR limits.

5. How should we treat high ceilings and vaulted ceilings? Should there be a difference in a high or vaulted ceiling without an attic above and one that has an attic?
We will provide options for addressing this issue when we bring the interim ordinance forward for Council consideration April 15.

6. Can we examine a real appeal process if a decision is made to go ahead with an interim ordinance? My thought here is an appeal process to staff, with call up by Planning Board, that would allow anyone with a special condition, like an undersized lot, to appeal. For example (and this is just an example - I am not advocating anything) If an interim ordinance based on FAR was set at .5, projects with FAR between .5 and .8 could appeal. How could we give Planning Board and staff some leeway to allow good projects to proceed? My concern is with very small lots or odd sized lots or other special conditions. Walnut Hollow, for example, has small homes on very small lots and I understand the FAR is about .8. I don't think anyone would argue that this is not an excellent use of the land.
This will be addressed in an interim ordinance.
7. How would property values be impacted with an interim ordinance? I know this is difficult, but we should put some thought into it.
Although we will not be able to address the economic impacts of an interim ordinance, we will try and research other communities' experiences since many communities across the country have enacted ordinances that limit the size of homes in single family neighborhoods.

8. Will the loan to value ratio be impacted such that there will be an increase in the number of foreclosures?

As we mentioned during Council's discussion on this issue March 18, this is not something that we can assess for an interim ordinance.
9. How will a change we make impact the business health of Boulder? I know that this is also a difficult question to answer, but we must consider it in some way before launching something that may harm the whole community financially. We will not be able to assess the economic impacts of an interim ordinance, though we will do our best to evaluate potential economic impacts as part of a permanent solution.

10. Could we get some accurate FAR calculations for the homes of council members. There are three or four versions out in the public, all different. You can certainly have my permission to do mine.
We have attached the worksheet used to calculate FAR in the RL-1 zone today that council members may use to calculate their own FARs. The data that we rely on for the city-wide estimates are based on GIS data for lot square footage and County Assessor data for building square footage-- these are estimates only. An accurate FAR calculation requires an Improvement Location Certificate (ILC) for each property (to get accurate lot size) and an accurate calculation of the total above ground square footage of each house (usually done by the architect, contractor or home owner). Staff does not have this information that would be needed to calculate the FAR accurately.

11. We will need some good estimates of the number of projects that would be impacted per year for the various options Planning Board gives to Council.
Along with the interim ordinance, we will provide an estimate of how many projects might be affected. Estimates will based on historical data the number of homes that would have been affected if an ordinance had been in place. If you have any additional questions, please contact Susan Richstone (303-441-3271 or richstones@bouldercolorado.gov) or Ruth McHeyser (303-441-3292 or mcheyserr@bouldercoloroado.gov)

Download the FAR worksheet:
http://www.box.net/shared/bjcdm6cao4


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2 comments:

  1. How would this ordinance effect a new development like Dakota Ridge where they are building larger homes on small lots? Will they be able to complete the development?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I would think that most new development of any size is processed under PUD ad/or site review, and so the approvals for development in Dakota Ridge owuld stand (as separate "ordinances"). Any new development subject to PUD approval would not be subject to the interim measure. Right?

    ReplyDelete