In late March, Governor Polis introduced what is being called The Land Use Bill, which was then assigned the bill number of SB23-213. From a very high level, this bill looks to address housing needs across the state, specifically the need for workforce and affordable housing. The scope of this bill is broad and the reaction to it has been strong. Housing advocates obviously believe that leadership must come from the state level to push the needle on this issue as the action at the local level has been slow or nonexistent. Advocates of local rule strongly argue that this bill oversteps years of planning and zoning regulations that have always been handled at the local level. And then there is a strong contingent that simply does not want this in their neighborhood—often referred to as “NIMBY.” No matter which side of the fence you sit on, there are some technical aspects that I want to clearly point out as we have been receiving many phone calls to the Chamber office on this bill.
The first thing to note is a disclaimer… I write this article about three weeks before it publishes, so by the time this article is being read, the legislative session will have concluded. Since many conversations are being held at the State House on this bill, amendments are being added to it every week, sometimes daily, so I have no idea what this bill will look like in its final form.
The second item to note is that when initially introduced, this bill ONLY addressed municipalities. There was no language addressing unincorporated parts of the state, like Evergreen and Conifer. Through the amendment process that has already taken place, language has been added to allow for ADUs, Accessory Dwelling Units, to be allowed in unincorporated portions of the state. We shall see if that amendment remains part of the final language of any legislation that is passed. What is an ADU? Think of a separate building on your property that you might build to accommodate your aging parents. That is the most common description of an ADU, but obviously it could be used as a rental for anyone.
At the writing of this article, there is opposition to this bill in most any form by Colorado Municipal League, who have vowed to file a lawsuit if this legislation passes.
Cities and towns, especially in the tourist ski areas of our state, have been on the forefront of the issue of affordable housing as they have struggled to hire enough staff to operate the mountains during ski season. City leaders and officials in those communities are taking a multi-prong approach to create more affordable living options for those who work in the tourism industry, but nothing is a quick fix. Locally, business owners are looking to the mountain cities to our west, and many are interested in taking steps now to ensure that we have a local workforce to continue to staff our restaurants, doctors’ offices, volunteer firefighter association, shops, and recreation centers. These business owners are asking the questions of what can be done in the short term to create living situations that their employees can afford, and these business owners are meeting with representatives from Jefferson County to understand the barriers in place today. One of the barriers that is often discussed is that the “no” voice is often the loudest voice on every issue. If you are interested in being part of a group of people looking for solutions, reach out to me at email@example.com so that you can be part of the conversation.
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