Kelly SloanKelly SloanMarch 28, 20189min1318

A municipal election in Erie, CO would not generate much interest outside the town limits, were it not for the fact that everything that happens politically in Erie in the last couple of years seems to stir excitement. The reason, of course, it that the little municipality finds itself, by geographic accident, on the front lines of the battle within the state over economic growth.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoySeptember 11, 20173min778

The opening salvo in the court fray over a Lakewood ballot initiative aimed at curtailing city growth turned into a six-hour marathon hearing late last week.

The Lakewood Sentinel’s Clarke Reader detailed the second day of administrative hearings which dragged on over half a dozen hours on Thursday and took testimony from 44 “petitioners, circulators and notaries, about the process leading to getting enough signatures to put the initiative before city council or on the ballot in November.”

The court battle started after citizens group Lakewood Neighborhood Partnerships (LNP) canvassed the city, gathering petition signatures in support of a 1 percent annual limit on residential growth. The group’s proposal would also establish a permit system, requiring City Council approval for all projects of 40 units or more while lifting permit requirements for redevelopment of existing units in “blighted or distressed areas.”

The group submitted the required number of petition signatures to the city, and the City Council was set to consider pushing the initiative to the ballot but had to delay action due to a legal challenge.

That formal protest was from Lakewood resident and Vice Chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party Steve Dorman, contending the ballot initiative lacks an “adequate description.”

On Thursday, counsel for both sides — Dennis Polk for Dorman and former Secretary of State Scott Gessler for LNP board members — gave arguments centered on the validity of petition signatures, Reader reported. Polk argued that signatures were not submitted in accordance with city election law.

His point was that the bulk of the circulators’ affidavits were not signed and submitted under oath. Since the affidavits did not include language stating the circulators took an oath when they turned in the signatures, those petitions and signatures are not valid.

Countering that argument, Gessler argued that the act of signing was an affirmation of the validity of signatures, and that not making customers swear an official oath is common practice for notaries.


Jeff HuntJeff HuntSeptember 7, 20175min721
Centennial Institute Director Jeff Hunt
Jeff Hunt

Conservatives believe that the most influential government should be local governments – not bureaucrats thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C. If you’re going to make decisions that affect our lives, you better look us in the eye.

That’s why we take local government so seriously. Because when people are working hard to make their lives better, the difference between success and failure can be a local government’s decision to stand in the way, or get out of the way.

Unfortunately, local government can make bad decisions just like Washington, D.C. bureaucrats can. If conservatives fail to challenge the culture of big government at the local level, these defeats in city halls and county courthouses will send a powerful message to lawmakers and bureaucrats in state legislatures and the nation’s capital. We must first look after our own backyards, even as we champion limited government at the federal and state level.

Therefore, I am opposing the anti-growth ballot measure in Lakewood this fall, and invite other conservatives to join the cause. This measure is bureaucratic in the extreme. It ignores basic economic principles, tramples property rights and promises to drive up taxes and living expenses for working families. It’s more than 4,800 words of red tape that authorizes even more red tape. It’s the opposite of limited government.

Dive into the details and you’ll find the measure caps residential growth at one percent per year. Why one percent? Why not a half percent, or one and a half percent or some other rate? Central planners and social engineers love setting arbitrary goals, but these made-up numbers should ring major alarm bells for everyone else.

Lakewood’s growth is the product of many different factors, including supply and demand for housing, employment opportunities in the region, and case-by-case permitting and zoning decisions by city officials. Imposing top-down, command-and-control limits on residential growth will throw the local economy out of balance, inviting all kinds of unintended consequences.

Consider transportation, for example: If people with jobs in Lakewood can’t afford to live here, how much worse will traffic get when they start commuting longer distances?

Then there’s the matter of enforcement. The one-percent growth cap would be policed with a complex new system of building rights – or “allocations.” Without an allocation, it doesn’t matter if a property owner has a project meeting all the relevant zoning and permitting requirements. Their project, and their right to invest in their own property, will be denied.

In the end, of course, only the biggest property owners and developers can afford the lobbyists and lawyers needed to secure their allocations. Smaller businesses and property owners will be mostly shut out, forced to sell or partner with a handful of large and politically connected players in the real estate market.

This kind of cronyism is inevitable when governments try to ration goods and services. It always results in higher costs for the average consumer. The anti-growth ballot measure in Lakewood is no different.

By artificially restricting residential development, and limiting competition only to firms that can navigate the new allocation system, the ballot measure guarantees supply won’t keep pace with demand. This pressure will drive up property taxes, rents and mortgages to levels that many Lakewood families cannot afford.

As conservatives, we have a responsibility to defeat this ballot measure. But I also see an opportunity to show how the principles of limited government can help working families, seniors and other residents in Lakewood who may be forced out if the ballot measure passes.

Finally, we should recognize this ballot measure for what it really is: A throwback to the discredited “limits to growth” philosophy of the 1970s. That philosophy lives on today in elitist liberal enclaves like San Francisco and Boulder, but it’s wrong for the country. It certainly has no place in Lakewood.

Please, join the fight against the forces of big government in our own backyard and defeat the anti-growth ballot measure in Lakewood.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirAugust 28, 201711min417

Legislative efforts to reform the state’s laws on construction liability — “construction defects” was the buzz phrase — became one of the dominant themes of the 2017 session at the State Capitol. The seemingly obscure issue also became the focus of intense media coverage. After all, the end game mattered a lot to ordinary Coloradans: to build more homes that first-time buyers and others of modest means actually could afford in the state’s superheated housing market.

What didn’t get a lot of coverage was one of the key players who helped forge the resulting legislation: the point man for the state’s homebuilding industry. That would be Scott Smith, the subject of today’s Q&A. He has been the CEO of the Colorado Association of Homebuilders for the past three years and is a veteran homebuilder himself with over 30 years of experience managing master-planned community development in Colorado Springs. He was the 1995 president of the state association and has served on its Governmental Affairs Committee for several years. So, he knows his way around the legislative world. A Colorado native and a certified public accountant by training, Smith also served as a director of the National Association of Home Builders.

Colorado Politics: Prior to your tenure, there were some challenges at the CAHB, causing some to form another group. What key changes and decisions helped stabilize the association and keep it as the leading voice for the state’s homebuilders?

Scott Smith: The stabilization of CAHB came primarily from solid leadership from the association’s officers.  Strong engagement and support from all ten of the local association executive officers (particularly Colorado Springs and Metro Denver), a very supportive and active board of directors and the engagement of two prominent lobbyists were all key.  We also had strong support from the individual boards and board members of the local associations from across the state.

CP: Has the organization maintained its base and mission, and how does it look moving forward?

SS: Our mission is taking the lead as the voice of the nearly 2,000-member strong Colorado Association of Home Builders and the housing industry at the state capitol.  The Association’s structure is rooted in representation from all ten local associations, including the Metro Denver, Colorado Springs, Northern Colorado and Pueblo HBAs on the Front Range; and the Grand Junction, Durango, Summit County, Grand County, Glenwood Springs and Cortez chapters on the Western Slope. CAHB has not shirked its responsibilities and has actively engaged in legislative policy review and participation through the activities of its Governmental Affairs Committee and the association’s influential lobbying team.  There is no shortage of issues ahead, and the Association is positioned and equipped to tackle them.  The future CEO will have a solid, functional and supported organization to lead.

CP: We’ve heard you are taking on a new challenge in the private sector and will be leaving CAHB’s executive staff and joining the board. What’s ahead for you?

SS: I will be joining ProTerra Properties LLC, a real estate development, investment and management company based in Monument, with interests across the Front Range.  I have been very engaged in the housing industry for the better part of my career in the development of master planned communities in Colorado Springs, but also in leadership at the Colorado Springs HBA, CAHB and at the national level with NAHB.  I intend to remain engaged as a CAHB board member and a member of the Governmental Affairs Committee into the future, continuing to lend my knowledge and expertise on key issues and policy development.

CP: CAHB was a major part of the coalition working on construction-defects legislation. What are your thoughts about the process, recent legislation and what it all means for creating more entry-level housing in Colorado?

SS: CAHB has been a member of the Homeownership Opportunity Alliance for the past few years, working cooperatively with other associations and groups, legislative leadership and legislators, and local governments to identify solutions to this vexing problem.  The result of past legislation, the evolving litigation environment and investment decision-making all led to a point that condo developers and investors simply avoided developing new projects due to the risk factors.  Positive steps occurred in 2017 with the passage of House Bill 1279 and more significantly the Colorado Supreme Court decision on the Vallagio case.  Hopefully, these two developments will change risk calculations enough to encourage condo development, particularly at the workforce housing level of the overall housing spectrum.  I remain hopeful that these efforts will be successful.

CP: What do you see as the biggest policy or political challenge ahead for the state’s homebuilding industry?

SS: In short, maintaining an environment where the industry can meet the expanding housing demand that is a result of very solid economic growth.  The housing industry plays a key role in the economy by increasing the supply of housing to meet this demand.  There is not a single challenge ahead, but an array of significant challenges, not the least is complete misunderstanding of homebuilding and the role it plays in the economy.  Housing costs have skyrocketed in the past few years as a result of a number of factors including: an ever-expanding set of fees and taxes; regulatory compliance that adds up to 25% or more of the end home cost; increased litigation risks; labor shortages and costs; land availability and costs; building code improvements and the associated costs; and construction-finance challenges.  There are also several issues on the national stage that have not helped, including the recent lumber tariffs that have added more than $3,500 in added costs to an average new home.  The typical legislative response is to simply add more costs, fees and rules, and regulations to the process—then decry the affordable-housing problem.  The Association will participate in the process to find solutions to these problems and to educate decision-makers on the impacts.

CP: Just as Colorado keeps growing, efforts to halt the growth through legislation and the ballot box never seem to be far behind. Most recently, a longtime growth-control advocate filed a statewide ballot proposal calling for a growth cap, and similar measures are afoot in Lakewood. How has the homebuilding industry’s strategy evolved in responding to such challenges? What message will you convey to the public to counter calls for growth control?

SS: Price controls, rationing and limitations are government responses to exasperating problems, ignoring the power and creativity of the private sector.  I can’t think of an instance in which artificial limitations have worked or made things better; they are rife with unintended consequences.  I mostly think about shortages, cost increases and delays that will lead to bigger problems like economic stagnation, dislocation, homelessness and other housing maladies.  I understand the frustration with increased traffic, but we are adding per capita miles traveled at a faster pace than population growth.  Colorado has simply not kept pace with transportation needs for a very long time, and the problem is now acute.  Population growth is also a hot topic, but don’t forget that nearly 70,000 babies were born in Colorado last year.  Back in 2000, 64,000 kids were born in Colorado and are now high school seniors.  Approval of limits or moratoriums is telling our own kids that you are not welcome here, move away to earn your living unless you have a very lucrative career. Is that what we want?

CP: You were a prominent homebuilder and land developer yourself for many years in the Pikes Peak region. What would your advice be to someone starting out in the industry today?

SS: Housing is a very important aspect of both the economy and the unique American culture and fabric.  In and around “home” is where the important events in our lives occur.  Solving the challenges around creating homes for people and families on all points along the housing spectrum has become much more complex.  Maintaining quality, value and a sense of place are all very important aspects, but delivering a new home to people no matter what walks of life they are in is a very worthy and satisfying endeavor.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirAugust 28, 20175min240 has reported before on a couple of ballot proposals to curb growth in Lakewood, the old, inner-ring Denver burb that has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years.

The pending Lakewood Strategic Growth Initiative would among other things place a 1 percent annual growth limit on new residential construction. Meanwhile, a proposal by a Lakewood City Council member to ask voters in November to place a moratorium on new building permits has stalled after failing last month to get support from a council majority.

Critics of both efforts say they would undermine the city’s ongoing economic revitalization. Opponents of the ballot proposals include Mayor Adam Paul and most council members.

Such push-back from the status quo is duly noted by the authors of an anonymous blog covering Lakewood politics., which is sympathetic to the growth-control measures, offers some insights into the face-off defining local politics — pitting what the blog refers to as the “establishment” against “reformers.” Under the headline “Establishment Loss in 2017?” the blog sketches out potential scenarios in the November municipal election’s council races:

Five Council seats are up for election in November.  Two seats are open since the incumbents Scott Koop (W2) and David Wiechman (W4) are term-limited.  In Ward 3 Shakti is stepping down to run for the state house thus creating an open seat.   In the other two wards, incumbents will be running for a second term – Ramey Johnson (W1) and Karen Harrison (W5).

Of the five seats contested, two are currently held by reformers – Johnson and Wiechman.  If these two seats are held by independent candidates then the balance remains at 6-5 in favor of the establishment.  If the independents pick up one of the other three seats currently held by the establishment (Koop, Shakti and Harrison) then the balance of power could swing to a 5-6 vote in favor of the independents.

LakewoodPols also blogged last week on what it contends are “strange bedfellows” in the dust-up over growth — an alliance between left and right:

Reformer Ramey Johnson, supported by the Council independents, proposed a six-month moratorium on new building permits for large multi-family residential projects.  The liberals led by Max Tyler, supported by Tom Quinn, Gary Harty, et. al. opposed any slow down in the City’s current high-density growth program claiming even a temporary time-out might decrease the supply of new low-cost housing.

This time, the extreme left was joined by the extreme right, led by the out-of-state Koch Brothers lobbying group (Americans for Prosperity).  The right claimed slowing down growth could affect the property rights of the developers.  This strange alliance is the latest example of the extremes of politics (left and right) having a shared interest in keeping the political environment in constant turmoil.  This is not the first time the extremes have joined together to oppose the moderate middle ground’s efforts to fashion reasonable solutions that actually work.

An interesting take that certainly challenges conventional thinking: Moderates back growth control; growth is supported by the extremsts.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJuly 17, 20176min752

Americans for Prosperity-Colorado — part of the pro-free market, Koch brothers-funded national political behemoth — typically has bigger fish to fry. Like challenging renewable-energy mandates or advancing school choice.

The state AFP chapter’s latest initiative, however, involves a matter of hyper-local importance in west metro Denver’s Lakewood. At a study session scheduled for tonight, the City Council will have a look at a sixth-month moratorium on new multi-family housing developments in the city. Apartments, condos, townhouses — construction of any and all would be frozen under the proposal by council veteran and onetime Republican state Rep. Ramey Johnson. The growth-embracing AFP thinks that’s a bad idea.

In a press statement last week, AFP-Colorado State Director Jesse Mallory called the proposal “government intrusion in the free market system” and elaborated:

“City council is not elected to abuse their power by stopping what the market demands in terms of housing. When the long arm of government reaches in to hinder this process, it artificially forces the cost of rents to go up. This cost of living increase will hurt the citizens of Lakewood. As for developers, they have no incentive to spend their money and overbuild, which would lead to a poor return on their investment. We say, let the demand of the market take its proper course.”

AFP promises “social media advertising and grassroots efforts” in its fight against the proposal.

Johnson’s campaign website (she’s seeking re-election) devotes a page to her proposed moratorium:

High density and high profile building is bringing traffic congestion to the point of near de-fault on our streets, increased crime and negatively impacting our schools. Obviously these things were NOT intended.

Since 2014 City Council has been lobbied by YOU the people regarding the way Lakewood is developing and growing and we must act. Frankly, we can not wait any longer. We will not have a second chance to get our growth right. A moratorium is NOT looking at any price point of building, but rather ALL high density.

This is not a “zero sum game” where it is us vs them or who is a winner vs loser.

The GOAL is to keep Lakewood a desirable place for those who already live here and those who will join us.

The moratorium as proposed, according to Johnson’s website:

  • Allows time for City Council to “listen” to what the people are telling us about the kind of city they envision and what we are actually creating without the pressure of on-going development.
  • A way to give City Council a short “pause” or “time out” to spend on language in the zoning ordinance dealing with density. …

…among other touted benefits.

The blog refers to Johnson and fellow council member David Wiechman as “reformers” at odds with what it calls the council’s “establishment” majority, led by Mayor Adam Paul. In a June 10 post, the anonymous blog — which seems to be no fan of development — casts the mayor and majority as pro-growthers and points to an even more far-reaching effort afoot in the community to rein in growth:

Since the current City Council, under Adam Paul, is unable (or unwilling) to control or limit the rash of new residential development (mostly apartments), a citizens group has proposed a Strategic Growth Initiative to place an issue on November’s ballot that would impose a 1% per year growth limit on residential construction.

The post references for more information on the pending initiative.