Valley’s senators help kill housing bill | AspenTimes.com

Valley’s senators help kill housing bill

DENVER – The two state senators who represent the Roaring Fork Valley helped kill a bill Monday that would have made it more difficult to build affordable housing in Colorado.

Sen. Lewis Entz and Sen. Jack Taylor were two of only three Republicans who voted against Senate Bill 254. The bill was defeated 20-15. All 17 Democrats opposed it.

Entz, from the tiny town of Hooper in the San Luis Valley, represents Pitkin County. Taylor, who is from Steamboat Springs, represents portions of Eagle County and Garfield County.

Both senators said they heard a lot of opposition to the bill from their constituents and from people outside their districts. Entz said he was heavily lobbied by the governments of Pitkin County, the town of Crested Butte and the town of Telluride. He said his vote against the bill was a reflection of the desires of county commissioners and city council members.

“I’ve always represented people regardless of their affiliation,” he said.

Taylor said he has personally been involved in getting affordable housing built in Steamboat, where he has lived since 1969. He believes the bill would have been detrimental to much-needed affordable housing efforts in resort towns that he represents.

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Taylor noted that he strongly favors personal property rights so if he sees “abuses” in affordable housing programs, he would switch his vote in the future.

Dead for session

The defeat of the bill in a vote Monday afternoon probably means it will disappear for the rest of the session, according to Sam Mamet, associate director of the Colorado Municipal League, an association representing the interests of most cities and towns in the state.

Mamet was credited by Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland for organizing opposition against Senate Bill 154. An organization called Colorado Counties Inc. also fought the bill.

Mamet, who has lobbied for 24 years, said his strategy was to “shore up Democrats” and find a few Republicans to vote against it. Republicans hold a 18-to-17 edge in the Senate.

Mamet said Entz is a strong advocate for local government control because he was a former county commissioner. That helped earn his opposition. Entz and Taylor were joined in opposition by Senate Majority Leader Norma Anderson of Lakewood. Mamet said she explained to him that she supports affordable housing programs in her community, so she felt she couldn’t support the statewide bill.

Home builders supported bill

Senate Bill 154 was proposed by Sen. Mark Hillman of Burlington, a town on the eastern plains. The bill was heavily promoted by the Colorado Homebuilders Association.

Hillman disclosed earlier this year that Denver’s “inclusionary zoning” to require developers to sell 10 percent of all new housing units below market prices or contribute to an affordable housing fund prompted the bill. Hillman labeled it “extortionary zoning.”

While he was angry with Denver, Hillman’s effort would have hurt affordable housing programs in resort towns like Aspen, which use price caps to keep units affordable.

“It wasn’t just a Denver issue,” said Mamet. He said the statewide opposition was “overwhelming.” Mamet said 16 people spoke out in a hearing on the bill, including Ireland. He said other opponents he heard from included Aspen Councilman Tom McCabe and Basalt Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt.

Ireland’s involvement

Ireland went to the capitol on Monday to lobby Entz one last time to vote against the bill. Ireland said that if the bill had been approved, it could have released developers from prior commitments to build affordable housing and taken away a good negotiating tool in the land-use process. Developers in Aspen and Pitkin County will sometimes promise to build affordable housing in return for an increase in the number of free-market units they can build.

Ireland said there was also a chance the bill would have allowed some residents of affordable housing units to sell that housing without price restrictions. That would have benefited current owners but destroyed the affordable housing concept, he said.

Hillman’s bill was in jeopardy almost immediately, and a vote on the Senate floor was delayed numerous times before Monday. He told The Aspen Times last month that he was negotiating and amending to earn support.

For example, he amended it to say that price caps could be used by governments if developers “voluntarily” agreed. The tough issue was defining voluntary cooperation.

The attempts at compromise weren’t enough. Entz said he had doubted that the bill would ever come up for vote this session because it was apparent that Hillman didn’t have the votes.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]

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