Take a closer look at Longmont Ballot Question 3D
This is the official, complete language for Ballot Question 3D that will appear on Longmont’s ballot:
City of Longmont Ballot Question 3D
Charter Amendment to Allow for 30 Year Leases
Shall the City of Longmont Home Rule Charter be amended by revising Section 12.4 of the Charter to allow for leases of city property for up to 30 years?
What does this amendment do? The effects of Ballot Question 3D are very very narrow. The City of Longmont owns land and facilities that it can lease to other entities for various purposes. For example, the Fire House Art Center is City of Longmont property that is leased to a local non-profit. The Old Carnegie Library has been leased to the operator of Longmont’s public access TV station for the past 37 years, currently the non-profit organization Longmont Public Media. Leases are created for different terms and purposes. Often, it is beneficial to the city to offer a longer lease term to allow the non-profit to create infrastructure that serves their mission. Currently, the Longmont Charter limits the maximum length of leases to 20 years. This amendment changes that to 30 years.
Has anyone else done this? Longmont is literally the only municipality left on the front range with the 20 year limit, and risks being left behind in its ability to form long term partnerships with organizations that make life better for its residents. 30 years is considered a standard length for this type of agreement, and this 20 year limit which was in the original 1962 Longmont charter hamstrings the ability of the city to provide for its residents.
What DOESN’T this amendment do? This amendment:
- Does not make any changes to the existing limits for issuing bonds.
- Does not create or obligate the city to take on any debt.
- Has no impact on tax rates.
- Does not give ANYONE permission to use city facilities without a vote of City Council.
- Does not change any environmental, zoning or financial regulations.
Why is this on the ballot? This limit is in the City of Longmont charter, which requires approval of voters for any changes to the charter. This question was referred to the ballot by the Longmont City Council who also recommended a YES vote to residents and support the passage of the question.
What are the benefits for people who live in Longmont? Making this change to the Longmont charter provides a new mechanism to the city to create things which serve residents without having to spend any taxpayer money. It does this by making it affordable for local non-profits to provide those benefits to residents instead. A performing arts center is a perfect example of something which everyone in the city — local businesses, arts groups, schools, and residents — benefit from but that would require new taxes for the city to do itself.
But wouldn’t the city make more money by having shorter leases which renew more frequently? This would be true if there were ANY group in the city would which afford to lease land for 20 years. The only groups for which City Council would even consider approving these long term leases are local non-profits and civic groups. These aren’t groups with a lot of money, these are groups whose mission is to make Longmont a better place. As a result, they can’t afford a lease that only lasts 20 years because that’s not a long enough period for them to recoup the investment that they have to make to justify a long term lease.
This is not a giveaway to businesses. There is no mechanism in this ballot question to give any money to anyone for any reason. The only businesses that support this measure are local small businesses that benefit from visitors — restaurants, bars, distilleries, breweries and small retail establishments. That’s because they know that creating something like a performing arts center will draw visitors from other cities who will take in a show and then go out for a nice meal and do some shopping at local establishments that sell things you can’t get anywhere else. That’s how those sorts of attractions bring jobs and money to Longmont without bringing more people. The city government is highly responsive to residents and protective of the use of public lands. That’s why we have such great parks and open space. There isn’t ANYONE who wants to use city land to build cookie cutter shopping malls.
Making this change doesn’t make it easier to make other changes to the Longmont charter. This ballot question makes no changes to any of the methods to make any changes to the Longmont charter. And all of those methods require a vote of the public.
Chorale President Bob Balsman and Longmont Symphony Orchestra Music Director Elliot Moore took part in a panel discussion on Longmont Ballot Question 3D on Tim Waters’ podcast, The Backstory.
View the episode here:
The Longmont Chorale is a nonprofit Longmont choral group, an SATB choir which performs four subscription concerts in Longmont each season in addition to other performances by our auditioned group, Viva Voce.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Longmont Chorale can endorse nonpartisan issues which are related to our cause and do not endorse a particular candidate for office.
Longmont Ballot Question 3D is related to our mission by making financing easier for a new performing arts center in Longmont, from which all of our organization and our community would greatly benefit. More affordable financing for the facility makes for more affordable venue fees for performances, which in turn means lower ticket prices for the audience.
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