Learn more about Sarah's perspective
1. Sierra Club
1. What are your major environmental achievements either as an elected/appointed official, or in a work or volunteer capacity?
As a council member, I supported and voted for Longmont’s ordinances on oil and gas development. I also supported defending the city in the lawsuits that challenged the charter amendment which banned fracking. I voted to begin the composting program. I supported Platt River Power Authority increasing the amount of renewables in the portfolio.
2. If elected, what are two achievable environmental goals that you would champion in the next two years?
I would work on moving the city toward the goals laid out in the Sustainability plan. This means looking at the budget and support staff FTE. Getting the supporting groups listed to become engaged with the plan is critical. I would lead on this effort by creating a Mayor’s Roundtable on Sustainability.
3. What do you see as the City’s best strategy for keeping fracking out of Longmont?
Land use regulations. The city could look at new approaches that have not been tried yet. I do not know specifically what those are. The city can seek out new partners, groups, cities to foster alliances. It is not just Longmont residents who are concerned about fracking. We need to be in touch with other cities and counties throughout the state. Also, the city still has to keep talking to the industry. This is the best way to know what the industry agenda is as far as policy and regulation at the state level.
4. What should Longmont do to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and lower its carbon footprint over the next decade?
First, we need to know what are current numbers are. (Sustainability plan) Then we need to find ways to encourage residents in the city and region to take action. The difficult part is changing the mind set of our auto and consumer driven lifestyle. The key is to foster a culture in our community where we are mindful of what we can do to reduce GHG . Elected officials, community leaders must not just talk about it. They should find a few steps they can do to make a difference.
5. Do you support the effort to move Platte River Power Authority to 100% renewable energy? If so, how? If not, why not?
Yes. The mayors of the four cities have 50% decision making on the board. I will quickly establish a working relationship with the other mayors. I have a reputation for working well from my time on the Colorado Municipal League board and expect I will easily establish a relationship with them again.
6. The Integrated Sustainability Plan for the City of Longmont is in place. What are your ideas for ensuring that the plan is successfully enacted?
The plan includes tracking the short, intermediate and long term goals. It has an annual report to council. One idea to ensure the plan is moving forward is to have staff track in the annual budget where the actions items are funded. When the contracts and memorandum of understanding with the many supporting partners are developed, staff needs to write in the items the plans calls out. Council and the public should be able to easily track the progress. I suggest developing a tracking system which is part of the city’s website.
7. What is your vision for enhancing public transportation in Longmont?
I support keeping the no cost local ride funding for buses within the city. Our largest gap in transportation is getting to the airport. Going through Boulder is not the answer. You cannot get to DIA in less than 2 hours. RTD needs to establish an airport bus that works Longmont and eastern Boulder County. I would form a working group with other cities and our and their visitor and convention associations to get this accomplished.
8. Do you have specific ideas for improvement of open space in and around Longmont?
The city should continue the agricultural leases and water leases where open space can support agriculture. I support funding and maintaining our open space. I don’t have any ground breaking ideas however, my leadership style is to be open to new ideas and educate myself on new ways of keeping the open space program working well.
9. Does Longmont need to make plans for water conservation? Please explain your views.
Longmont already has water conservation plans and programs. The city will be updating its water conservation plan, called for in the Integrated Sustainability plan. Can the city do more conservation? Yes it can. There are other tools such as the annual Drought plan which staff presents and discusses with council that helps council decide about water conservation policy.
10. What ideas do you have that could help protect Longmont’s pollinators and curtail the use of pesticides?
Once again, the Integrated Sustainability plan has outlined some first steps to addressing this issue. The city should lead an effort to minimize the use of pesticides. Working with HOAs and neighborhoods, the city could implement an education and grant program to get residents to think about pollinators before turning to pesticides. Recently, a neighbor told me that she is fighting her bindweed problem with a bug and not a bottle of herbicide. She discovered this method from the local Agricultural extension office. What else is out there as alternatives we can use? I would find out.
“My leadership style is to be open to new ideas and educate myself on new ways.”
— Sarah Levison
2. Metro Home Builders Association
1. Please tell us about yourself and why you are interested in running for office.
I am a 20 year resident of Longmont. I served 8 years on city council. I am running for Mayor because I want to serve the residents of Longmont again.
As the city grows closer and closer to build out, I want to help guide our path, collaborating with people and organizations that will help us be a great city.
2. What do you identify as the top two issues facing the City and how should they be addressed? (If there are other issues specific to your District/Ward, please include)
Housing and jobs are the top two issues. As in every other city on the front range, Longmont is in a housing crunch. Housing needs to be more diversified to respond to the unique market in every city. Longmont’s population is aging, however, there is not enough housing stock to attract seniors who are in larger single family homes to sell and move. City could encourage more diversity in construction methods. Prices can be lower when homes are built using a factory constructed panel system that cuts construction costs. I support the city incorporating new ideas from the industry to lower construction costs. As far as jobs, the city needs to support our economic partners and companies to attract and retain jobs across the pay scale.
3. What do you believe is the appropriate role of city government in guiding or managing growth?
As Longmont gets closer and closer to build out, the last available green field opportunities are few. City needs to help growth by streamlining the process for redevelopment. The city needs to educate and promote the best path to success for applicants. Everyone will have ideas about what they want to see on the open lot in their neighborhood, however, they don’t own the land. The property owners need to share their vision early with the city and adjacent property owners so everyone can collaborate to support the construction of a successful project that adds to the quality of our built environment.
4. What are your thoughts on Limited or No-Growth initiatives (at either the local and/or State level) on residential construction?
Longmont is one of the few ‘stand alone’ cities in the state. This means the city is limited by the green belt buffer it has to separate it from other cities. Longmont’s constraint means we have to be creative to keep growing. There will always be growth. I support growth.
5. There are a number of ways local codes, regulations and fees add to the cost of housing. In turn, there is economic and other benefits to the local community when development occurs. Catching up with the state’s high demand for housing will help with the supply/demand issue facing many areas. More and more families and individuals are seeking more attainably-priced homes. Given the increasing costs of development and need for more attainable housing, what role do you think local government should play in either curbing the costs of development or seeking ways to promote more attainable housing options?
To keep a city vibrant, it has to have opportunity for housing at many price points. As mentioned above, I believe that there are models and best practices that would achieve housing opportunities for both the $20 per hour worker and the $100 per hour worker. The city could support development built on the land trust model for example. The city can do frequent reviews of our development structure and fees to be sure that they reflect the cost of the services. City can look at changing density and height restrictions in certain areas of the city to maximize the number of units per acre.
6. As you may know, some cities have passed Inclusionary Zoning Ordinances or Impact Fees as ways to promote the construction of affordable units or collect revenue for affordable housing. Each of these measures undoubtedly increase the cost of development beyond current conditions. Please tell us your thoughts about the Inclusionary Zoning or Impact Fees for the purpose of affordable housing.
Although these fees are repugnant to the industry, in some cities they are helping to spur development at the lower price point for entry level homebuyers, and lower wage workers. There was a recent article about how the city of Philadelphia has restructured an IZ program with the support of the development community. I think there is not just one answer to an impact fee or IZ. As a decision maker you have to put all ideas on the table. On my 8 years on city council, I wanted to hear about all ideas and then decide on which actually work for our city.. The reason IZ or impact fees are considered is that it is a tried and known system. I want to explore what else can be done. Everyone understands how regulations and fees affect the price of housing. How to lower them is not a single policy or program.
7. What do you know about your City’s building and development permit process and do you have any ideas to improve or streamline it?
I am familiar with the building and development process from both a personal and professional perspective. We have done some extensive renovations and additions to our property so I have learned how the process works. While on the city council, I was liaison to the Planning and Zoning commission. I have voted for zoning and code changes that brought in form based building approval. The city’s development process is well run. The issue at present is the volume of applications means it is taking longer than usual. The city needs to have enough staff on hand to respond to the volume and complexity of the applications. One change I strongly support is the city doing a better job at communication. Time is money in the industry and for the city. Clear communication is the key to minimizing problems or eliminating them from every happening.
8. What role does residential development play in your vision for the future of your city?
Longmont needs to have more residential growth without sacrificing the opportunity for commercial and industrial uses. The city has a new comprehensive plan that guides the council and the community in a shared vision. I support the vision of the plan.
9. How familiar are you with the Construction Defect issue that plagues builders, contractors and municipalities as they seek the construction of more for-sale/attached/multi-family units?
With advancements of numerous local ordinances followed by other recent advancements at the legislature and the Supreme Court, what is your understanding of this issue as it stands today? Of the many bills that were considered in the 2017 session only one, HB1279 was signed by the governor. This bill has not yet addressed all of the issues with construction defects but it was a first step. Arbitration has not been fully addressed. While some municipalities have local ordinances, this is not the best solution. Having a patchwork of different local ordinances does not solve a state wide issue. Learning and complying with different regulations for each city I think would be cumbersome for builders who may have many projects in many cities. Having lived in the New York area, I am familiar with condo living. Buyers are looking for confidence that their investment is secure for the long term. Builders need to deliver a product at a profitable price point. The regulations must strive to balance both interests.
10. If elected, how would you involve and work with the home building industry?
I would meet with builders and developers regularly. I would encourage all council members to develop some communication with the industry.
11. What is your campaign strategy and how much have you raised/spent to date?
My strategy is to canvass door to door, attend as many events and forums as are offered. I will do a mass mailing. Having been elected twice to an out large seat, I have raised and spent several thousand dollars to date. I fundraise throughout the election season.
12. If the Metro Housing Coalition (MHC) provides your campaign with a contribution, who should we make the check out to? (i.e. The Committee to Elect XXX, etc.)
The campaign committee is: Citizens for Sarah Levison.
"On my 8 years on city council, I wanted to hear about all ideas and then decide on which actually work for our city."
— Sarah Levison