City Council Study Session – Urban Renewal – 25 February 2014 Citizen Minutes

Littleton City Council Study Session – Citizen Minutes

22 February 2014

This meeting was a meeting for council to hear about urban renewal from the professionals and Littleton Invests for Tomorrow (LIFT), which is the reinvention of the Riverfront Authority.  If you did not know it by now Littleton is going down the path of more urban renewal.  At the December 21, 2012 Riverfront Authority (now LIFT) meeting Littleton city manager “stated that there may be upcoming development that the Authority might be instructed to undertake.  The City might be also looking at the possible use of eminent domain in the future.  But until someone comes to the City requesting this type of redevelopment, the City would like to have the Authority to stay together.  The first development could be the property at Belleview and Federal (Safeway), noting that there are only 5 or 6 businesses left in the shopping center.” Rather than provide minutes as I have done in the past I think I will pass on the comments made by the banker, with the exception of the explanation of TIF as a  means for financing urban renewal, and focus on the steps to be taken to identify areas in Littleton that will be designated as areas for redevelopment based on identified “blight.”

A financing method for urban renewal is:

  1. TIF – tax increment financing – this funding mechanism is based on the existing property tax rate when the URA (Urban Renewal Authority) is established.  The difference in the old property tax rate and the new property tax rate once the project is completed will be given to the URA as revenue.  Once the bonds are paid off the taxes will be distributed to the proper taxing entities.

Ann Ricker addressed the group – her organization does about 60% of the urban renewals in Colorado.  She has been talking to Jim Taylor (Chair of LIFT) and city manager Michael Penny for the previous two weeks.

She told LIFT that they needed to have their policies and practices in place to give them a defensible decision making process – they need to be updated each year.

Council was told that urban renewal can be approached two different ways.  You can sit and wait for a project to come to you or you can study an area, identify it as meeting 4 of the 11 conditions that define blight, and prepare a plan and impact report.  Only then can LIFT go to city council for the creation of an urban renewal area – it is about a 6th month process.

If you want to be proactive – you already know some of the areas – let’s go out and study them now and do the first three steps and then bring the info to city council.  We want to be ready when investors are ready – we are open for business.

The statue states that if you commence a survey of an area you have to send a notice to all property owners.  She prefers to host an informational meeting but not just for the area but the whole community.  Once the area is finalized then we send postcards to all property owners in the area.  She will then go out and look at the property, interview everyone and create condition surveys.  Even if the next steps are not taken you have a very nice document.  The findings are taken to the urban renewal authority, LIFT in our case, and they make the decision as to whether or not to take the findings to council and the stakeholders.  The next step would be to create an urban renewal plan for the survey area or an area that is less than what was surveyed.  The goal of the plan would be to “cure” the conditions of blight and advance the general plan of the community.  (The “plan of the community” is the Complan that was recently approved by the planning board and the city council.  The document is so broad and general that anything would qualify  – that is the format that was preferred by the planning board and council.  There was no desire to make the document restrictive enough to disqualify any project in the city.  Randy Duzan, planning board chair, was present and, stated that the plan was so broad that it should not be a problem but how do we educate them?  Ricker said they would go to the community and explain to them that they are going to advance your plan – we will do what you need us to do.)

Ricker will run a market analysis and take it to the stakeholders.  The vision would be refined and then put into the plan.

The impact report – there is a process of several steps that have to be taken 30 days prior to the public hearing.  The planning board has to offer their opinion on how the plan is consistent with the Complan.  (Remember, this will not be a problem – the chair of the planning board stated that it is so broad that they should not have a problem.)  At the public hearing the council will listen to her report and make a finding of “blight”.  They will then have to consider adopting the urban renewal plan by resolution within 120 days.  If they do not adopt the plan then that area may not be consider for urban renewal for another 2 years.

After the plan has been adopted they enter the implementation phase, which will include the developer and financing.

After a short Q&A exchange Penny said that the area plans are not tied to each other and within the Littleton Blvd area there could be a sub-area as well.  One thing that is missing is the vision for Littleton Blvd.  Council needs to sit down and have an informal conversation among themselves about what they want to see – start to provide some level of understanding to the staff about your collective vision.

Phil Cernanec then stated the first several steps to be taken by both the council and LIFT to get started.  Although there was not a vote there was no objection to his statement and that was seen as a green light to get started on urban renewal in Littleton.

Peggy Cole asked council to clarify what will be done through eminent domain – get something in writing that we will make anyone impacted whole.  Penny told her there is a legal obligation and he recommends that to be a conversation and not in a guiding document.  Ricker said she will not skirt the issue of eminent domain and there will be language in every plan addressing it.

At the end of the meeting Debbie Brinkman asked if they were going to bless moving forward on urban renewal.  She was told that they had done so when there were no objections to Cernanec’s statement of next steps.

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