Littleton v Corbin Sakdol – Urban Renewal

City of Littleton v Corbin Sakdol – A Brief Citizen Summary

Was agricultural land legally included in the Santa Fe Urban Renewal Plan?

Background: November 4, 2014 the city council approved the Santa Fe Urban Renewal Plan (SFURP) that included agricultural land. The County Assessor, Corbin Sakdol, objected to the inclusion of the ag land and removed it from the SFURP which reduces the amount of tax increment financing that would be available to LIFT, our urban renewal authority. (The LIFT Consultant, Ann Ricker, told LIFT that Breckenridge Brewery would be a cash cow for LIFT.)  Continue reading

Citizen Minutes – 20 January 2016 Regular Council Meeting

Littleton City Council Regular Meeting                                           19 January 2016

Submitted by Carol Brzeczek

Peggy Cole was absent. 

Bruce Beckman asked if there were any agenda changes and Doug Clark said he had three. Beckman told him that changes were problematic and if he had issues with the city manager he should handle those outside the council meeting. Clark said he tried but got nowhere. Beckman asked Clark to address his concerns in the Reports section of the meeting. Continue reading

City Suing County – To Be Heard in District Court on Jan. 22, 2016 – In Littleton

The City of Littleton is suing Corban Sakdol, Arapahoe County 
Assessor, over the makeup of the city s Santa Fe Urban Renewal Area.

In 2010 the state legislature put strict limitations on blighting 
agricultural land and including that land in urban renewal areas 
because of what the legislature considered to be abuses of urban renewal by 
cities in Colorado. The Santa Fe Urban Renewal Plan includes a
substantial amount of agricultural land, mainly south of Mineral 
between Santa Fe Drive and the South Platte River – the so called 
Ensor property. The assessor has determined, as required by state law, 
that the inclusion of the agricultural land in the urban renewal 
plan does not conform to state law. The city of Littleton is suing Corban 
Sakdol to overturn his decision. That trial starts at 8:45 AM this 
Friday, Jan 22, 2016, at 1790 W Littleton Blvd., court C-1.

The Ensor property sprang into the news last October 2015 when the 
Villager Newspaper ran a story quoting council member Debbie
Brinkman as saying a Wal-Mart and Sam s Club were coming to 
Littleton on that property. The City Council created the Santa Fe 
Urban Renewal Plan in November 2014 in order to provide incentives for the 
development of the Ensor property, and the City Manager
announced 2 weeks ago the property was under contract to a 
developer. This trial will determine whether that property can 
remain in the urban renewal plan and therefore receive millions in incentives 
through urban renewal.

Attorney Position on Resolution to Restrict the Use of Public Money for Development on the Ensor Property

From our city attorney to council.

Council,

Michael told me there had been a question regarding the sales tax increment and asked me to follow up with outside counsel to clarify the council’s role in transferring the sales tax increment from the City to LIFT.  I have done so and Corey Hoffman’s response is below.
Please let this email clarify our conversation regarding the implementation of sales tax increment previously approved in an urban renewal plan. 
 
Using the Santa Fe Urban Renewal Plan as an example, Section 7.3 authorizes property and sales tax increment, and as it relates to sales tax increment, Section 7.3.2 defines the base amount of municipal sales tax.    
 
For purposes of property tax, the county treasurer pursuant to C.R.S. § 31-25-107(9) pays property tax increment directly into the “special fund” of the urban renewal authority.  Thus, upon the approval of property tax increment, the increment is transmitted to the special fund without any further action of the City (by the county treasurer). 
 
However, as it relates to municipal sales tax increment, while the sale tax increment is specifically authorized by C.R.S. § 31-25-107(9), the mechanism for collection and transfer is not included in the statute.  In other words, it refers to municipal sales tax collection and requires payments of sales tax increment into the special fund, but does not describe how the disbursement is made.  Thus, in order to implement the sales tax component of an urban renewal undertaking or activity, the City and LIFT would need to both approve an Intergovernmental Cooperation Agreement that requires collection of the sales tax and transfer of the sales tax increment into the special fund.  I have pasted sample language below (taken from another jurisdiction).
 
                “The City agrees to assist the Authority by pursuing all lawful procedures and remedies available to it to collect and transfer to the Authority on a timely basis all Pledged Sales Tax Increment Revenues for deposit into the Project Account of the Special Fund.  The City agrees that so long as the Note remains outstanding, that by the last business day of each month that it will remit to the Authority for deposit into the Project Account of the Special Fund all Pledged Sales Tax Increment Revenues collected by the City in such month.
 
                To the extent lawfully possible, the City will take no action that would have the effect of reducing tax collections that constitute Pledged Tax Increment Revenues.”
 
It is my understanding that bond attorneys would insist on such a cooperation agreement to confirm the collection and transfer of sales tax increment by the City to the special fund to secure any indebtedness.
Please let me know if you have any questions.

Kristin Schledorn
City Attorney

2255 West Berry Avenue
Littleton, Colorado 80120
(303) 795-3725  

Continue reading

City Council Study Session – 12 January 2016

Littleton City Council Study Session            Citizen Minutes         12 January 2016

Submitted by Carol Brzeczek

The last item on the agenda is the most interesting – an update on the Ensor property that is located at Mineral and Santa Fe. The land has been included in the Santa Fe Urban Renewal Plan and Endeavor has a contract with the Ensors. They are waiting the outcome of the dispute of the lawsuit the city filed against the county’s exclusion of the agricultural land in the urban renewal plan. The outcome will determine whether or not Endeavor will have an opportunity to use tax increment financing for the next 25 years. Not a small chunk of change and tax dollars that would have gone to the General Fund. Continue reading

County Responds to Michael Penny’s Request to Refund TIF

The Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) responded to Michael Penny’s request for their approval of an IGA to refund all TIF money collected to the County.  There appears to be a change in what Mr. Penny first proposed to the BOCC on July 27, 2015 and the IGA submitted.  The County prefers the July 27th representation and they are only offered that if they will withdraw their law suit on the inclusion of ag land in the Santa Fe Urban Renewal Area.  The Council is told that the BOCC is not party to the suit and has no control in that litigation.  (That suit is against our County Assessor – an elected official.)  One has nothing to do with the other.
Follow the link to read the Dec. 7, 2015 letter from the City’s attorney, Corey Hoffman and the County’s response dated January 5, 2016.

WalMart/Sam’s Club – Urban Renewal and Council

I mentioned in an earlier post that to discuss the Ensor property (site of possible new Walmart and Sam’s Club) without discussing urban renewal is discussing only half of the story.  And, to discuss the subject with any certainty prior to the outcome of the legal dispute is just speculating.

So, the story is………….. Continue reading

Update on Walmart/Sam’s Club with Debbie Brinkman as Requested by HOA – January 7, 2016

In response to the concerns about a Walmart and Sam’s Club in their back yard the Palisades HOA asked Debbie Brinkman for an update.  A meeting was scheduled for Jan. 7th in the Community Room which was standing room only with overflow out the doors.  Council person Brinkman began the meeting by saying the meeting was intended to be with a neighborhood but had grown larger than expected and it would end at 7pm.  She then provided a short history of the current zoning on the land.  The zoning came about back in the mid 80’s when the city negotiated with the owners of the property – the Ensor family.  In exchange for the zoning the Ensor’s provided land to the city that allowed Mineral to be built to the west across the river.

The Ensor’s have a property right to their zoning she said.

City Manager, Michael Penny, said developers came in and looked at the “base zoning” to see what could be built as a use by right (means a public process would not be required).  The value of the property is what you can build on it and this site has massive development potential.  The asking price for the property is $25,000,000 and it will require $17,000,000 to $20,000,000 in public improvements.  Penny said the Ensor property and the Dish Network properties are the only two that he thinks an urban renewal project will take place.  There are two primary reasons to use urban renewal – LIFT (the urban renewal authority) can bond and can take tax dollars away from other taxing entities (tax increment financing). Continue reading

Citizen Minutes – City Council Regular Meeting 05 January 2016

Citizen Minutes         City Council Regular Meeting                      5 January 2016

Submitted by Carol Brzeczek

 

A short agenda but still a very interesting meeting – the reports part of the meeting was the most interesting – a short discussion on the Ensor property where a WalMart and Sam’s Club are reported to be locating – according to Councilperson Debbie Brinkman in her comments to Peter Jones at The Villager newspaper.

Consent Agenda

b) RESOLUTION 02-2015 – A resolution approving an amendment to an agreement with the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District and Arapahoe County regarding design and construction of drainage and flood control improvements for the South Platte River at Reynolds Landing. APPROVED 7/0

c) RESOLUTION 03-2015 – A resolution supporting an application by the city on behalf of Littleton Public Schools for an Arapahoe County Open Space Grant for playground improvements at Damon Runyon Elementary School. APPROVED 7/0.

Consent Agenda items a) and d) were pulled for discussion.

a) Doug Clark pulled Resolution 1-2015 designating the public meeting posting locations as required by the Open Meetings Law. The locations have to be designated each year at their first meeting. City Clerk Heffner recommended the same locations as in the past; the city’s website, the bulletin boards at Bemis and at the main entrance of the city center, in the Municipal Courthouse and published in the Littleton Independent.

Jerry Valdes asked about the number of people that visited the buildings where the agendas are posted and about the circulation numbers for the Ltn Independent. Heffner did not know the number of visitors but the circulation of the Independent is about 1,800. Valdes would like to see the agenda on Next Door.

Clark amended to motion to approve adding a requirement that a direct link to the agenda be provided on the city’s home page. MOTION PASSED 6/1 with Debbie Brinkman dissenting. MAIN MOTION passed 7/0.

d) Certification of the December 15, 2015 city council regular meeting minutes. Clark pulled stating that their current method of providing minutes (nothing written – the online video is the official minutes of a meeting) is unworkable. Staff doesn’t even know what has been passed using the Streetscape Plan and the over spending by $300,000 on the river project as examples. The task of the Mayor is to authenticate what the council has passed and the mayor has to sign contracts without any minutes in front of them to check that the contract reflects the intent of the council majority. If the city clerk is certifying the video minutes there is no reason for the council to approve what she has certified. Clark mentioned the Journal that is required to be kept is all good but there are errors in the journal; votes not recorded correctly and items missing. When the minutes were in writing each council member had the opportunity to review and make corrections providing a better record of the proceedings than does the journal.

Valdes wanted to have a summary included and a location of where in the video the reader could go to access that particular event.

Peggy Cole wanted clear records of council action.

Clark made a motion to remove the definition of minutes from the city code. (Almost two years ago council voted to change the definition of minutes to be the video recording of the meeting so we no longer have written minutes. A journal is kept by the city clerk but it s lacking in detail based on my own efforts to use the journal to do research.) Clark did not get a second.

Bruce Beckman suggested that this subject be looked at in more detail. It was suggested that a journal be included in coming approval of tonight’s meeting as an example of what can be done to make the minutes more usable by everyone. He said they could discuss this further during General Business.

Brinkman moved to approve the original motion which PASSED 6/1 WITH CLARK DISSENTING.

2nd Reading

Ordinance 112-2015 to approve the designation of 5736 S Bemis Street as a historic landmark. Jocelyn Mills, Community Development Director, addressed the council but she was not speaking into the microphone so I only heard a few words.

Mrs. Quinney, property owner, also spoke to the council but she was not close enough to the microphone for discern what she said from where I sat.

Jeanie Erickson supported the approval and cited several statistics about the designation stating that we need to protect and preserve the history in Littleton. The citizens love the small town feel of Littleton and we need to preserve that. Skirting around zoning laws was not good for Littleton.

Pam Chadbourne agreed with Erickson. This house is the essence of Littleton – not what is happening across the street from this house – a reference to The Grove.

MOTION PASSED 7/0

General Business

Beckman asked the staff to come back with a point of view on what they heard about minutes in the earlier discussion. Michael Penny, city manager, said the video recording is accurate and it is what the council chose to use as the minutes. The Charter does require a journal be kept and it does not require council approval. He said they would get more consistent in getting it up on the website.

Brinkman said there was a vigorous discussion when the previous council made the change. It is about accuracy. Minutes were subjective and video minutes include the public and is the most accurate. She was not in favor of the change.

Cole said it was not either or – videos are important but action minutes are most useful. She has watched the videos several times and had a devil of a time finding what she was looking for.

Bill Hopping opted on the side of the video but likes a journal that includes who made the motion, who seconded and the action. Written minutes are archaic.

Penny said they would send out a sample of tonight’s meeting and get council comments. Phil Cernanec wants to get information on the estimated time it would take to get an automated transcription. Cole said she has heard from more than one person the desire for closed captions.

Clark said no one is arguing not to have the video or arguing about the value of the video. However, the need for written minutes that record the vote is important. The video is not searchable and you have to sometimes spend hours locating what you are looking for. Roberts Rules calls minutes a journal – the journal is the official record of council actions. Make the journal the minutes we actually approve   Council members can determine if they accurately reflect the meeting. Keep the video.

Penny said it would be easy to have both the journal and the video come back to council for approval.

Clark asked that the journal reflect which members of council are present, have the votes recorded, note who moves and seconds motions, and prefer that the pubic that speak to council be included.

Unscheduled Appearances

Kim Buckley addressed concerns she had regarding the police department. She had written to the city about her concerns without any response.

Tom Young recently received a ticket for leaving his vehicle idling to warm up and he was not present. He was stunned and spoke with the officer who said they were trying to cut down vehicle thefts and a new law was put into effect on July 1, 2011.   He asked for some clarification of the law.

Pam Chadbourne addressed the loss of the IREA building that was destroyed on 12/24/2015 and the council failed to enforce the zoning codes of the city.

Kent Bagley provided an update on RTD for 2016 and suggested that council extend the non-smoking area from the downtown area to include both light rail stations.

Valdes asked if RTD couldn’t have their own ordinance banning smoking on the platforms.

Reports

Clark thought they should look at the “puffer” law – if we have police issuing tickets for cars running and they are locked when we have police that leave their cars running – I can think of two instances where police cars were stolen….Clark wants the subject to be brought back to a study session.

Clark said he had a neighbor request an update on WalMart. He mentioned that Endeavor had provided a drawing for the development on the Ensor property that shows a WalMart and Sam’s Club on the south end and residential on the north end. The city manager started a process to update the zoning codes that would make zoning changes easer to achieve and allow a transfer of density without rezoning. City council passed the urban renewal plan to provide incentives in the form of tax increment financing. The county assessor has denied the inclusion of the Ensor property in the urban renewal plan and the city responded by suing the County. The trial date is 1/22/2016.

He continued saying that the council originally passed the urban renewal plan that included property that was outside the city limits that was TIFed. Amendment 300 passed which would require a vote of the people to ratified the modification to TIF but refused to take the question to the voters just two weeks after 300 passed.

The city is now paying the full legal cost to sue the County in order to be able to provide tax increment financing to Endeavor or whoever might develop the property.  Urban renewal was not supposed to cost the taxpayers of Littleton a penny.  Council has approved a $200,000 loan for them, staff is doing some of their admin and website work, and we are footing the legal bills for the law suit Clark mentioned.

On Dec. 10, 2015 the executive director for the urban renewal authority (LIFT) stated he was working with two developers – Endeavor for the Ensor property. Endeavor was waiting for the outcome of the lawsuit before proceeding.

Penny said there was no application on file, he was not in discussions with Endeavor and he had not seen any map. He said he just used the example of WalMart and Sam’s Club and he did not appreciate the accusations made. Clark restated that LIFT’s executive director was having conversations with Endeavor to which Penny said he had not talked to the executive director in 18 months.

Penny did admit he had conversations with Endeavor at one time but he had not heard from Endeavor in over a year. If a rezoning is required council will have to be involved. When there’s an application there will be a conversation between the city and Endeavor.

Clark suggested that Penny go back and review the tape of the LIFT meeting to hear Jim Rees saying he expects a submission in 2016 after the court date. Clark said the project would not come back to the council – the council has already voted when they passed the plan and passing the plan without a project took the mechanics out of the hands of council.

Brinkman asked for a discussion on the protocols for Reports. She was offended that reports were being used to fan the fumes of fear. Clark’s comments were a disservice to the community.

 

 

 

Tax Increment Fees Announced by Arapahoe County – How Much is Being Collected for Urban Renewal?

Each year the counties have to certify mill levies for each jurisdiction including urban renewal projects.  The report for Arapahoe County shows the following. Continue reading