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.

Carol Brzeczek addressed the resolution setting forth the council’s incentive policy. She agreed with the intent. The resolution could be passed but to put it into practice would be a violation of our Charter, Section 89 that states the city will follow the state Constitution, Article XI that states that no debt shall be created unless the question of incurring that debt is approved by the voters of the city. Furthermore, TABOR states that districts must have voter approval in advance for any multi-year debt unless they pledge irrevocably the cash reserves to make the payment. Any share back of sales tax beyond one year would be violating both the Constitution and the state statutes.

She also told the council that statements made by Michael Penny at the last study session were not true. Council did not have control over urban renewal money and they would not be the group to negotiate with developers on a development using urban renewal financing. Council does not control the tax increment financing – LIFT does. Council had their opportunity to influence the urban renewal plans prior to approving the plans. Now that the plans had been approved LIFT did not need to return to council for permission unless there was a rezoning requested.

Pam Chadbourne also agreed with the intent of the resolution but was concerned by the wording. She thought a litigious developer would be able to use the words in the resolution against the city. She thought the city caved to the developers of the Grove and was worried that the city did not have the fiber to stand up for a good development on the Ensor property. She thought the resolution set a very low bar and she wanted to set the bar high by stating that no public funds will be used unless the traffic will be mitigated in some way at Mineral and Santa Fe. She offered some substitute words to the resolution.

Consent Agenda – the following were approved 6/0

  1. Linda Suttle was approved to be the victim Assistance Coordinator on the Arapahoe County Community Corrections Board.
  2. A police recruit training agreement with Lakewood to use the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office and Lakewood police Department’s Combined Regional Academy for recruit police officer training.
  3. Resolution to approve an Arapahoe County Open Space grant for trail and site improvements and amenities at the Hudson Gardens and Event Center.

General Business

Sections of the Aggressive Begging code were removed on a 6/0 vote.

Resolution of the City Council’s Incentive Policy –Debbie Brinkman moved the resolution and Phil Cernanec seconded. Brinkman said the intent was simple – to have a lot of community discussion regarding the redevelopment of the use by right of the Ensor property which is in the Santa Fe Urban Renewal area. The land is under contract with Endeavor (Dallas firm that builds WalMart and Sam’s Club big box stores among other things). She said it was within the council’s purview to use public money to help a developer with the development of that property. She said they could include the sales tax shareback and other incentives as well as the urban renewal tax increment financing. (TIF) This is not about urban renewal but to do the right thing for the community.

Cernanec said the resolution was not focused on the urban renewal side but on the shareback of sales taxes or permit and fee waivers. (There would be no sales tax available for a shareback – it would all go to urban renewal but some council members have no understanding of how TIF works.) At a minimum, the city council and the city manager will be involved early in the conversation. (Another misconception – council has approved the urban renewal plans and now the development of the Ensor property is in the hands of LIFT (our urban renewal authority). If the property needs a rezoning then it will have to go through the procedures as set in code. If there is a use by right no public process has to take place. It will be up to LIFT to determine whether or not the developer qualifies for any of the TIF money. That is not a council decision.))

Doug Clark said this was all eyewash. City council cannot approve or deny the urban renewal incentives. If the sales tax has been TIFed then there will not be any sales tax left for the city to use in a shareback agreement. He reminded the council that they considered a substantial modification to the Santa Fe Urban Renewal Plan on 2/17/2015 to add property and sales tax TIF for the entire Santa Fe UR area. He said that the Santa Fe Plan is the only plan that does not include the sales tax increment and that the explanation by the city manager last week was not true. He said council had not authority over the property tax increment and the resolution does nothing and does not resolve the issue.

Jerry Valdes said he understands the intent but asked for a legal opinion saying that the one they received did not address the questions raised.

The city attorney said it was legal.

Valdes asked to get something from the attorney that is on retainer to work on urban renewal issues for the city – Cory Hoffman. He wanted Mr. Hoffman to cite statute. He said the council could not do anything unilaterally and we don’t have the authority to tell the developer they can’t have tax increment when we already have an agreement with LIFT.

Michael Penny said it would ultimately be the council that will have to approve the tax incentive. He said there was no legal question – this was purely a policy driven statement that sends a message. It is a statement of intent from the council.

Valdes said the response from Hoffman was all about urban renewal. He did not think the resolution was worded strong enough. He wanted language that would be specific as to what they did not want in Littleton. Current language is too general.

Brinkman raised the issue last week about whether council had any authority to approve the sales tax shareback and they rec’d a note saying they could. It is about supporting developments that will take the city forward.

Bill Hopping said he looked at it from a developer’s point of view. Developers like to make a profit and want guidance about what the community is looking for and how it will play out. It is loud and clear that this community wants to maintain our community culture. He approved of adding the word “character” to the resolution as suggested by Pam Chadbourne. This is trying to give guidance to community, developers, and LIFT that we want a quality plan.

Valdes said he was worried about a big box coming in that does not have a history of sustainability – the resolution needs more teeth.

Hopping said a developer will build something that they think will last.

Clark said Penny told council last week that council would decide whether the developer gets the financing – that decision does not have to come back to council.   If council really wants to use incentives to control the development of the Ensor property they should drop the lawsuit against Corbin Sakdol, our county assessor. A new plan could come back to council. Right now LIFT has complete authority. We are making a series of decisions based on inaccurate information. We can pass it but it does nothing. If council wants to do something they need to get a Complan written to guide development in that area.

Valdes amended the last “Whereas” statement to include a focus on improvements with economic sustainability and a proven history of economic sustainability.

There was some discussion about how to word Valdes’ intent. Whatever the final language was it failed 2/4 with Beckman, Hopping, Brinkman and Cernanec dissenting.

Clark moved to amend the resolution by adding language that the city would terminate the lawsuit against the county assessor, Corbin Sakdol. He thought taking action was better than trying to convey a message to developers.

Brinkman repeated that it was not about urban renewal and then asked if the city was suing Corbin Sakdol. She was told yes. (This is a surprising question Brinkman asked – Littleton is suing the county assessor on the exclusion of the ag land in the urban renewal area. This has been going on for over a year.)

Valdes repeated that the letter from the attorney about this resolution was all about urban renewal. The city has spent over $70,000 in attorney fees to sue Sakdol and he supported the additional language.

Clark’s amendment failed 2/4 with Beckman, Brinkman, Cernanec and Hopping  dissenting.

Hopping moved to amend the resolution by adding the word “Character”. Amendment passed 5/1 with Valdes dissenting.

Main motion passed 5/1 with Clark dissenting.

Public Comments

Robin Swartzbacker said she listened to the council’s study session on housing and what she heard was we have a traffic issue. She encouraged the council to get automated transcription for the videos of council meetings, which serve as the official minutes of their meetings.

 

Kyle Henderson, a member of the South Metro Housing Options (SMHO), told council that SMHO was excited to participate in the housing study for them. (He is referring to a $50,000 study on housing in Littleton.)

Kim Buckler opposed the appointment of Linda Suttle to the Victim’s Assistance Board.

Pat Cronenberger commended the council on the excellent discussion on housing. It was very meaty and thoughtful. She said we were blessed to have Kay Watson to bring her expertise to the discussion last week.

Pam Chadbourne disagreed with Cronenberger saying that inviting one realtor to speak on housing at a study session was biased. Watson did not have any facts or figures to back up her comments. Affordable housing is important and council should consider development fees to contribute to a fund or developers have to include some affordable housing in their developments. She suggested increasing incentives for affordable senior housing and a study was not needed for that. She expressed concerns about who would be doing the study.

Pam also mentioned that for the next three weeks you could see 5 planets with the naked eye.

Reports

Clark had three items.

  1. Clark wants his council packets in print. He has asked the city manager to print the packet and leave at his home each Thursday. (That is how things were done prior to the city buying the councilmembers ipads to use in order to go paperless.) Clark said he can’t get the materials printed and delivered. Brinkman asked if there was a reason why he did not want an ipad. Clark said he did not want one – he likes to see the whole page at one time and have multiple pages in front of him at one time. He did not think the request was unreasonable and surprised it takes this to get a response. Beckman said they made a commitment to go paperless and he hoped that Clark would give it a try. Clark said the material is printed out anyway for the citizens…..they can get what I can’t get. Brinkman said she would like to see Clark try it out – it took everyone time to adjust. Beckman said he would take it under advisement. Clark then moved to have staff print the city council communications and other agenda documents and deliver to his home on Thursday. Valdes said he just wants it printed.   Motion failed 2/4 with Brinkman, Beckman, Cernanec and Hopping dissenting.
  1. Clark would like to use his personal email address and not the one that the city has assigned him. He would like his personal email address to be added to the website. He was told that it was a council policy to sue the city’s email address. Clark asked for the policy and what was the vote. Beckman said it wasn’t a policy.

Clark said he was concerned about emails that constituents have asked to remain confidential and there are times that confidential emails have been made public without any notification and he does not want that to happen. He said all the employee communication to council and vice versa are available on the city server so could be accessed if there was an open records request.   He was denied.

If you want to email Clark you may do so at doug@Clarkforlittleton.org.

  1. Clark discovered by accident that some council members meet before their meetings for dinner at the taxpayer’s expense. He thought the meetings should be posted. Beckman said it hasn’t happened – it is called a social meeting and not required to be posted by the open meetings law. Brinkman said he has misconstrued the intention. It is a bit of food we grab – a couple will sit in one room. It is innocent and harmless. It is an opportunity to create a relationship. Beckman said the doors are open and Valdes said he supports it.

Hopping asked the council if they have a desire to inventory all the old plans that are sitting on the shelf to see what is useful and what is not. The council needed more broad thinking and structured approach to planning.

Penny said his Planning Director was 100% behind the idea but it was a matter of workload.

Cernanec agreed with Hopping

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