LIFT Meeting – 30 March 2016 – They learn about council’s intent to unravel LIFT

LIFT Meeting                 Citizen Minutes                     3/30/2016

Only four members of the LIFT board were present. Justin Hay, Ryan, Gary Thompson, Ryan O’Toole and Craig O’Rourke.  Council liaison Bill Hopping was also present. LaDonna Jurgensen, Jim Collins and Kyle Schlachter were absent.

Citizen Comments

Carol Brzeczek asked a few budget related questions.

  1. Had LIFT established the special fund for the collection of increment?
  2. The budget projected zero sales tax increment – with one year already passed why were the projections zero?
  3. Arapahoe County was not listed among the taxing entities – why?
  4. Knowing that council would be discussing an ordinance to unravel urban renewal at the April 5th meeting, Brzeczek was surprised that the subject was not on their agenda. She hoped they would discuss the topic.

Jim Rees, Exec. Dir., reported that the county had sent approximately $2,000 in property tax increment to the city. The city will be tracking LIFT’s increment collection but LIFT has an obligation to refund the increment but will wait until later to refund. He thought they would write a couple of checks per year. (The IGAs with LPS and So Suburban states that the “Authority shall pay the District Revenues to the District on or before the 15th day of the month immediately succeeding the month in which the District Revenues were received.” This will require more than two payments per year.)

Rees presented the amended budget, which was approved by the four members present.

There was a short discussion on HB 1348 (an amendment to the urban renewal law) that was passed last year. There is still work to be done on how to regulate the amendment. A big question relates to the applicability – when does the increment clock begin – will it impact plans approved prior to the approval of 1348? (I think what the question is will an urban renewal plan approved prior to Jan. 1, 2016 that is modified after Jan. 1, 2016 fall under the provisions of 1348?) There is also some work to be done on the mediation process. Then there’s the TABOR issue, which is significant.

At this time their attorney, Cory Hoffman, read the motion that was passed at the council meeting on March 15th directed the city manager to provide to Council at the next scheduled regular council meeting on April 5, 2016 and ordinance or ordinances and resolutions for council’s consideration and vote to dismantle Littleton’s Urban Renewal and the LIFT Board including the handling of the outstanding loan to LIFT, and addressing any tax collection concerns, if any, and consider the status of any pending litigation concerning urban renewal.  Hoffman explained that the council legislatively adopts urban renewal plans and LIFT implements the plans and it is within the council’s authority to not move forward. Rees asked what the status of the approved plans. Hoffman said by definition the plans have to be repealed – it is a legislative call of the council.

Chair, Justin Hay, asked Bill Hopping if there was any other discussion prior to the motion. Hopping said he got a call in January telling him there were four votes to abolish LIFT. (This is a violation of the Open Meetings Law – council is supposed to conduct all their business in public. But it appears some neglected the law and the discussion took place either in person, email, telephone or carrier pigeon. The citizens have a right to hear the discussion that lead to the motion that was made by Jerry Valdes and seconded by Peggy Cole. But those meetings took place outside of a public meeting.)

Hopping told the board members that they would be able to address the council at the first part of the council meeting on the 5th and again at the second reading on the 19th if the motion passed on first reading.

Hay said we’ve understood the direction we were going and we wanted projects to come in. He was disappointed, as he wanted to move projects forward to revitalize the community. It has been an interesting process.

Toole mentioned that they were scheduled to have a joint meeting with the city council but the meeting was cancelled. Rees said he never got an explanation as to why the meeting was cancelled. (I don’t know the timing but if the council knew in January that there were four votes to abolish LIFT then there would be no reason to meet!)

Hopping said they could request a formal conversation with city council – don’t know if it will be granted. You can come up with any request as an individual citizen – ask for a study session. Toole thought it would be more effective to have a study session between LIFT and the council than individual lobbying efforts. He knew people opposed urban renewal but he has seen the wonderful effect of urban renewal and he thought it would be good for this board to engage with the council.

Hopping said he would like to know the real issues with urban renewal, is it the way it had been administered, urban renewal in general, or other reasons? He has never heard and he would like to know why. He does not like the removal of the urban renewal tool. He said he wasn’t sure a study session is a good way. They needed to have good intellectual conversation.

Rees said if council wants more input into the implementation of the plans that can happen.

Toole asked if tax increment financing (TIF) could still be used.

Hoffman said if a developer wants to use TIF they can start the urban renewal process again and if the council approves it has to go to the voters for approval.

Toole asked if that was the case with all tax sharing and Hoffman said no, the council can approve a sales tax shareback but it is subject to an annual appropriation.

Hay asked Hopping to ask council if the tools LIFT has paid for and now owes the city for can be used in some form or fashion so this is not a complete waste of money.

Hoffman said as part of the ordinance there has to be a provision for adequate arrangements for their debt.   The effective date can’t be any less than 6 months so LIFT will continue to exist for 6 months. Hoffman said there is a full database of information that will stay with the city. Plans will be repealed but the information is still available.

Toole said yes, but they don’t have the financial tools.

Hopping said LIFT might consider what programs can be used to attract developers – what tools are available without urban renewal. Maybe someone on the board would want to ask council about that.

Hay said he sat in on a session with the Planning Board and thought LIFT was a great initial filter and planning board could utilize what they have learned to filter out the good developers – that’s a good point (to Hopping’s remarks above) how can we be part of the process?

Hoffman then reported that there has not been a decision from the Court on the ag land suit.

 

Unfinished Business

Budget – Rees had revised the budget saying that the increment was a lot lower than the County had told him.

Gary Thompson reported that there had been some fraudulent withdrawals from their checking account in December and early January. A new account was opened and $25,000 from the old account was transferred to the new. However, the hold on the old account that had been lifted to make that transfer was never put back in place so another fraudulent withdrawal was made. Once the account was made whole by Wells Fargo the old account would be closed. Apparently the original account was opened back in the 80’s and there have been bank mergers (2) over the years and paper work has been lost. Jim Taylor, former Chair, was still on the account as a signer. And, the account was in the name of Littleton Riverfront Authority so the name change did not match the federal ID number.

Rees said LIFT was registered as a non-profit and paper work has to be submitted and it will take about 60 days to fix.

 

New Business

Members had been asked via email for their permission to have Hay sign the exemption from audit application – a motion was made to ratify the decision that was made outside the public meeting. Motion passed 4/0.

Toole mentioned the number of discussions that they have had about reaching out to the development community and engaging them. He became aware of two significant properties – Schomp’s Automotive and Savers in Woodlawn – that are on the market. He called their real estate representatives and asked them if they were aware that the properties were in an urban renewal area and about the potential benefits. They did not know and they had sat down with staff to discuss redevelopment. He talked to one potential buyer who told Toole that staff had told him that if he wanted to do something it would take a long time because it had to go to a public vote so the developer dropped the contract. But, this maybe moot after Tuesday!

Hay mentioned the Planning Board session he sat in on and they discussed how urban renewal works with the staff and planning. Toole thought the staff lacked understanding about urban renewal. He also thought they needed to revisit Kyle’s marketing piece and provide good clear information about how to start the process. Right now they had nothing to send to developers about urban renewal and LIFT.

Hoffman said he had had an urban renewal 201 class with the staff.

Next LIFT meeting is April 14th. Toole asked if they could invite council to attend the April 14th meeting – particularly members inclined to disband LIFT so they will know what will be lost. Hopping said they could certainly ask. He had never heard anything in favor of urban renewal – only heard against and they needed to hear both sides.

Hoffman said he would inform the city attorney about their request.

 

 

 

 

 

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