City Council Meeting on UR Plans and LIFT – 10.04.2016

Littleton City Council       4 October 2016      Citizen Minutes

Before the meeting could really get underway Debbie Brinkman moved to postpone all the urban renewal (UR) items on the agenda to December 6, 2016. (Brinkman has been making motions to postpone this decision since last March.) She said that a project was forthcoming from the Cheng group for the old Columbine Square Shopping Center. (Cheng has allowed his property to fall in disrepair after evicting all his tenants two years ago. He has gone before the Planning Commission twice with a project but withdrew his application the day of the meeting in both instances. Have to wonder just how it is that she knows that a project is forthcoming when LIFT doesn’t know.)

Brinkman’s motion coming at a time during the meeting that cut the public out of commenting on the motion was inappropriate.  Mayor Beckman certainly could have allowed the public an opportunity to address the motion but did not.

Brinkman thought the council should notify all property owners that the plans were under consideration for repeal. There is no requirement in the law for such notification. (Wonder why that became a concern when the plans have been under consideration for repeal for the past seven months! Why worry about that now?)

In support of her motion, Bill Hopping said he would disagree with the attorney on this – the owners have a right to develop their property at the highest and best use and if UR can help them do that they should be able to maximize their potential to do so and UR may help them to do so.  (What this means is that if someone wants to build their property to the highest and best use and can’t afford it they should be considered to receive the pubic’s tax dollars to help the developer achieve his goal.)  He thought there needed to be transparency.

Doug Clark was amazed that Hopping thought it was a property right and discrimination. There had been lots of articles written and this has been going on since March – hard to believe that property owners do not understand.

Peggy Cole did not see a reason to postpone the first reading.

Hopping thought it was only courteous to notify all property owners and give them a 60-day notice. To Councilman Clark’s comments that this takes money from the schools and county that, Hopping said, sir, it is not true. (Hopping is wrong –property tax increment is being diverted to LIFT away from schools, parks, city and county. However, the Columbine Square plan area, which extends beyond the Columbine Square Shopping Center, has not produced property tax increment but the other three plan areas have. Columbine Square plan area has produced $19,500 in sales tax increment though and that money has been diverted to LIFT from our General Fund. There’s a total of $114,040 in sales tax increment that had been paid to LIFT for year number one of the TIF. The increment, by law, is not project related as Hopping seems to think.)

Mayor Beckman asked the attorney if they were legally obligated to notify property owners and was told no. He asked the attorney if it was a property right and was told it was not a property right. Beckman asked if they started work on this March 15, 2016 and had been meeting on this subject almost monthly since. The attorney said that was correct. Beckman said they just needed to vote. The first reading is not about taking action and issues can be taken up at the second reading. Brinkman’s motion failed 3/4 with Clark, Cole, Beckman and Valdes dissenting.

Consent Agenda

Public Comments

Jon Spencer watched the budget sessions and it was clear to him that economic development was not progressive enough to sustain Littleton in the future. He thought it was ironic that UR passed by a majority of council and now they are abolishing it on the heels of new members of council. (Actually there is only one new member, Doug Clark, with this past election.) He said 300 allowed everyone to vote on eminent domain. (It allowed us to vote on all future UR plans but not the four that currently exist as they were rushed through to beat the voters at the ballot box.) How are we going to get development and new revenues? (Please see comments made by Paul Bingham below about development in Littleton.) He did not think tax dollars would be given away. (Apparently he does not know that both sales and property tax increment are being paid to LIFT. Millions, over the 25 year TIF period, will be diverted away from the taxing entities. Remember, Michael Penny had two reasons for using UR – one being that he could use tax revenue from other taxing entities and UR can issue bonds without asking the voters per TABOR.)

 Carol Brzeczek noted that less than two months ago complaints were made by a few on council (Brinkman, Cernanec and Hopping) who complained about making motions that were not on the agenda. Apparently it is only a concern at certain times for certain members of council because it did not appear to be of a concern this evening.

Plans are required to have a project – the boundaries narrowly defined and a TIF that addresses the exact needs and requirements of the projects. In order to proceed each plan will need to be modified to create new plans that actually meet the requirements that are outlined in the law. The consultant stated that the plans were not plans – they were financing mechanisms. We have four plans collecting increment for 25 years to the detriment of Littleton. Most UR areas don’t create increment in the first years. Increment is usually created when a project starts. Anyone who thinks that tax dollars are not being diverted to UR is not paying attention.

Eminent domain does impact these four plans – 300 was passed after the plans were approved.

There’s so much wrong and everyone would be better served by starting over. You did not understand what you approved or how TIF worked – the former city manager did not understand.

Kyle Schlachter – wished Carol would read the entire law rather than one small passage. (I spoke with Kyle and told him 3 minutes does not afford me that sort of time.) As you know UR is a tool that takes time and effort. Do not limit the use of this tool. Getting rid of UR minimizes the potential. Urge you to notify those property owners that they are losing something they may be thinking of using.

Kim Glidden – Kim was concerned about the downtown activities such as the Big Wonderful. Having the Big Wonderful will diminish the sales receipts for downtown merchants. Her sales are down with the events and she objects to the city promoting vendors on public sidewalks. She no longer stays open on festival days. What does the city charge the Big Wonderful – who is driving the Big Wonderful in downtown? She thought holding it in Bega Park would be a better location. She has heard that city council approved the city involvement in the Big Wonderful with no charge to the promoters.

Don Bruns – is alarmed by the fact that so much of the rhetoric about UR is about development rather than the stated purpose of addressing urban blight. If property owners have a right to do whatever they want with their property why do we need zoning at all? Even the Supreme Court has decided that as homeowners we can’t make inappropriate improvements to our homes. Government’s purpose is to ensure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare and that cannot be ensured if city council members insist they must not interfere with property owners development rights.

Here’s hoping that one-half of you will hold yourself accountable for governing and not driving the growth machine. Community vibrancy is dependent on taking care of what we have and not taking greenbacks from behind the fence.

Paul Bingham said that LIFT and UR are not the only way for development to occur. Currently market forces are very busy in this town. In the last 90 days there are 39 new development proposals listed on the city’s website. If we aren’t busy with development I don’t know what we are!

John Neil (?) –who is a representative of Mr. Cheng that owns Columbine Square and other properties in the area. Cheng has owned Columbine Sq. for 29 years and is working on a redevelopment plan. A couple of years ago they submitted a plan and had to take care of issues with a neighbor (O’Toole’s) and they are now starting again and are excited to work with the city and the staff. They are working on a plan that reflects what the city wants them to do with the property. He thought they should have been notified about the repeal of the UR plan for the area and asked for a 60 day delay.

Clark told Mr. Neil that of course he knows – he was at the meeting. So you want us to write you a letter to tell you what you already know? Neil told Clark they would like to show council what they have planned for the property and two weeks was not enough time.

Norm Stucker stated he is a proponent of UR but the larger discussion is transparency. What does this city want? Your Littleton Your Vote- they just wanted a vote but 15 months later they just don’t want UR. You hear from people that don’t know the difference between the plan or a project. We have a property owner for 29 years that wants 60 days to show us how he would develop the property. Just take the 60 days and allow him to do this. If your intent is to kill UR be transparent about it.

Pam Chadbourne – UR is not a guarantee and neither is development of Col Square. The Columbine Square owners self blighted the property – they did that themselves – let the property sit during a development boom. How foolish is that? UR costs the city risk and money. It is not a guarantee that every development will succeed. It is a fallacy that UR brings in tax dollars – commercial may but residential will cost us.

Best and highest use of the property – somehow UR is not the incentive needed. The city is taking a 25 year risk and UR should only be undertaken for the benefit of the city for sites that are bad within the city. Toss the four plans and if we have a project let staff work on it and then ask the citizens to take a risk.

Most of the Consent Agenda Items were pulled for individual discussion and votes. What did pass on first reading were:

Approval of an ordinance on first reading to approve a services agreement and joinder agreement with the Colo Information Sharing consortium and Numerica for law enforcement data warehouse.

 -Intergovernmental agreement to participate in a multi-jurisdictional task force known as the Arapahoe County Narcotics Team

 -Intergovernmental agreement with Arapahoe County Sheriff for use of the Arapahoe County Driving Track Facility.

 -Intergovernmental agreement between Littleton Public Schools and the City of Littleton for School Resource Officers.

The above four were passed 7/0.

 

Pulled Consent Items.

Ordinance to repeal the Littleton Boulevard Urban Renewal (UR) PlanBrinkman moved to approve on first reading and move the second reading to Dec. 6, 2016. Not sure who seconded. Clark said council does all sorts of ordinances, change fees charged to citizens, criminalize behavior and two weeks is sufficient but for UR two weeks is not sufficient. If it had not been delayed so many times and now our normal process isn’t good enough for UR.

Peggy Cole said this was an unusual issue. We have a strong statement from someone in one of the areas and if giving consideration to one area is not doing harm she saw no problem with providing notice to all property owners within all UR areas.

Clark said the executive director, Jim Rees, has been in contact with property owners and any project will have to go through the planning process first. This gets worse and worse as we go along and it is hard to believe that a property owner is not keeping track. Motion passed 5/2 with Clark and Beckman dissenting.

Ordinance to repeal the North Broadway UR PlanCole moved to approve on first reading and move the second reading to Dec. 6. Phil Cernanec seconded and motion passed 5/2 with Clark and Beckman dissenting.

Ordinance to repeal the Santa Fe UR PlanBrinkman moved to approve on first reading and move the second reading to Dec. 6. Cole seconded and motion passed 5/2 with Clark and Beckman dissenting.

Ordinance to repeal the Columbine Square UR Plan – Jerry Valdes pulled this item. He said he wanted to keep this plan because it is site specific and in his mind it is what UR is for and he wanted to see it stay. There was some discussion as to how the motion should be worded. Valdes moved to deny the repeal of the Columbine Urban Renewal Plan. Cernanec seconded.

Clark said council will need to unwind their Resolution that stated they would not move forward on any UR project without the full support of all taxing entities and they did not have full support from all. The public has not been told how much of the sales tax increment would be lost to LIFT from that area ($19,500 FYI). We have a resolution on condemnation and eminent domain that does not impact this plan, we haven’t been dispersing the sales tax increment, we don’t have full support from the taxing entities, and having the sales tax increment diverted for 25 years does not help the city.

Hopping said there are a lot of issues expressed, issues with LIFT and he believed they were elected to fix the problems. UR works well in a lot of other communities. To those that say if a project comes along we can vote it (UR) back in – developers won’t take that risk. The motion makes a lot of sense.

Cernanec said this was in an area that the council has identified as an area of consideration. (When the plan was approved this was NOT an activity area as noted in the Complan. It has become an area of interest in the past few months, partly because Columbine Square was self blighted by the property owner.)

Brinkman said she has sat up there and heard both sides. The UR “we approved” is not that – UR is to provide an opportunity to support redevelopment in an area to strengthen the community. (Actually the law says that UR is to be used to correct slum and blight that rises to the level that we are concerned about the spread of crime and disease. It is not about economic development.) There may be things in the paper work that need to be changed – we can change that. (This depends on what paper work she is referring to – if the plans – only LIF can change them and they would have to be approved by the council and ratified by the voters. If the paper work is council’s then she is correct – they can change their resolutions just as we said they would/could in the manner of a single meeting.) Our job is to support LIFT and make this work. (No their job is to approve plans that meet the requirements of the law, appropriate money for LIFT if required, approve the use of eminent domain and abolish the authority. They also have the obligation of collecting and diverting all sales tax increment for the next 25 years to LIFT.)

Cole said she wants more chance for dialog.

Clark said it is not a matter of opinion – it is a matter of what the resolutions say and to allow a plan to go forward doesn’t guarantee financing to go through but it does allow for the increment to be collected and diverted and that’s a problem with all the UR plans.

Beckman thought it was important to take this to a second reading so there was a public process.

Motion passed 4/3 with Beckman, Clark and Cole dissenting.

Ordinance to abolish the Littleton Invests for Tomorrow UR AuthorityValdes thought the new LIFT board was good. Attorney Hoffman (LIFT and the city’s attorney for UR issues, yes, both parties use the same attorney) cautioned the council to consider and give guidance what to do with the debt and increment collected if three of the four plans were abolished. Increment has been deposited for some but not all plans (again not true, there has been property tax deposited for Santa Fe, Ltn Blvd, and No Broad and sales tax increment for Col Sq., Ltn Blvd, and No Broadway.  In fact, just a short time later in this meeting the deputy city manager states that increment has been collected in all four plan areas.) Cernanec said he expected staff to cover all the contingencies.

Clark said if they abolish LIFT is will also kill the Columbine Square plan. Cernanec asked how they could not consider abolishment. He then made a motion to kill the motion indefinitely. Clark suggested that it go to a second reading in order to give the public an opportunity to address the motion.

Valdes then asked what happened to the TIF collected for the Littleton Blvd plan if the plan goes away…..would it go back…. Mike Braaten, deputy city manager, said that there has been increment for all four plans and they can address those issues.

Beckman thought is was irresponsible not to have a public hearing. Cernanec said the public has had an opportunity to speak. Clark said, yes, just like Columbine Square had. Brinkman said they needed to hear from the attorneys because of the way they (I believe she was referring to council) had “mucked up” the Ordinances. Motion failed 3/4 with Clark, Beckman, Cole and Valdes dissenting.

Clark moved to approve the Ord to abolish LIFT on first reading and hold the second reading on Dec. 6. Brinkman seconded.  Beckman wanted to have an understanding how to deal with the finances of LIFT as the law provides for 6 months minimum for LIFT to resolve their financial matters. Hoffman said there were two options. If council abolishes LIFT it would abolish the Columbine Square plan. If the ordinance is amended to keep LIFT in place but still had work to do the debt to the city would have to be dealt with and how the money for the other plans would be paid back. There are numbers to crunch.

Cole thought they needed a study session. Beckman said he had no interest in another study session. He wanted specifics and wanted the public to know.

Motion passed 7/0.

Certification of the September 16, 2016 minutes – motion passed 6/1 with Clark dissenting.

Second Reading

Ordinance to amend the city code to change the name of the planning board to planning commission and making associated changes throughout the city code. Passed 7/0.

General Business

Resolution appointing an acting city attorney, approving a legal agreement and increasing the hours of the assistant city attorney. Motion passed 7/0.

Brinkman made a request of the city manager to mail out notices to all property owners in the UR areas. Cernanec second and motion passed.

Public Comment

Jerry Hill – said he had been around a long time – and he understood when LIFT was considered LIFT would operate separately though council approved their goals, use of previous increment being used to fund these four plans, $50,000 loans provided twice to produce projects (actually it has been 3 times). Tonight was a performance review – what about results?

Don Bruns – told council that a proposal to abolish LIFT will kill urban renewal is not true. The legislation is still in effect and what part of 300 will kill UR. If voters will not approve it is because the proposal wasn’t worthy of approval. You are subverting UR for economic development. Development needs to pay for itself and generate revenue and should benefit the neighborhoods and sustain the quality of life.

Pam Chadbourne said the Columbine Square area is clearly not a single property and most property owners did not want to be in the plan area. She did not want to see public money used – developers are in business and they can do just fine without 25 years of our risk. On Mineral and Lt. Rail – PUMA is providing a connectivity study within the light rail area and the adjacent areas – that’s all – it is not a master plan.  Council needs to provide for housing, transportation and traffic policies before a master plan can be done.

Carol Brzeczek – commented on the interesting meeting and mentioned the process council used to resolve traffic issues on Mineral. It was a very public process where citizens were asked to help define the problem and the solutions. She wondered where they would be if the same process had been used for UR. She expressed concern over Cernanec’s conversation with whoever about what someone wants to do with the Columbine Square property – if the development comes back to council in a quasi-judicial setting she did not think it would be appropriate for him to participate in the decision. Mr. Cheng can come to council and tell them what he wants to do with the property but that is not the process. He has to go to the planning board first.   On transparency, even within one meeting they could not keep within one definition of transparency – transparency was different for developers than it was for the citizens. She then read to them, from LIFT’s document, their role and responsibilities regarding UR. Council can create the UR authority, approve UR plans, authorize the use of eminent domain, which was still a viable option with all four plans, they can appropriate funds for the UR authority and they can abolish the authority. That’s it. She heard them talk about what they can do with UR and the fact is they no longer have input. They approved the plans and it is up to the authority to implement the plans. Furthermore, council members come and go and so do LIFT members and to think that ten years from now those members will know what this council wanted them to do is not realistic.

Executive Session

Council adjourned into an executive session for the purpose of conferring with the attorney and receiving legal advice regarding Kasko, LLC v Littleton – Case No. 16-cv-01734-RBJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

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