LIFT (UR) Board Meeting 16 November 2016 – Citizen Minutes

LIFT Regular Meeting         16 November 2016

LaDonna Jurgensen, Jim Collins, Justin Hay, Randy Toole, and Kyle Schlachter were present. Craig O’Rourke and Gary Thompson were absent. Keith Martin was the attorney sitting in for Corey Hoffman.

Public Comment

Patricia Ross, a resident of Englewood, expressed her concern over a high-density development on the Columbine Square site.

Norm Brown referred to a copy of a letter from the Arapahoe County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) acknowledging that there is no Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with Arapahoe County on the sharing of tax increment financing (TIF). The letter was dated January 2016 – almost a year ago and the LIFT Board had done nothing to work with the County to come to an agreement. He mentioned all the meetings that had taken place since the letter was sent – and included the number of meetings that were cancelled. LIFT member, Jim Collins, asked him for a copy of the letter to which Brown said LIFT was copied on the letter and they should have it. The attorney said he would provide LIFT with a copy.

Leisa Sacry lives next to Columbine Square and also expressed her concern over redevelopment of Columbine Square into high-density. Traffic is already an issue over there.

Carol Brzeczek was concerned about HB-1348 passed in 2015 that required a 13 member UR board. Ten members should be appointed by the mayor and approved by council and the other three members were to be members of the impacted taxing entities. The exact language is:

This act applies to (a) Municipalities, urban renewal authorities, and any urban renewal plans created on or after January 1, 2016.

Budget Approval

Chair, Justin Hay, said the budget documents provided were not accurate. Motion was made to table the approval of the budget to the Dec. 8th meeting. Motion passed.

Columbine Square Redevelopment

John Needell, real estate representative for the property owners of Columbine Square, had been invited by LIFT to come and present their plans for the redevelopment of Columbine Square Shopping Center that is now empty and surrounded by an ugly green fence. This call to action was prompted by council’s deferment of the decision to repeal the four urban renewal plans and/or abolish LIFT in order to give the investment group that owns the property time to develop a plan with the hopes that they would finally have a viable urban renewal project. Needell said the property had been owned by the investment group since 1989 and was their first investment property. (The owners live in California.) He said they wanted to work with citizens to tell them what they want on the site. He had heard that some want a buffer of for sale housing. They have done a “void” analysis and said it was hard to fight on-line retail. With UR money (taxpayer’s money, aka TIF) they could put a portion of retail at Federal and Belleview similar to what was there. But they needed infrastructure help with the parking. They are actively trying to come up with a plan – collecting ideas now. Could be horizontal mixed use but still looking at the community for ideas.

Randy Toole made a statement that they needed TIF money to attract viable retail – that they can’t get an anchor there – they could get a liquor store, shoe store and they needed amenities to drive the retail since they can’t attract major chains to the area. He continued, UR is very important to achieve the goals on the site. If LIFT is abolished all four UR areas are disbanded – are there any plans of the developer to show up at the meeting – we are running out of time.

Kyle Schlachter said UR is for the gap financing (There is nothing in the UR law that mentions gap financing. In fact, the term has been referred to a number of times, mostly by councilwoman Cole, and the attorney has told them that there is no such thing as gap financing in the UR law.) He asked Needell what would happen to the site if they did not get taxpayer’s money to subsidize them?

Needell said it might force their hand to develop under the B2 zoning that currently exists.

Toole mentioned that he has heard that tenants were forced out – their leases were not renewed. Needell said from the owner’s perspective the site is no longer a retail site. There are natural changes in real estate over time. Toole said the neighborhood is already served with their retail needs. Schlachter asked Needell if he had support from other retailers over there to which he said yes. (Not sure what the support was for and from whom but we know that O’Toole’s Garden Center had a legal issue with the owners of Columbine Square and part of the settlement is they have to remain silent on the redevelopment of the site. Silence is not support.)

Hay said the “shortfall” is important to LIFT. There are anchors over there – Home Depot and King Soopers and he would be interested in the analysis. He thought things were changing – even Amazon was trying out brick and mortar stores. This is an opportunity for a transitional area, for our city council to understand the real gap and then how to assist on the retail side so it works for everyone. (In order to have a financial shortfall that requires the taxpayer’s money, there has to be a plan – a real plan – not the pictures that Needell passed around depicting a farmer’s market, a small outdoor entertainment venue and a fitness trail of sorts that was represented by a picture taken from who knows where.) Then Hay asked Needell if he could be more specific about a plan.

Jim Collins asked Needell if they had considered a Metro District or a Business Improvement District. (Both are financing schemes where they tax themselves to pay for the infrastructure. Littleton Village has done this – the property taxes there are higher in order to pay off the bonds that financed the infrastructure.) Needell said no.

Distribution of TIF

Hay said they would have a better understanding after Dec. 6th about what to do with the TIF collected….$258,207.00.

Objectives and Goals

Toole said he had listened to council and what they wanted and tried to address their concerns in the revised draft of their goals and objectives. He added the following to their list.

-Provide the council with the documentation to resolve their financial status

-Identify potential candidates for an Exec. Director

-Work with Columbine Square developer to determine whether a specific plan for redevelopment         requiring taxpayer’s money (TIF)could be brought forth before the end of 2016.

-Clarify the status and outcome of the Wells Fargo issues

-Initiate property tax rebates to the various taxing entities according to the  letters of agreement

LaDonna Jurgensen asked what was unresolved about their financial matters. Everything appeared to her to be in order. Hay thought a “white paper” – a check and balance of where we are financially – a monthly spreadsheet report to council.

Toole said their financial process is still evolving. The former exec director transferred all the financial info to the city staff and they have taken on the role for LIFT.

There is still an unresolved matter with Wells Fargo – $1,300 that has not been returned to LIFT and no one appeared to know why.

Public Comment

Jeanie Erickson told LIFT that they had been misinformed as to why the tenants moved out. She had spoken directly with several and the story was the same – their lease was not renewed and they did not want to go. Now the property owners have left us with this eyesore and wants taxpayer’s money (TIF) to redevelop. What has he been doing for the past three years?

Kathy Messenger has lived here since the late 1980’s and said the center was always weak and the property owner was nothing more than a slum lord. Other developers are coming to Littleton and developing without taking the taxpayer’s money (TIF). Why don’t they sell the property? And, what makes the area a “can’t do” area? She also asked Needell who he reached out to and the dates as she had not heard of any attempt to do so.

Pam Chadbourne asked about the true cost of UR. Do not reward self-blight. Whatever happens there needs to meet the City’s needs. The Costs and Risks need to be defined.

Carol Brzeczek told them that the increment they used for seed money was from the old Riverfront UR project and by law was to be used to pay debt. It was money that was owed to the taxpayers of Littleton. The Letters of Consent referred to as an agreement to refund increment were not agreements at all. An agreement consisted of at least two parties agreeing on something and the Letters of Consent were not agreed to by the other parties and were not agreements at all. In fact, Arapahoe County has made it clear that they will not accept a refund of increment.

To Mr. Needell, who had said he could not build townhomes because of the construction defects law, he needed to go back and reconsider – townhomes had just been approved by the city council the night before and if one developer has figured out how to do it then they could too. Incentives versus using taxpayer’s money (TIF); there was nothing that Brzeczek had heard in Needell’s presentation that required the kind of funding that the UR was created to provide. She suggested that he consider going to council for incentives similar to what was awarded to King Soopers and Breckenridge Brewery. (After the meeting, I did ask Needell if he had considered incentives and told him what they might consist of based on the King Soopers and Breckenridge Brewery incentive agreements. He said why go to council where he wasn’t sure of the outcome when he has a sure thing with LIFT?)

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