Low Income Housing in the Heart of Downtown Littleton – Right or Wrong?

Below is a report from Deanna Cook who is leading a group of citizens opposed to the granting of $12,000,000 of tax credits to Summit to build a low income housing project in downtown Littleton.  Colorado Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) attended the city council study session to explain their process for awarding tax credits to developers to build low-income housing.  During the course of the meeting Doug Clark, who had looked into the rezoning history of the property made a startling revelation…….was the property rezoned illegally?  Sure looks like it.  Oh, the legacy of Michael Penny………..  Please read.
From Deanna Cook – Thank all of you who attended last night’s City Council Study Session with CHFA.  For those of you who didn’t make it, I strongly encourage you to view the one-hour video on the City’s website.  It is highly informational – and highly concerning.  (http://littleton.ompnetwork.org/shows/city-council-study-session-01242017?iframe_mode=true
In a nutshell:

CHFA’s representative, Tasha Weaver, made CHFA look foolish.  She admitted they rarely hear from the public and that our opposition, while “unprecedented” and the likes of which CHFA has “never seen before”, was ignored by them in their decisionmaking.  She stated she “bundled up” our Petition, numerous letters and emails and gave them to the CHFA Voting Committee, but we already know CHFA’s own inside attorney confirmed the Summit application documents provided to the Voting Committee for a final decision did not include our opposition.  It did, however, include what CHFA called “support” that CHFA itself sought out or possibly drafted itself on the internet and by notifying South Metro Housing Authority which then, in return for hearing about the project, provided a letter of support to Summit.  
Weaver confirmed CHFA’s LIHTC (Low Income Housing Tax Credit) goals in 2016 were for four specific types of projects for extreme needs such as the homeless, special needs persons, low population areas and disaster area victims – and that Summit’s project did not fall into any of those categories.  She also confirmed when LIHTC properties are found to be non-compliant after construction and occupied, they have never sued any of those developers or investors.  Further, after Summit sells as planned at year 15, there appears to be very little oversight or control for the next 40 years, in this case, after the original developer and investors are gone.  They look at “vacancy” rates but no specific low income housing needs. They don’t even investigate what other low income housing already exists in a community and downtown Littleton currently supports a very high percentage of low income housing.
The City Council (Doug Clark) advised CHFA its process was “flawed” and essentially chastised it for ignoring the public voice and dropping down a 55-year low income project without involving the City which is tasked with managing dispersement of socioeconomic properties and zoning and also taking into account that properties like Littleton Crossing may even be exempt from paying sales and use or property taxes to the City.  It worsened from there…
*** City Council (Doug Clark) went on to its discussion and revealed the City manifestedly abused its power when it “illegally rezoned” the subject property at 5591 S. Nevada Street to ‘PD’ zoning back in 2012/2013 because such a zoning change requires the property to be at least 4 acres large and this lot is only 43,000sf…  Councilman Clark insinuated he feels City Council has “no option” but to reject the project.  For them to move forward knowing Penny and the former City Council under then-mayor Brinkman violated zoning laws may constitute gross negligence.  City Council admitted all this has been their “bad” and their “mess” and they need to fix it.  They also stated outright that the former City Manager (i.e., Michael Penny) “circumvented process” when he approved this illegal rezoning.  
Keep in mind, too, that Jocelyn Mills, City Planning Manager, and with no apparent or admitted authority to do so, sent a letter to Summit which was used as a “letter of support” to gain Low Income Tax Credits through CHFA, stating the proposed Littleton Crossing Apartments project meets our city’s 2014 Comprehensive Plan – when in fact the rezoning for that project was approved illegally, we now know, and she is the City Planning director.  The City maintains it was not an official “letter of support” but, in fact, it references only items pertaining to diverse housing needs and it was used as Summit’s LIHTC support from Littleton which is required in that application process.  Such letter, interestingly, was on Michael Penny’s desk awaiting his signature or approval the night he was fired.  Councilman Bill Hopping for some reason (How? Why?) knew about that letter when we met with him the next morning, opposing the project.  Mills’ letter was still then sent out for the City, under her name, on 8/1/2016.
They have two opposing internal attorney legal opinions, one saying they can reject it and one saying the opposite for “fear of litigation” but those are from internal attorneys, not outside objective legal opinions – and neither knew about or took into consideration (nor even apparently even investigated the rezoning issues) before giving their opinions. 
The City Council left it last night with a plan that they would delay as much as possible the next-week-anticipated approval of Summit’s plat/site plan while their attorney(s) now review the issue about their illegal rezoning and Council will be advised soon.  Mark Relph, acting city manager, advised me he will be in touch soon.  He also told me Thursday the City “doesn’t think parking downtown is a big deal”.
I understand a developer can raise an “I have a vested interest” in the property use/zoning but with no building permits issued or even a site plan/plat approved yet, the land sale deal not closed yet (uncertain on that point), and no ground broken by this out-of-state Montana developer, I can’t imagine how that kind of an argument could have merit.
It should be noted City Council (Doug Clark) also openly admitted they have rejected other development project requests for rezoning to “PD” due for this exact reason – too small of a lot size.  Further, recall, Clarion Associates in 2015 instructed the City to “abandon” PD zoning in downtown Littleton – but it didn’t act on that hired consultant’s advice.  The City has failed to update and manage zoning laws for around 50 years now which the Mayor has stated in writing is “unacceptable”, commenting our zoning laws have just been “kicked down the road” by our City representatives.
We need you to pass the word around ASAP.  Share emails with me to add to this list.  Let me know if you want yours removed. 
Most importantly, and extremely urgent, now is the time to take serious action and write City Council demanding they rescind the 2012/2013 rezoning to PD and reject the Littleton Crossing project.  It is critical we act now, and with force, and with threat of litigation against the City for its negligent conduct, which if they move forward with this project could constitute gross/outrageous conduct and subject the City to punitive or other damages.  The City MUST rescind the zoning change and reject Summit’s project.  No building plans have yet been submitted by Summit to Planning so no building activity or site prep has yet occurred. 
Coucil manifestedly abused its power when it illegally rezoned to PD for Camelback Development in late-2012/early-2013.  Council failed to follow its own procedures in its own ordinance.  It seems possible fraud or other corrupt conduct occurred.  The City cannot hold the developer’s interests above its citizens’ interests.  It cannot allow the project to continue just because they are afraid of litigation from them. The City needs to fear litigation from us.
Please participate.  City Council has the authority to instruct the City to rescind the rezoning and reject this project.  Let’s support them, thank them for their work and help them make the correct decision.
Mayor Bruce Beckman – bbeckman@littletongov.org
CC Peggy Cole – pcole@littletongov.org
CC Doug Clark – dclark@littletongov.org
CC Paul Cernanec – pcernanec@littletongov.org
CC Jerry Valdez – jvaldes@littletongov.org
CC Deb Brinkman – dbrinkman@littletongov.org
CC Bill Hopping – bhopping@littletongov.org
Acting City Manager Mark Relph – mrelph@littletongov.org 
We will also be writing to the Governor about CHFA’s misconduct and to other authorities.  Priority is with the City right now, though, before they move forward with approving any plans.
Please feel free to reach out to me.  We may need help with mailing flyers or passing them out.  We also intend to set up a TV media strategy and go to the media no later than Monday.  Folks interested should contact me as we hope to schedule a strategy session Saturday or earlier.
Thank you very much for being the great citizens I know all of you are…
Deanna Cook

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