City Council Study Session – 12 December 2017 – Mineral Station Master Plan & Preliminary Project Plan

Littleton City Council Study Session               12 December 2017.     Citizen Minutes

All council members were present.

Id#-17-345    Overview of Mineral Light Rail Station Area Planning Project

In 2013 Littleton received a grant from RTD, DRCOG and the Federal Transit Admin for the Station Area Master Plans for the Mineral Light Rail Station and the Downtown Light Rail Station. (Littleton contributed a portion of the coss for the market analysis of what might work in the way of development in the two areas – all options were to be transit oriented development (TOD) or high density.) Continue reading

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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?)

Community Conversation – Dec. 1, 21016

Community Conversation has been scheduled for Dec. 1st, 7:00pm at the Connections Room at 6520 S Broadway (just a couple doors south of Solid Grounds in the South Fellowship Church Center). Doors will be unlocked at 6:45 and meeting will end at 8:30. The subject for the evening will be Columbine Square.

If you are wondering:

-what is the connection between Columbine Square and the Columbine Square Urban Renewal       (UR) Plan,
-how did Columbine Square get in the condition it is in today,
-how our tax dollars can be diverted to subsidize the redevelopment of Columbine Square,
-where do those tax dollars come from,
-what is B-2 zoning and what does it have to do with Columbine Square redevelopment,
-what happens if the Columbine Square UR Plan is repealed,
-what happens if the UR Authority (LIFT) is abolished,
-do citizens have any voice in the redevelopment of Columbine Square,
-do the Englewood citizens have a voice,
-what happens on Dec. 6th regarding the future of Columbine Square?

We will attempt to answer all these questions and more. Come prepared with your questions.

We are on the final leg of our Food Drive for the 244th Heavy Artillery Army Reserve Families. Please show your support for the troops and bring something for them in the way of non-perishable food items. They are in need and cannot ask for help. They are so grateful for anything we provide from food items to disposable diapers to shampoo. What a small price to pay for what they do for us.

City Council Regular Meeting Citizen Minutes – 1 November 2016

Regular City Council Meeting       1 November 2016         Citizen Minutes

Citizen Comments

Paul Bingham spoke in favor of the Riverside General Planned Development (PD) located at 5000 and a portion of 4900 S Prince Street. (Consent Agenda item (h)) Continue reading

Englewood has their own low income housing projects – City Manager called it “outrageous”

Last week I attended the Englewood city council meeting.  Monica Babbitt and Marcus Scott, from the Arapahoe County Assessor’s office, were there to address tax increment financing (TIF) in one of their dormant urban renewal areas.

Laurett Barrentine, an Englewood city councilwoman, attended the Community Conversations on urban renewal and became aware of the General Iron Works Urban Renewal (UR) Area in Englewood.  This UR area had bee long forgotten but a project was beginning to take shape. She was concerned about the increment being siphoned off from their General Fund in a time where every dollar is important to their budgeting process.  Surprisingly Barrentine had to convince her city staff and council that there was increment in jeopardy.  to make the long story short – she finally prevailed and their is now a recognition that the General Iron Works UR plan area still has 9 years on the TIF clock.  In other words, the city of Englewood stood to lose tax dollars for the next nine years to their UR authority in spite of the fact that there is no debt in this UR area.  (TIF is, by law, to be used to pay debt associated with the project.)

Last Monday, October 24, 2106 the Englewood City Council heard Ms. Babbitt explain to them that there would be no increment – the project known as The Foundry, was tax exempt.  She explained that the developer for The Foundry had partnered with the Englewood Housing Authority (EHA).  For the mere sum of $100 paid to the developer by the EHA the entire project was no longer subject to use tax (taxes paid to the city on the materials used in building the project – it is a lot of money) nor would they be paying property taxes.  To put salt in the wound, Babbitt told the council that not only had the EHA bought in to The Foundry project but they had also paid $100 for a partnership in The Broadway Lofts!

The council members were stunned.  The council members that were liaisons to the EHA were just as stunned as the others.  Barrentine called it outrageous and said that they had been “hood-winked” again.  The city manager, Eric Keck, said he had just found out and he too thought it was outrageous.

I am glad that I went and not even disappointed that I didn’t learn more about increment and UR.  What I heard made me go home and start doing research on Littleton Crossing – there had been some chatter about Section 8 housing in downtown Littleton.  I had to find out – was this the same sort of project that would add citizens but no tax revenues?  Short answer – yes and for up to ten years.

Attachements:  Awards from the CHFA to both Englewood projects:

broadway-lofts2015-4-and-state-award-report

the-foundry-2015competitiveawardreport

Please see the post on Littleton Crossing to see the CHFA report on the award to them of $1,240,000 per year.

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.) Continue reading

LIFT Board Meeting 08.19.2016 – Executive Director Terminated

LIFT Meeting

19 August 2016

Justin Hay, Ryan Toole, Craig O’Rourke, Kyle Schlachter, Gary Thompson, and LaDonna Jurgensen were present. Jim Collins was absent.

An opportunity for public input was offered. Carol Brzeczek asked LIFT if the public would have an opportunity to address them at the end of the meeting after the public had had the opportunity to listen to the board’s discussion. Justin Hay, Chair, said he did not see any action items on the agenda and he wasn’t inclined to provide the public with an opportunity to address them later. Kyle Schlachter made a motion to allow citizen input at the end of the meeting. His motion was seconded and passed.

Jim Rees, Executive Director, provided an update on their financial condition. The short and sweet of it all is:

 

Increment collected from the Santa Fe UR Plan area                               $     3,025.05

Increment collected from the Littleton Blvd UR Plan area                       $   20,758.27

Increment collected from the No Broadway UR Plan area                       $232,401.26

They plan on returning per an agreement once they know their fate.

They have incurred expenses for 2016 in the amount of $7,759.64.They still have a debt to the city for $150,000.00

What is missing from the financial information were the billings from the city for the services that the city staff has provided. Also, the point was made at a council meeting that the letters of agreement have not been signed by the parties involved. There is a question if there are agreements as agreements area usually signed by all the parties involved.

The financial reports were approved.

Attorney Cory Hoffman told the board that the Court had decided in the County’s favor and that the right of ways inclusion in the Santa Fe Ur Plan wasn’t proper. The City needs to take the ag land property out of the UR plans. Gary Thompson asked if it would require a vote – Hoffman said no it just needs to be taken out.

New Business 

Hay presented a document put together by the city staff and Jim Rees – their Goals and Objectives. Rees said the work was done after listening to the council’s discussion on UR. Hay thought a policy for the use of TIF should be put in place that would address specifically how TIF funds would be spent – infrastructure, parks, signage, design guidelines….

Hoffman was asked what the TIF money could be spent on and he said there wasn’t much limitation. What he thought was most important to the council was how theTIF funds will be spent.

Hoffman said there are a lot of ways to do redevelopment. Urban renewal is a mechanism for public improvement to encourage future developers. If council goes forward with UR and would like to work with you on infrastructure improvements within the UR areas that is a larger discussion.

LaDonna Jurgensen asked if it was a matter of priorities or limits. Rees said he thought council wanted to limit it in some fashion.

Ryan Toole said he did not hear it the same. He hear it was more of a general dissatisfaction of the entire program and the need for it in Littleton. He thought having a policy for the use of TIF was a good place to start.

Schlachter said we have plans but the council does not like the plans.   He moved to require city council to provide direction for each UR area. Craig O’Rourke agreed completely – we need council to gell us what their vision is – council needs to tell us what to do.

Hoffman said it is not black and white – it is hard to undertake any of this without knowing the council’s global plan. Tool said the perception in the development community and it is a problem attracting developers to the UR areas. Hay said if they put something in motion to show them it would be a good direction to take.

Rees said when council meets they do not get down to a specific level. Let’s give them something to react to. Toole wanted to get council’s approval of their work plan for one year. We are asking them to approve our existence for another year. Jurgensen said if they can do this hey don’t need us and she had the impression that council wants to direct the projects – then what are we doing here?

Hoffman said council can look at UR on a plan basis, abolish LIFT and repeal all the plans, or put a question to the voters to allow the council to be the UR Authority. He felt certain that if the council opted to keep UR for another year the short term goals and objectives were obtainable.

Gary Thompson said perhaps they need to do nothing until a decision is made. Toole thought council would benefit by knowing that LIFT had a plan and it is important that we understand the process and be ready to go forward. We need a real project. It is not the board’s responsibility to executive the project from the ground up. We could decide to do infrastructure hoping to attract development projects.

Hoffman explained that the developer for Columbine Square presented their plan to the staff and the staff was not comfortable with the plan so it wasn’t ready for LIFT. Rees said they needed direction on which plan to implement. He was sure there were a lot of property owners that didn’t know the opportunities available to them.

Hay liked the idea of using the goals and objectives as a framework to show council ad get direction from them on each plan. Show them we have an action plan.

Toole thought there was a nuance to this – he did not want to limit TIF to only projects approved and mandated by the city’s public works dept. We need to understand their wish list. Toole thought the goals and objectives needed to be submitted as it is – a draft business plan for the authority. At a minimum this says if we continue this is what we need to do. It gives council some reason to be optimistic. Hay said it could be given to council in their packet.

There was a brief discussion on the way a project would come to them – does it go to the planning board first? Where’s the line between the planning board and LIFT?   Rees said the planning department comes first – it is a sequential process – the chicken and the egg. Do the Neighborhood Plans come first? There should be a trigger point in the process when a project comes to us.

Schlachter said they had talked about having a workshop for developers and they should have one for staff. He would like to see design guidelines for each area. Hay said he liked that but there was a gray area between them and planning. Toole said at the project level the design overlay has to be approved by council. It is very hard to do (design guidelines) for these very large linear districts. He was hoping that ocundil would see them as forward looking and that would give confidence to council to help them improve.

O’Rourke said he heard about the mistrust regarding their finances, that they are bullies with their agenda. Education is a big thing with staff and the public.

New Business

Hay moved to terminate the executive direction immediately. There were not projects and there is no need for the position. Their budget doesn’t support an executive director. The need to eliminate the executive director was mentioned in a previous council meeting – this will show a step in the right direction. Other members have expressed their concerns that if there is an opportunity for UR to survive if they resigned they were willing to step down so a new board could be seated.

Hoffman said Rees had a 30 day notice requirement in his contract. Someone told Hay that, as chair, he could not make the motion. Jurgensen moved to terminate the executive director contract as soon as possible. Schlachter seconded.

Johnson said this had nothing to do with Rees’ performance. Toole agreed and expressed his concern about how they would function without an exec director. Who will work with the city staff to prepare the financials – Hay said Tiffany Wooten and Wendy Heffner on city staff had been there to provide documents and he would be willing to take that role. Toole wanted to know what would happen when a project comes forward. Hay said they could build a structure around that project.

Jurgensen said they needed a fresh start if they are to continue. She has not been happy with the communication between LIFT and the city and it is why we are where we are. As soon as we have a project we will need an executive director.

Schlachter said communication has been an issue. He asked Hoffman how they were to communicate with each other without violating the open meetings law. Hoffman said do not use “reply to all” as that will constitute a meeting. That does not prevent you from emailing to another member. Some committees use a staff person as an executive director. Hoffman said he would work with Hay to figure out how they will work and reminded everyone that their emails are subject to CORA.

Toole asked if this was an attempt to appease the council. Hay said it was one of the reasons he stated earlier. It will be good for our board to refresh and renew. Toole asked if it improved their chance of survival. Hay said “who knows.”

Motion passed 5/1 with Toole dissenting.

Public Comment

Jeanie Erickson got interested in UR 3 years ago when the former city manager decided to find blight in large areas of Littleton.  Littleton is developing as the economy allows – as it should be.  She spoke about the reasons why she supported the abolishment of LIFT. It is a mess and there were no projects.  She thanked the members of the board for their service.  UR is not right for Littleton.  There is no interest by developers.

Carol Brzeczek said even the former city manager said mistakes were made every step of the way with LIFT. She asked, if LIFT survived, that there be a litmus test for using TIF for infrastructure projects – is it really worth taking tax dollars from the schools, parks, city and county to pay for infrastructure that should be paid for by our tax dollars. When they take taxes for increment and return it the tax payers are paying a higher tax unnecessarily.  And, if they survived, they should do what none of them had done with the exception of Kyle Schlachter – talk with the community members that have raised issues.

Marty Brzeczek asked for a more complete set of financials – one that would include all the services provided to LIFT by the city staff.