From Complete Colorado on LIFT Membership

Littleton Urban Renewal Authority member at odds with Mayor and newly elected council member

LITTLETON — The election of two new Littleton City Council members in November, and the resignation of a member of the Littleton Invests for Tomorrow (LIFT) board has thrown the city’s Urban Renewal Authority (URA) into uncharted territory and has at least one member of LIFT frustrated.

Concerns are over Littleton Mayor Debbie Brinkman and the current LIFT chairman canceling all LIFT meetings until further notice. It’s a directive LIFT member Carol Brzeczek says the two are not authorized to make.

Brinkman did not respond to an interview request, instead asking Littleton Town Attorney Steve Kemp to respond on her behalf.

Urban Renewal Authorities such as LIFT are entities created by municipalities to help determine whether areas inside the jurisdiction are found to contain blight or slum and whether they are eligible for public/private partnerships to improve the property.

Although the members of LIFT are appointed by the Littleton City Council, state law governs how URAs operate. They have their own bylaws, in most cases their own attorney and operate outside the discretion of the entity that created them.

According to its bylaws, LIFT is made up of seven members that elect a chairman, a vice chairman and a secretary at the beginning of each year.

Brzeczek is questioning why the mayor and Kyle Schlachter, the current chairman of LIFT who was recently elected to city council and is refusing to immediately give up his role on LIFT, chose to cancel the December meeting as well as any future meetings until they can appoint three new members.

Bylaws say four is quorum, but also allow for a lesser number if needed.

“A smaller number may adjourn from time to time until a quorum is in attendance, action may be taken by the Authority upon an affirmative vote of the majority of the Commissioners present,” the bylaws read.

Brzeczek said there are some housekeeping measures that need addressed, but more importantly, that not meeting is in violation of the board’s bylaws. She said no one has the authority to cancel meetings arbitrarily.

Schlachter won’t authorize a meeting until the board is back at seven members.

Schlachter was elected as an at-large candidate to the city council in November. Karina Elrod was also elected as an at-large candidate for city council. She resigned from LIFT on Dec. 11. Ryan Toole, the vice chairman of LIFT, unexpectedly resigned for personal reasons on Nov. 10.

That leaves just four members. Schlachter, who has said he will resign eventually, technically makes it five, but his membership on LIFT is questionable now that he is on city council.

Under state law, one member of the city council can sit on a URA; however, in 2014, Littleton City Council passed a resolution that removed that requirement and appointed a member of the city council to act only as a liaison to the board.

Kemp wouldn’t give an opinion on whether he believed Schachter’s continuing role on LIFT was valid.

“I’m not going to respond on that,” Kemp said. “That question has not been asked of me by the council, and that is a question involving legal advice. I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to respond in this setting.”

In emails obtained by Complete Colorado between Schlachter and Brzeczek, Schlachter is clear he should not be holding both offices.

Schlachter says in the emails he won’t resign until a full board is in place because he is concerned that if he resigns any sooner, there will be no one to sign on the bank account.

According to the bylaws, if the chairman resigns, a new chairperson is supposed to be elected at the next meeting. The December meeting was canceled by Schlachter, despite having the required quorum.

He adds he’s canceling all meetings because of the conflict.

“As Chair, I do not plan on calling a meeting, as I agree with you that I should not serve on both Council and LIFT simultaneously,” Schlachter said in the emails, calling it difficult to function with just four members. “There is no urgent action needed by LIFT (especially with a reduced Board), so I feel the best plan of action is to postpone any meetings until early next year. And from my discussions with the City Attorney, I feel the most prudent course of action is for me to remain Chair until the LIFT Board is fully reconstituted and a new member can take over the role of Chair and new signers can take that responsibility.”

Brzeczek said although having just four members is not ideal, bylaws need to be followed, and Schlachter lost his ability to be on the URA, let alone act as chairman, since he was elected to the city council in November. She said Schlachter is creating his own rules in violation of state law, and those rules are being blessed by Brinkman and Kemp.

“Difficult to function doesn’t have anything to do with by laws that say we shall meet,” Brzeczek said. “All I’m trying to do is fulfill an obligation. But we have a city attorney that has told him he needs to remain as chair and hold onto the checkbook.”

Schlachter’s full term as chairperson is supposed to be over in January despite his election, but emails show the board is likely not going to meet again until spring.

“Scheduling-wise, it seems that Council might be able to prioritize LIFT interviews at the beginning of February,” Schlachter said in the email. “I realize that this is not ideal, but with only four continuing Board members (I do not plan to continue, but I am still currently on the Board) I think it is imperative to wait until a new Board is fully identified until holding a meeting where a new Chair can be appointed.”

This is not the first time there has been controversy surrounding LIFT. In 2015, the city council nearly disbanded it.

Brzeczek, who also ran for city council but lost, believes Schlachter and Brinkman are trying to control the LIFT board for personal reasons.

“The mayor didn’t want me on the URA, and hasn’t supported my citizen activism in the past,” Brzeczek said. “We are being held hostage by a mayor and a brand-new city council member that have no authority over us. What makes it impossible for us is the city is so ingrained in the day-to-day operation of the Urban Renewal Authority that I can’t get access to our website and then city clerk is following the instruction of her council member who thinks he’s also still chair of the URA.”

Brzeczek said one the reasons the board needs to meet is to hire legal representation.

“We have no legal representation to go and challenge what’s happening,” she said. “This has left us in a bad situation.”

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City Council Regular Meeting – 19 December 2017 – STAMP, Preliminary Project Plan and LIFT

Littleton City Council Regular Meeting.      19 December 2017.     Citizen Minutes

Public Comment –

Linda Knufinke presented council with two different scenarios for paying for fire service through South Metro and how much each of the scenarios will cost the property owners in Littleton. The added expense is significant. She asked the council to begin that discussion.

Continue reading

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

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:



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