Urban Renewal Authorities (URAs) have their place for development and/or redevelopment of truly blighted properties and I support the concepts and goals of an URA.
In Colorado, many URAs are creating unhealthy competition between cities for retail developments. Developers are seeking out the “highest bidder” for taxpayer money. URA boards are staffed by unelected bureaucrats. URA boards in Colorado are not elected (unless their City Council acts as the URA board as well) and most of their decisions are not reviewed or ratified by the local City Councils. There is little or no accountability.
Question: What has happened to the free market system and why should the taxpayers automatically remove the inherent risk associated with private investment in development/redevelopment projects just because the developer asks for it?
I totally agree that Tax Increment Financing (TIF) can be a useful redevelopment tool. For example, I voted for the TIF at 38th & Kipling St. (Sprouts, Starbucks, senior housing, etc…) and have supported most others in the past. The voters in Littleton just recently passed a Charter Amendment which states that ALL TIFs approved by the City Council must also be approved by the voters. The development community spent big bucks attempting to defeat the Littleton ballot measure, but it still passed by 60%. CLICK —> Littleton URA/TIF Ballot Question – Denver Post and Littleton Campaign – Your Money Your Vote.
Additionally, The Colorado State Legislature recently passed a bipartisan URA Fairness Bill in 2015. The Bill is sitting on the Governor’s desk for signature or veto. CLICK —> HB 15-1348 (URA Reform) and Denver Business Journal (TIF Fairness Bill)
Unfortunately a lack of vision, a lack of compromise, greed and lack of fiscal responsibility by the developer and the City at 38th & Wadsworth (developer requesting $7.8 million in TIF) has created a similar situation in Wheat Ridge as in Littleton – a lack of trust of government. Hence, the ballot question to amend the City Charter by the Keep WR Local community group. CLICK —> Ballot Language. This Charter Amendment (if approved by the voters) is retroactive to 3/1/2015 and would affect the 38th & Wadsworth project. The Wheat Ridge petition/ballot wording has to be legislative, not administrative. It can’t address one site per legal counsel, especially in the City Charter. The Keep WR Local Group worked smart to craft the correct verbiage. If this Charter Amendment passes, the voters will have a say on how TIF ($2.5 million or greater) is awarded by the City/URA to development/redevelopment projects.
I warned early on that if a majority of City Council and City staff did not come to the table with a change/update to the 2001 Wadsworth Corridor Plan and backoff the TIF request for the current proposed project at 38th & Wadsworth Blvd. this petition was moving forward by a group of citizens. Obviously, the warning fell on deaf ears.
My point then, and now, was/is that since the TIF clock was started at 38th & Wadsworth Blvd. we should update the corridor plan and look for other mixed use options for the site with the property owners. When I met with the developer, he was not willing to modify his plan or look at other options for the site. Every suggestion I made was shot down because “I should listen to the professional staff and not the public. It’s only a few people complaining“.
I don’t understand why City staff is so hell bent on giving this developer a TIF for bringing nothing new to the table. No new service, no new amenities and no new primary jobs. Yes there is a bigger picture, but this Charter Amendment is the result of City staff pushing for a TIF at all costs for 38th & Wadsworth Blvd and a majority of City Council not asking the right questions.
Is this change really a bad thing? A check and balance by the taxpayers?
Let the public debate begin!
Have a great summer!!