When does 2 + 2 = 8? When the majority of City Council says it does–and the courts have no right to say otherwise. That is the position the city’s lawyers took in closing arguments of the city’s lawsuit against Arapahoe County.
The state legislature has made numerous changes to urban renewal law over the years. These have been to prevent abuses of the law by cities in Colorado. In 2010 the legislature decided to address the abuse of cities declaring vacant agricultural land as slum and blight by putting conditions on when agricultural land can be included in an urban renewal area. Those conditions include the requirement that agricultural land cannot make up more than 50% of the urban renewal area, and two-thirds of the border around the agricultural land must be adjacent to urban level development.
The problem for Littleton is that it wants to include vacant agricultural property in its urban renewal area so that it could give money to developers, developers such as Endeavor Real Estate Group who develops properties into Walmart. (Contrary to claims by the city on Rumor Guard that the city has not received any plans and has had no contact with a developer, or WalMart or Sam s Club, the city received, and approved, a rezoning application from Endeavor for the Ensor property last year. The city withdrew its administrative approval of the Ensor rezoning early this year after WalMart became a contentious issue – again.)
The Arapahoe County assessor determined that the agricultural land in the Santa Fe Urban Renewal Plan, which consists mostly of the Ensor property, does not meet the requirements of state law. Littleton sued the Arapahoe County assessor in order to overturn his ruling.
The City Council argued, through its lawyers, that the inclusion of agricultural land is a “legislative determination,” and that the court should “presume” the requirements called out in law have been met because the Council said so. The lawyers made this argument even though they admitted in court that the information presented to Council in order to make its “legislative determination” showed that the agricultural land did not meet the requirements. (Six months after filing suit against Arapahoe County, the Council changed the boundaries of the Santa Fe Urban Renewal Area in order to make the plan match its “legislative determination.”)
When does 2+2=8? In Littleton whenever the majority of Council decides it does.