Months after councilman Jerry Valdes asked staff how they could “unwind” urban renewal, council finally voted. The urban renewal board (known as LIFT, which stands for Littleton Invests for Tomorrow) is on life support with only one plan left to implement, Columbine Square. The Santa Fe, Littleton Blvd., and North Broadway urban renewal plans were repealed after being approved almost two years ago. No projects for those areas had been put in place.
A number of citizens attended the meeting to voice their support for the repeal of the three plans and abolishment of LIFT. Only a handful of citizens were opposed to the repeal. Concerns about Resolution 88 and subsidizing developers were among the primary reasons for supporting the repeal of the three plans.
Resolution 88 was passed by the city council in Sept. 2014. It provides each of the taxing entities impacted by the tax increment financing (TIF) scheme with veto power of urban renewal projects. Arapahoe County, from the very beginning, expressed their opposition to all four plans, which would, per Resolution 88, render the projects without the ability to be moved forward for lack of the County’s “full support and approval.” At one point the three councilmembers that were in favor of retaining all the urban renewal plans, chose to utter unkind words about the County’s position as if they had forgotten that they had actually given the County the veto power for any project.
But the most easily understood reason for repealing the plans is that citizens do not favor diverting tax dollars away from the schools, parks and county for the next 25 years to subsidize development. This was a real point of contention for Jerry Valdes who asked more than once about why the tax dollars had been diverted when the council had been told that there would be none taken from the taxing entities. He never got an answer to this question.
Doug Clark, Peggy Cole, Bruce Beckman and Jerry Valdes voted to repeal the three plans. Debbie Brinkman, Phil Cernanec and Bill Hopping voted to keep them.
After the three plans were repealed, the next item of business was to abolish LIFT. If LIFT had been abolished it would have automatically repealed the Columbine Square urban renewal plan. Several citizens spoke about the disregard for the community displayed by the owner of Columbine Square Shopping Center, Carl Chang. He has allowed the property to fall in disrepair after forcing his tenants out by not renewing their leases. He now wants to use our tax dollars to redevelop the 15-acre site. Citizens are not happy with him or the loss of tax revenue to Littleton.
Mr. Chang spoke to the council and audience, saying he was sorry for the state of his property. He provided a little history and stated that he did not want to use urban renewal, but needed money to add public amenities.
When the vote was taken as to whether or not to abolish all the urban renewal board (LIFT), Jerry Valdes voted with Debbie Brinkman, Phil Cernanec and Bill Hopping to keep it alive.
Now LIFT has some work to do. With the abolishment of three of the four urban renewal plans, thousands of tax dollars need to be returned to the rightful taxing entities. Debt needs to be paid back to the Littleton taxpayers.
City Council also has some work to do. We hope they will take some time, in the near future, to discuss just how they will implement Resolution 88. Now is the time to do that – not when a project comes forward.