By Deanna Cook
(Council Study Session ID# 17-25. See More High Density for Downtown Littleton for the back story.)
In a nutshell: CHFA’s representative, Tasha Weaver, made CHFA look foolish. She admitted they rarely hear from the public and that our opposition, while “unprecedented” and the likes of which CHFA has “never seen before”, was ignored by them in their decision-making. She stated she ‘bundled up’ the Petition and numerous letters and emails and gave them to the CHFA Voting Committee. According to CHFA’s own inside attorney, the Summit application documents provided to the Voting Committee for a final decision did not include our opposition. It did, however, include what CHFA called ‘support’ that CHFA itself sought out and by notifying South Metro Housing Authority which then, in return for hearing about the project, provide a letter of support to Summit.
Weaver confirmed CHFA’s Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) goals in 2016 were for four specific types of projects for extreme needs such as the homeless, special needs persons, low population areas and disaster area victims. Summit’s project did not fall into any of those categories. She also confirmed when LIHTC properties are found to be non-compliant after construction and occupied, they have never sued any of those developers or investors. Further, after Summit sells as planned at year 15, there appears to be very little oversight or control for the next 40 years. In this case the original developer and investors will be gone. CHFA looks at ‘vacancy’ rates but no specific low income housing needs. They don’t even investigate what other low income housing already exists in a community. Downtown Littleton currently supports a very high percentage of low income housing.
The City Council advised CHFA its process was “flawed” and essentially chastised it for ignoring the public voice and dropping down a 55-year low income project without involving the City which is tasked with managing the dispersing of socioeconomic properties and zoning and also taking into account that properties like Littleton Crossing may even be exempt from paying sales and use or property taxes to the City.
During council discussion, it was brought up that this piece of property may have been illegally rezoned. The zoning change required an approximately 4 acre plot whereas it is only 43,000 squ ft. The City Council ended with a plan that they would delay as much as possible to review the potential improper zoning issue.
Legal counsel has been retained by various community members – including residents and business owners.
By Scott Keyser
Development and land use changes without citizen input is happening yet again now that the land use has changed for the proposed Littleton Crossing Development at 5591 S Nevada, a block north of Main Street.
Despite community and downtown business objection, in 2013 zoning for the lot at 5591 S Nevada was approved for high density luxury condominiums. In 2016, with no public hearing, the proposed development was changed to low income housing for 55 years by the Colorado Housing Finance Authority (CHFA). The Littleton Crossing Development is being developed by out of state developer, Summit Housing Group
The zoning allows the development of 63 units (85 bedrooms) on a lot smaller than the size of one block and is unlike all other zoning in District One (Downtown Littleton). One of the main objections is related to parking, which is already a challenge for residents and visitors to the local businesses. The city has suggested that restricting visitor parking would be a potential solution should there be further parking issues from the new, high density development. Business owners and visitors are already vocal about parking issues in downtown Littleton, and the new development could certainly lead to more congestion.
The residents of downtown Littleton created a petition in July of 2016 to oppose the CHFA approval for low income housing. The petition was signed by local residents in district one as well as many business owners. There are already four low income housing developments within 3 blocks of the proposed development as well as many more within walking distance of downtown Littleton, and many in the community would rather see a “market rate” development as downtown Littleton continues to prosper.
The CHFA approval is being scrutinized by Littleton city council after learning the community objection was omitted from the review process. Instead, the CHFA approval was based on support from developers and an individual associated with RTD. It has also been realized the development will give priority to Section 8 applicants despite originally promoting the development as a place for teachers, police workers and firefighters, who will not qualify for the low income units. Furthermore, the CHFA approval was based on the low income housing development to stay for the next 55 years.
Littleton City Council is holding a special ‘Study Session’ on January 24 during which it will interview CHFA and learn more about its process related to this project. After the study session City Council will decide whether to give further direction to the City concerning approval of the project. People are encouraged to voice their opinion to city council and the city manager as they continue to scrutinize the CHFA approval. You can find contact information for city council members and the acting city manager at http://littletongov.org/connect-with-us/city-leadership/city-council-members and http://www.littletongov.org/city-services/city-departments/city-manager.
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