By John Watson
Citizen impetus caused the City of Littleton to enact impact fees. Impact fees are enacted to compensate the municipality for the loss of income from the creation of residential property zoning and construction which do not adequately compensate the city for services required, e.g. Police, fire, museum, library, transportation and facilities. The impact fees went into effect in 2015 for construction permits which were requested after the ordinance went into effect. The state law requires that the impact fees be segregated funds and be used for the improvements identified, e.g. police, fire, museum, library, transportation and facilities. At the request of citizens I have revisited the effect and practice of the impact fees on the City of Littleton.
Under the new administration at the City of Littleton (Manager Mark Relph) the staff was very courteous and accommodating as if they wished to help with this project. Quite unlike the pulling teeth experience with the prior management (Michael Penny). The building department collects that impact fee when the permit is obtained. The Building Department furnished me with an impressive list of 55 pages of projects which paid impact fees since 2015. Due to the volume of information I will limit my discussion to the effect of impact fees in 2016. During that period the impact fees collected were $3,335,728. Impressive. The fees expended were less than half of that amount. The spent impact fees went principally for the Trailmark Fire Station. That is a tortured rationale for the use of impact fees for the affected areas since it does not appear that any of the impact fees were collected from Trailmark but most were spent there. Another principal expense was a street in Littleton Village but that development is paying impact fees and that is understandable.
That information comes principally from the City Finance office. They pleasantly produced very transparent and detailed accounting records of the impact fees collected and expended. The information is available from the city website under the finance section as well. Impressive. The funds are segregated. They are properly collected by the Building Department at the time of issuance of the permit. There is nearly $2,000,000 in funds collected from 2016 for expenses for the impacted areas.
The impact fees will always pale in comparison to the income from retail sales taxes but have been significant during this building boom experienced by Littleton since 2015 and will compensate the citizens for the expenses of the high density apartments permitted by the city. The performance by the new city management and staff is vastly improved. Impressive.
By Carol Fey
One purpose of zoning is to give current and prospective property owners assurance of what the property near theirs can be used for. If you buy a house, you want to know that a junk yard or a 12-story apartment building isn’t going to be built next to your house.
Yet in Littleton, we treat zoning as if it’s an obstacle to a developer’s supposed right to do whatever he wants. Some members of city council claim again and again, “The developer has the right to develop his property! He has the right to make money!”
But does that developer, who knows full well the zoning of a property when he buys it, have the right to build something very different from what zoning allows? Or to go before the Planning Commission and claim that his sidewalk-to-sidewalk development will have no negative impact?
How did we get to the place where the supposed rights of a developer to do whatever he wants is more important than the rights of citizen property owners to expect city government to enforce city code, to protect citizens’ property values and lifestyle?
There’s a brand new lonely park bench in Puma Park, the green space behind Powell Middle School.
Its predecessor was a well-used bench, nestled under shade trees, and tucked safely away from the busy sidewalk. It was often occupied by people reading books, sitting with a dogs, or “just resting.”
A few months ago, South Suburban replaced the good bench with one that no one uses. The new one is fully exposed to the often-too-bright, often-too-hot sun. It’s up against the sidewalk, so anyone sitting there is vulnerable to whooshing bikes and lunging dogs. It’s a nice bench, in a location not good for sitting.
When we asked South Suburban why, they said that it was too hard to mow around the other bench, and that if we don’t like this one we can sit on a different bench.
There are no other benches in this park.
A representative from Waters & Co. met with city council to discuss and establish a timeline for the recruitment process for the city manager. Interviews with each council member had taken place and the interviews with the department heads would be completed the following day. For the interviews a profile of the perfect candidate would be created. Although it was obvious that the council was not “homogenous” there were recurring themes coming out of the interview process. They are:
- Highly experienced
- Willing to stay for an extended time
- Manages openly and transparent with citizens, staff and council
- Ability to manage a full service city at a high level
- Able to develop codes, Charter, and ability to apply law as it pertains to our situation
- Experience with urban renewal
- Open to innovative ways to maintain infrastructure
Council will be provided with a list of candidates by December 15th with interviews beginning early in January. Waters & Co. will be running a similar process for the city attorney search “right behind” the city manager search.
A question still before City Council is whether or not to abolish urban renewal. Councilmember Doug Clark has been strong in his support of abolishment. He continues to raise concerns about the poorly written urban renewal plans. At the study session on August 23, 2016, he mentioned the “lie” that was disseminated in the city of Littleton about tax increment financing (TIF).
Going all the way back to the Urban Renewal vs Urban Legend meeting that city council sponsored at ACC on October 28, 2014, he read from the brochure:
“Creating a TIF does not reduce property tax revenues available to schools, parks or county services. TIF projects receive only taxes derived from future development that would not have occurred without creation of the TIF.”
This statement means that TIF would only be collected if and when a project happened in an urban renewal plan area. To date, there are no projects in any of the four plan areas yet TIF is being collected. In 2015 The TIF collected was just over $250,000! So what happened?
The law was implemented as intended. How could council say that there would not be any taxes diverted from the schools, parks, and county? The answer is simple – they did not understand the way TIF works.
The bottom line is that of the approximately $250,000 taken, over $159,000 belonged to the school district. But it was instead given to urban renewal even though there are no urban renewal projects. Unless city council repeals urban renewal, this giving money intended for schools to urban renewal will continue until the year 2039! And again, urban renewal has no projects to spend the money on. When and if a valid urban renewal project comes along, City Council can bring it back.
Take a moment and send emails to city council members to abolish urban renewal so that money stops being taken from Littleton Schools.