Why You Need to Vote on Urban Renewal

The following was written by Doug Clark, former Littleton Mayor, and was used to provide citizens wanting to know more during the signature gathering stage.  Still good information.

Why You Need to Vote on Urban Renewal

Urban Renewal is where the City Council declares an area as slum and blighted.

Once the Council “finds” the area to be slum and blight, the City’s urban renewal authority (LIFT) can condemn property and collect taxes belonging to other taxing entities in the urban renewal area. The collecting of taxes which belong to other taxing entities is called Tax Increment Financing, or TIF for short. The other taxing entities include Littleton Public Schools, Arapahoe County, South Suburban Parks and Recreation District, and Urban Drainage and Flood Control District.

The City already tried urban renewal once before and it resulted in millions of dollars in losses.

Riverfront, at the corner of Santa Fe and Bowles, was an urban renewal project. The urban renewal authority condemned every private property in the area and sold the properties to Writer Corp., who built a shopping center which lasted only 4 years before closing. The property remained vacant for 9 years until EchoStar purchased the property and moved its Dish Network call center into the former shopping center.

That urban renewal project resulted in million in losses: $9 million lost by the City of Littleton, $22 million lost by Writer Corp., and $7 million lost by the bond holders who invested in the project.

The City wants to do urban renewal all across Littleton, including Riverfront.
The City of Littleton wants to convert the failed shopping center that EchoStar purchased and converted to its call center, back into a shopping center. [see Penny for Your Thoughts – August 2014 on Youtube].

In addition to EchoStar/Riverfront, LIFT and the City Council want to use urban renewal all along Santa Fe, along Bellview and Federal, along Littleton Blvd. from Windermere to Broadway, and along Broadway. This totals more than 500 acres in urban renewal, which is approximately 8 times the size of the Streets at Southglenn.

In order to do this, LIFT and the City are declaring properties as slum and blighted which are neither.

To invoke the police powers of urban renewal the City must find those areas as slum and blight, even when the properties clearly are not blighted or slum. The properties that LIFT and its consultant have determined to be blighted include:

• The King Soopers at Littleton Blvd. and Broadway, currently being rebuilt
• The brand new Breckenridge Brewery along Santa Fe north of Aspen Grove, currently under construction • MacDonalds on Santa Fe just north of ACC, which was completely rebuilt in 2011
• The 7/11 convenience store on Ken Caryl by Aspen Grove which opened in 2011
• The vacant property along Santa Fe from Mineral to County Line.

The MacDonalds, for example, has been declared as unsafe, unsanitary, a fire hazard, and faulty lot layout, even though the MacDonalds was scraped and completely rebuilt to city code in November 2011.

Urban renewal is being managed by the same people who failed at Riverfront.

Six of the seven board members of LIFT were involved in the failed Riverfront shopping center urban renewal project. Even though that project resulted in almost $40 million in losses, the chair of LIFT “stands by the accomplishments” of the Riverfront project and the urban renewal board. [The Villager, August 28, 2014]

Urban Renewal and TIF take taxes away from Littleton Public Schools and other taxing entities.

The tax dollars which LIFT collects is money that would otherwise go to Littleton Public Schools, South Suburban Parks and Recreation, Arapahoe County, and Urban Drainage and Flood Control.

You should have the ability to vote on urban renewal precisely because the Council doesn’t want you to.

A council member states [Littleton Report, Oct./Nov 2014] that giving you the ability to vote on urban renewal “will essentially kill any urban renewal efforts in Littleton” This means either the Council is planning projects it knows you would not approve, or it thinks the you aren’t smart enough to recognize a good urban renewal project.

Both are very strong reasons for why you should be able to vote on urban renewal plans.

Who are you guys?

Questions and Answers about Urban Renewal

Our group includes a former State Representative who wrote portions of the urban renewal law, a former mayor of Littleton, former Littleton council members, former Littleton Public School board member, concerned citizens, parents who have children in Littleton Public Schools, and property owners across Littleton.

Why are you doing this?

Because we believe Littleton needs to be a thriving community. Taking tax dollars away from the school district, South Suburban Parks and Recreation, Arapahoe County, and the city in order to increase the profits of developers will not make Littleton thrive. It will only raise taxes.

How does this take taxes away from the City of Littleton?

Because the City’s property tax and sales tax in the urban renewal areas are also sucked up by urban renewal. The urban renewal areas are not small isolated areas – they cover most of the commercial corridors of the City. Urban renewal freezes the City’s sales and use tax revenue in most of the commercial corridors of the City for 25 years.

Then why does the Littleton Report says urban renewal is needed because of the five-year budget deficit?

The city’s five-year budget forecast projects a surplus, not a deficit [Five Year Financial Projection – First Quarter Report, 6/24/2014]. We don’t know why the Littleton Report is putting out false information.

It is a mystery how the Council thinks freezing tax revenue for 25 years with urban renewal will help what it says is a problem five years in the future.

The City Council says developers will not come to Littleton without urban renewal and TIF. Is this true?

No it is not true. Developers and new development have come to the city for decades without urban renewal and without TIF. This includes Aspen Grove, Lowes, Home Depot, the Littleton Village/Marathon redevelopment project, the Safeway at Littleton and Broadway, South Denver Cardiology, to name just a few.

The real question to ask is, “what has changed in Littleton in the last year to make development impossible without urban renewal?”

But all the other cities have urban renewal. How will Littleton compete?

All the other cities have had urban renewal for decades and Littleton has done just fine.

Wal-Mart didn’t attempt to locate in Littleton because Littleton had urban renewal. Wal-Mart attempted to locate in Littleton because the location matched its marketing strategy. Companies pick their locations based on demographics, market penetration, employee base, and other business factors. Not because of urban renewal.

Why do you keep saying urban renewal will condemn property when the Council passed a resolution saying it will not condemn property?

Because that is what Littleton’s urban renewal plans say.

The first versions of the urban renewal plans said LIFT would use condemnation. After the Council passed its resolution the plan was changed to say that LIFT will “confer decisions of eminent domain to the Littleton City Council”, which has always been the requirement in urban renewal law anyway.

Ask yourself, “why is the council so strongly opposed to the citizens voting on urban renewal plans containing condemnation, if council isn’t going to use condemnation?”

Where can I get more information?

There is more information at http://www.LittletonViews.wordpress.com

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