Fate of Natural Grocers in Limbo

~ by Bob Volpe ~

Representatives for Natural Grocers presented the DDA with an
ultimatum at this month’s DDA meeting.

If the DDA does not grant the natural food chain the TIF agreement
they requested they will not be coming to Woodland Park.

The proposed 13,000 square foot store will be located on the old
Paradise Ranch property at Highway 24 and Paradise Lodge Rd., should
the project move forward.

The spokesman for the chain’s architect touted the environmentally
friendly aspects of the store’s construction and routine operations.
He also suggested that many Woodland Park residents already shop at
their Colorado Springs stores, and that the Woodland Park store would
create about 30 new jobs.

The bomb dropped when he asked the DDA board for a TIF agreement of
80% for a period of 20 years on real property tax (land and
improvements) and 100% over 20 years on the increased personal
property tax.

A TIF agreement is a contract that refunds property tax to an entity
on the increase in value of their property over a period of time,
attributed to future improvement of the property.

In the past the DDA has granted TIF agreements that increase the
property and real estate tax responsibility on a business as the
period of the agreement progresses. The most consistent past
agreements have been on the order of 75% tax relieve for the first
five years, 50% for the second 5 years, 25% for the next five years,
and ending after the 15 year term.

DDA chairperson Merry Jo Larsen thanked them for their presentation
and said the board would discuss their request at a future time. She
said, “We’re going to have to look at our financial plan. We need to
look at the numbers you’re asking for. I’m not sure we can fit with
this type of 80%/100%, we’ll have to discuss that according to our
financials. We have a tremendous amount of debt as well, and I
understand that this will help, but we need to make sure that it will
fit in with our plan. We are not prepared, at this time to make that
decision.”

Natural Grocer’s representative Matt Miles responded, “We already reap
the benefits of Woodland Park residents shopping at our Colorado
Springs stores. Woodland Park is a smaller market than we generally go
into. Because of these incentives, it makes it worthwhile for us to
come here.”

City Manager David Buttery, who was in the audience asked, “Did I hear
it correctly that without this incentive, that Woodland Park would not
be given this location?” Miles responded, “That is correct. At any one
time, we’ll have a top 100 location list. Woodland rises to the top
because Natural Grocers has a giant footprint on the front range.”

Now the issue of whether or not Woodland Park gets a new health food
store rests with the DDA board.