~ by Bob Volpe ~
Last Tuesday the DDA (Downtown Development Authority) held an informal
meeting at the Historic Ute Inn, to discuss plans for 2018.
Before any discussion on planning for the future took place, the subject of a letter read to city council at the last regular meeting by Tony Perry, President and CEO of Park State Bank and Trust, blasting the DDA was addressed. In his letter Perry criticized the DDA for some of their actions and approach to issues.
One Perry’s comments regarding the current DDA is, He believes the
power washing of downtown is the responsibility of business owners,
not the city or the DDA, though he did agree that a clean downtown is
important for a healthy downtown economy.
Perry then read a laundry list of complaints about the actions and
inactions of past DDA board members. He claims the DDA was formed to
bypass the City Charter, which prohibits overt participation in
furthering private businesses.
Perry went on to complain about the purchase of the Woodland Station
property without an Environmental assessment, and the handling of that
property as an asset and accused past DDA boards of “pie in the sky”
Perry then turned his attention to the current DDA board. He praised
the board for cutting expenses, and then chastised them for the
lawsuit they face, no real internal controls, no resources to
effectively manage the DDA, and inconsistency with TIF agreements, but
then acknowledged that the current DDA board also labors under the
burden of all previous actions, precedents, and actions of all
previous DDA boards.
DDA board member Elijah Murphy was first to defend the DDA against
Perry’s comments. He said, “We feel like many of those issues are
being resolved as this board has gone forward and begun to do things
to correct these things. In the past the board wasn’t even made up of
the correct number of business owners, because there is a ratio that
has to be met and that was not even met. And as we move forward doing
things correctly I’m sorry Mr. Perry was misinformed. If he were here
he would have more confidence probably, however, this board has been
doing the right things.”
Murphy suggested Perry’s letter should be addressed line by line in
the newspaper and on social media sites.
Discussion then turned to Perry’s accusation that TIF agreements were
inconsistent. This issue was an obvious referral to the DDA recently
turning down Natural Grocers request for a TIF agreement.
Mayor Neil Levy attended this meeting and made a comment about the
Natural Grocers issue. He said, “I’ll give you my two cents and it is
just from a business perspective, I don’t think they were serviced
well. I think it looks bad from that angle. And again this is just me.
And this might be a little of what Tony (Perry) is talking about
though I can’t speak for Tony. When you have those discussions with
him, ask him about what the process was.”
DDA board assistant chairman, Noel Sawyer answered Levy. He said,
“Eventually the DDA would have to deny a TIF. Natural Grocers just
happened to be the one. You can’t give everyone a TIF. As a DDA we’re
stuck in the middle. You can’t please everybody.”
Chairwoman Merry Jo Larsen then gave a little history on Natural
Grocers’ approach to Woodland Park as a possible location to pursue.
She said she and other DDA members drove around town scouting possible
sites with the Natural Grocer representative. Larsen said, “I tried to
tell him this really doesn’t fit in our scope of what we’re trying to
DDA member Tanny Coy, was on that ride. He said the rep said, “Its
sure good to have you here and know that the TIF is just automatic in
this community. That’s not the case anywhere else, but Woodland Park’s
reputation precedes it.” Coy confirmed that Larsen told the rep that
is not the case, that it is a process.
At the end of the day, the meeting lacked focus for the most part and
eventually the board decided that more meetings were needed. Sawyer
suggested each member come prepared with 3 priorities they feel the
DDA needs to address in 2018.