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Woodland’s downtown district poised for future growth
Rick Langenberg

Woodland Park’s often controversial downtown development district is ready to bustle with new projects, money and experienced developers and possibly new properties.

And with a little luck, the city of Woodland Park may get repaid for a $1.2 million loan it made to the Downtown Development Association (DDA) a number of years ago. Also, the DDA may try to offer a revenue-sharing formula with the Northeast Teller County Fire Protection District, which now must offer expanded services without getting any extra tax dollars.

That was the analysis of Brian Fleer, the economic development director for the city of Woodland Park, who also heads the DDA.

During a recent presentation before the WP City Council, Fleer informed elected leaders that the DDA district is reeling with a 29 percent hike in revenue. As a result, he said the DDA group may be in a position to fund more projects and to take action to bring more life to the Woodland Station area.

The lack of activity at the Woodland Station area ranks as probably the biggest Achilles heel facing the group. About 10 years ago, this spot abounded with plans for a $60 million-plus development that almost resembled a mini-ski village, with prospects for more entertainment, a special events village, shops, restaurants and a recreation hub. But after funding couldn’t be secured by a Cincinnati-based development company, the economy collapsed and this area remained vacant for years. The sole project occupying this area consists of the Woodland Hardware and Home store.

Now, the DDA, according to Fleer, may try to recruit an experienced development team to revitalize this 10-acre area that once served as the beacon of Woodland Park’s cowboy and rodeo culture. Only this time, city leaders plan to scrutinize the developers more thoroughly than what occurred in the past. “How do we vet that team?” asked Fleer, when describing the big challenge facing the DDA.

In addition, he suggested that a DDA expansion may be in the works for 2016. However, that is one issue that may generate some controversy, especially for emergency service districts that have to service the area. Under the current financing formula, any additional property tax revenue accumulated by the DDA district since it began 15 years ago goes to the DDA entity and not to city/county governments and special districts.

On the upside, Fleer believes the future is good for the DDA, which plans to put more emphasis on the Main Street program and supporting more downtown improvements and retail enhancements. “We are excited about where we are going,” said Fleer.

City officials also are excited, as they are hoping the group may be in a position to start paying back a $1.2 million loan It made to the association nearly 10 years ago. That money was used to help finance plans for a previous Woodland Station project that never materialized.

This unpaid loan has been a subject of contention among DDA critics.

“City Above the Clouds” retains the same tax level
Even with a vastly improved economy and a big hike in revenue, Woodland Park residents won’t experience any property tax reductions in the city portion of their bill.

The WP City Council recently set the annual property tax rate at 16.249 mills, the same levy Woodland Park has established since 1991.

Under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, the city can’t raise its mill levy without a vote of local citizens. However, it can lower the rate, action that city leaders have been reluctant to pursue, even in better times. This idea of a lower mill levy was once proposed by former council members years ago, but the idea was never approved.

City officials have maintained that if a mill levy is lowered, the prospects of raising it to the original level would be difficult, especially in an area that views tax hikes with much distrust.

Plus, the city now must confront ways to finance three big capital projects, highlighted by the $10.1 million-plus aquatic center.

El Paso County Republicans solicit input from local mayors
Green Mountain Falls and other small local towns may join the bandwagon in an effort to attract more business in the region

According to a report in the Colorado Springs Gazette, GMF Mayor Lorrie Worthey was one of a handful of leaders that actively participated in a business forum, hosted by the El Paso County Republican Party. A panel of mayors from four cities, including Colorado Springs, Green Mountain Falls, Fountain and Monument, took questions from business representatives and party leaders.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, who has been trying work more with nearby communities, cited the fact that tourists visit the entire Pikes Peak region, and not just Colorado Springs. He believes local cities can work together more to improve the business climate.

Suthers, according to media reports, is suggesting that new deals may be forthcoming at the Colorado Springs Airport, which has been losing more and more market share to Denver International Airport. The airport has experienced declining business for months.

Worthey, similar to previous comments at regional forums, cited the strong cooperation that occurred in the wake of the Waldo Canyon fire, according to reports

The group discussed a wide range of issues from recreational marijuana to water policies. Many business owners, though, are still bothered by complex municipal licenses, permitting and sale tax policies.