Woodland DDA delays Trail Ridge agreement; mulls future expansion By Beth Dodd

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At the Woodland Park Downtown Development Authority meeting on January 5, the board approved a delay in the implementation of the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) agreement for the new Trail Ridge Apartments and looked at the legal requirements for possible future expansion of the DDA district.

In addition, the board advised DDA Director Brian Fleer to issue a default letter to developer Arden Weatherford for failing to complete a development plan for Lot #2 of Woodland Station.

Last week, the DDA Board approved the deferment of the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for the new Trail Ridge Apartments near US Hwy. 24 west of Safeway. The TIF, dealing with a tax rebate agreement between the developer and the district, will now start in 2017 rather than in 2016 as originally planned. The change was prompted by construction delays caused by bad weather and labor force issues. Trail Ridge is now expected to be completed in June 2016.

Back at the DDA’s December meeting, it was noted that the delay of the Trail Ridge TIF could cost the DDA roughly $97,000 in lost tax revenue in 2016. This figure is based on an estimate of the site’s 2015 taxes by the Teller County Assessor. However, the tax money would still be collected in a future year of the fifteen year contract. The DDA action also reduced the cap for total reimbursement for Trail Ridge from $1.2 million to $1.1 million.

In other business on January 5, attorney Paul Benedetti consulted with the DDA board to make them aware of the legal requirements for possible expansion of the DDA district. Although there are no petitions to expand the district at this time, the most likely scenario is that when a developer purchases the Woodland Park Saddle Club property they may want to add it to the district. Any property added to the district would have to be adjacent to the present DDA boundary.

According to Benedetti and DDA Director Brian Fleer, if a specific developer requests an expansion of the DDA boundary to include their property, they would need to submit a petition to the DDA. Then the DDA would make a recommendation to the city council, which would then vote on the petition. Since the district’s formation in 2001, the area has been expanded twice to include Trail Ridge apartments and the Paradise Lodge property next to ENT Federal Credit Union on US 24.

If the DDA boundary was enlarged again, it could impact revenues for the local fire and ambulance districts, which receive some of their funding from the DDA. The revenue sharing would apply to any taxable development in the new area, potentially increasing fire and ambulance income. However, their burden of service would also increase.

Developer Arden Weatherford was also the subject of discussion at the DDA meeting. The board has instructed Fleer to work with Benedetti to issue a default notification letter to Weatherford. Weatherford made an agreement with the DDA in March 2013 to develop the DDA’s Lot #2 in the proposed Woodland Station. Lot #2 is between Woodland Hardware and the old Amerigas site on the north side of Woodland Station. Ideas for the build out of the site have included a beer garden and mixed use residential and retail buildings.

“The default notification will demonstrate that Weatherford has not completed a development schedule as noted in the agreement,” said Fleer. If Weatherford does not meet the requirements of the agreement, the agreement could be terminated. Weatherford will have 30 days to act once he has received the letter.

At the DDA meeting, Weatherford stated that he is ready to make a deal with the city, but that the cost of building access roads into the site in accordance with CDOT requirements is prohibitive and has stalled the process. He suggested that the DDA may want to work on a new proposal with CDOT for site access.

Also during the January DDA meeting, Woodland Park Planning Director Sally Riley announced that the planning commission is considering an amendment to local zoning regulations. The proposed amendment would streamline the process for converting small properties from commercial to residential use. The present process to apply for the necessary conditional use permit takes 90 days, requires approval from the planning commission and city council, and costs over $500.

The amendment to the zoning regulations would apply to small properties with one or two units like some of the historic cabins near downtown. The process would be handled administratively. Neighbors would have 15 days to comment on a proposed zoning change and then if there were no objections the permit would be granted. A permit request would only go before the city council if there were objections to be considered. The change to the zoning regulations will be discussed at the regular planning commission meeting in February or March.

In addition to the activities described above, the DDA board is working with Woodland Park’s Main Street committees to identify downtown improvement projects. They intend to help create a plan that prioritizes the projects and ties them to funding opportunities.

In recent months, Main Street has been active in sponsoring local events. For example, Small Business Saturday in late November was successful. Local advertising by Main Street, along with regional advertising by the city and the chamber of commerce, all helped to promote the event.

Main Street Coordinator Darlene Jensen is now helping on the committee for Woodland Park’s 125th Birthday Celebration. A community party and lunch will be held on January 31 at the Ute Pass Cultural Center. The doors will open at 12:30. Lunch will be served at 1 p.m. Local historian Larry Black will present his program “A Photo History of Woodland Park” at 2 p.m. Black gave a sneak preview of his program during last week’s city council meeting.