WP DDA Negotiating Plans to Pay Off City Debt – Board Mulling Efforts to Take over Veterans and Biker Rally – By Beth Dodd

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During a special meeting last week, the Woodland Park Downtown Development Authority (DDA) tried to finalize plans to pay off their $1 million debt to the city and host more scheduled events at Woodland Station.

In addition, the DDA discussed the possibility of taking over the annual Salute to American Veterans Rally, normally held in Cripple Creek. The board also approved payment for leveling and grading work at Woodland Station, including an insurance bond, and approved the release of recordings of two executive session meetings in response to an open records request.

One of the top issues, commanding attention at the Nov. 7 special meeting, dealt with money.

The DDA owes the city of Woodland Park $1 million for a loan made to them in 2007 for development costs on the land at Woodland Station. However, repayment of the loan was delayed by the recession in 2008 and because TIF (Tax Increment Financing) revenues to the DDA were less than expected. Understanding that the DDA’s inability to pay was no fault of its own, Woodland Park gave the DDA extensions on the loan. The DDA made its first payment of $36,000 earlier this year.

The DDA board is now finally in a position to repay their note, which now totals $1,184,000 with interest. Tanner Coy, DDA Treasurer and owner of Tweeds Fine Furnishings, proposed a payment plan at a recent city council meeting. The DDA wants to make a annual payments that will adjust and grow with their ability to pay. Some of the money will come from the $60,000 the group is saving annually by volunteering to do the work once performed by a paid staff.

At a recent city council meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Carol Harvey suggested that the DDA consider a bond issue for repayment of $500,000 with the other half to be repaid later by other means. The DDA board, though, favors more of an annual payment plan. Further discussion of the repayment plan is expected at the next city council meeting on November 17.

New Woodland Site for Veterans Rally?
At their November 7 meeting, the DDA also discussed ways to have its events committee coordinate events at Woodland Station in the future. Once the former Woodland Park rodeo grounds is turned into an event center, the DDA would like to have a free standing committee to manage it. Meetings of the committee will be held on the first and second Mondays of every month at 7 p.m. in the Woodland Park City Council Chambers. Events such as Vino & Notes and the Woodland Park Farmers Market have expressed interest in using the land at Woodland Station to host their activities.

The DDA also plans to explore the possibility of taking over the Salute to American Veterans Rally, or hosting similar-type event. Although the annual three day motorcycle rally draws thousands of people to Cripple Creek every August, city leaders and some business operators have expressed concerns about the future of the rally most due to funding issues. The council recently proposed a 60 percent reduction in sponsorship funding, actions that some event proponents say would kill the rally.

The DDA thinks that Woodland Park might offer a prime area to host the popular event with Woodland Station as a possible venue. Their new events committee will investigate the idea. Andrew Tyler from the local VFW briefly addressed the DDA board to offer support for moving the event to Woodland Park. However, at least for 2017, it appears that the event may still occur in Cripple Creek (see related story).

Woodland Station and Dirt-gate Update
In other issues, earth work at Woodland Station, aimed at helping to establish an events hub, is expected to begin the week of November 13 and will be performed by Mallett Excavating. The work will include leveling and terracing Lot#2, and should be done by March 1 or perhaps sooner. The DDA approved a $23,000 payment for the work to include $669 for an insurance performance bond. Carl Anderson has offered to donate approximately 100 yards of clay soil for the project, but research needs to be done to determine whether or not the clay would be appropriate for the intended uses of the site.

The board also voted its approval for NES Landscaping owned by Tim Seibert to create a landscape plan for Woodland Station for a maximum of $1,000. The plan would include the plant species to be used and other specific details. The DDA would like to see local stone and native plants installed to emphasize the natural beauty of Woodland Park’s landscape and because they are adapted to survive in this area.

The DDA board also voted approval to release recordings of their executive session meetings on May 5, 2015 and April 7, 2016 to Arden Weatherford per an open records act request. Weatherford may be considering a lawsuit against the DDA in regards to the proposed development of Woodland Station Lot#2. Weatherford and his partners had signed a contract with the DDA to develop the site, but the DDA eventually terminated the contract. According to Tanner Coy, the termination was due to Weatherford’s failure to secure approved funding for the proposed development as well as their failure to present a building plan that was consistent with Woodland Park guidelines.

The DDA has also given Weatherford and his partners, Steve Randolph and Chris Baker, two weeks notice to finish the removal of their soil from Lot#2, which was “temporarily” stored there two years ago. If the dirt is not removed within the specified time, it will be considered abandoned. The DDA is insisting on burying the dirt issue so work can commence on readying the site for public use. A public events area is being developed at Woodland Station in order to make the site attractive and useful until such time as the market for developing it improves. The DDA will charge a user fee for events held there.

In regards to the controversy that has surrounded the DDA, the city, and the future of Woodland Station in recent months, Coy stated, “The DDA board is made of citizens, tax payers, and business owners. We are volunteers, and go above and beyond what is required of us to save the taxpayers money and improve accuracy and transparency. We are invested in the community to the level very few others are. We give blood, sweat, and tears, not just money. We believe in the value of the DDA to the community, and are trying to do what’s best and what’s right. We are not the bad guys.”