Store Fate to be decided shortly
~ by Bob Volpe ~
Natural Grocers and the Woodland Park Downtown Development Authority (DDA) are still at odds over tax incentives, but a final decision is expected shortly.
Natural Grocers is still insisting they will forego plans for a new store in Woodland Park if they don’t receive the tax incentive financing (TIF) agreement they are seeking.
These incentives basically give a company rebates on their property-related taxes over a certain period. In Woodland Park, these financial perks are only offered by the DDA as a way to encourage companies to locate or expand their business in the downtown district. The city government by law can’t offer any incentives or infrastructure trade-offs to future or current companies or developers.
Following a lively discussion at the August DDA meeting, the issue of whether or not to grant a lucrative TIF agreement to the chain store generated much discussion. The issue was further discussed last week during a special DDA meeting and executive, closed door session.
According to DDA officials, the store did lower its request for a 20 year agreement to 13 years. This concession, however, was not exactly a sign of submission. By charter, the DDA ends in 13 years. No agreement for tax reimbursement made by the DDA can be carried over into a new term, should the DDA be granted another term, which would have to be determined at a future date.
Natural Grocers is still seeking an 80 percent tax reimbursement on real property taxes (land and improvements) and 100 percent reimbursement on their increased property taxes over a 13-year period.
The owner of the old Paradise Ranch property, where the store would be built, is a development company called Leadership Circle LLC. Leadership Circle will be the sole owners of the land and the building, should the plans move forward. Natural Grocers will be a tenant of Leadership Circle.
If the DDA decides in favor of the TIF agreement, the tax refunds would go to Natural Grocers and not Leadership Circle, according to DDA officials. Leadership Circle would still be the property owner and would pay the property taxes directly to the county. Natural Grocers would then reimburse or pay Leadership Circle, as part of the rent/lease arrangement.
According to DDA treasurer Tanner Coy, last week’s executive session, held at the Historic Ute Inn, was filled with intense dialog on both sides of the issue. Coy could not elaborate on the particulars of the session.
In the most recent monthly meeting, this issue also generated much comment, with a slew of questions from emergency service providers, citizens and DDA board members. This same tone apparently dominated last week’s special session. Coy said, “There was excellent discussion and deliberation of the board. Lots of very healthy discussion, but that doesn’t mean unanimous agreement.” Coy could not reveal if the board has decided on a counter proposal.He did say, “There is still some division on the board as to what to do.”
Following last week’s executive session, no decision was made by the DDA board. Coy stated, “We are continuing to review updated information from Leadership Circle and the city regarding site planning, improvements, both public and private. We still want to receive more public comment. The board still has a lot to deliberate.”
The next regular meeting of the DDA is Tuesday, Sept 5 at 7:30 am. Those wishing to provide comment are encouraged to attend.