Legal bills exceed $150,000; court decision looming
~ by Bob Volpe ~
At last week’s monthly DDA (Downtown Development Authority) meeting, the board discussed the implementation of a revised TIF (tax incentive financing) application for businesses seeking a tax reimbursement agreement, often regarded as an incentive deal.
And once again, questions surfaced regarding the legal costs incurred by the DDA in a big legal fight over sections of the Woodland Station area, which once served as the town’s former rodeo grounds. These costs could have big consequences for the DDA and the city.
TIF Agreements and Property Assessments
The TIF pact is a critical element of current and future business operators/developers who are seeking incentive deals in the downtown area. The board imposed a moratorium on these agreements until it could come up with a new refined application system.
The new proposed application process is the culmination of months of work by DDA board members Ellen Carrick and Al Born. The board last week came to a consensus that, at this time, they can approve the document as a tool, but stopped short of implementing it as policy pending further discussion at future meetings. The purpose of the new document is to streamline the process and eliminate any ambiguity for TIF applicants.
County Assessor Betty Clark Wine gave a presentation on how the county goes about levying property taxes. Her presentation lasted just over 30 minutes. She explained in detail the issue of why taxes on
the commercial property are three times as high as residential taxes and her responsibility to follow state law. She also touched on how Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) and the Gallagher amendments will affect both business and residential tax formulas. These play a big role in determining the revenue for local governments. Clark-Wine will be the guest of the Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce on August 22, to discuss the assessment of property taxes on business. The event will be held at the Ute Pass Cultural Center from 7:30 – 9 a.m.
DDA Lawsuit Costs Escalating
The topic of the DDA lawsuit, filed by Arden Weatherford of BierWerks, was again discussed last week, with no firm conclusions. The judge in the case has yet to hand down a decision. Numerous people from the community have testified in the case that will have a huge impact in the financial future of the DDA and the Woodland Station development, regarded as the DDA’s anchor development area.
But at last week’s meeting, the board was questioned by Woodland Park Mayor Neil Levy on how much the DDA has spent or is responsible for legal fees. In the past, Levy has been critical of the way the board handled the situation with Weatherford
DDA Treasurer Tanner Coy said that pending legal fees are close to $150,000, and the DDA has spent to date $183,000 in total expenses pertaining to this matter.
Coy said later through an email, “That includes all legal fees related to the negotiation and drafting of the agreement with Dan Taylor, repeated legal reviews and counsel regarding the TIF application that Ellen (Carrick) and Al (Born) drafted, legal counsel regarding numerous CORA requests for records, legal counsel for review of DDA/City agreement details, reviewing and amending the Woodland Park Associates agreement (Trail Ridge), all of Lynn Jones’ compensation as administrative assistant, etc., in addition to costs incurred without choice due the lawsuit filed against the DDA. I simply cited expenses incurred to date in the Contract/Professional Services expense account, which includes all of the above.”
In a related matter, the DDA is also proposing an ordinance to city council at the next regular council meeting. Ordinance 1333 will allow the DDA to work with Vectra Bank to procure a draw down bond with Vectra in the amount of $1 million. This ordinance, if approved by council, will give the DDA the flexibility to pay outstanding debts and other expenses not covered by the DDA’s budget, including legal fees incurred by the Woodland Station lawsuit.
The initial reading of the ordinance will take place at the next city council meeting on August 16. The public hearing is scheduled for September 6.