~ by Rick Langenberg ~
So much for hugs and kisses, and making up between current board members of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the operators of a local business group once interested in doing a major project at Woodland Station.
And for “giving peace a chance” in the wake of a major lawsuit decision impacting the downtown, heed this advice: Avoid stray legal and political bullets.
A rather upbeat Woodland Park Council meeting last week encountered a verbal bombing in the final moments when Mayor Neil Levy read a letter from Steve Randolph, a representative for Arden Weatherford and the Woodland Park Beer Garden LLC development team. Randolph also served as a former mayor and councilman for the city, and played a role in the previous plans for Woodland Station as a DDA board member.
Randolph heavily criticized the current direction of the DDA and took serious aim at the board’s treasurer, Tanner Coy. In his letter, he accused Coy of being the main instigator of a lawsuit that he contends cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Moreover, in comments that drastically differed from his views when he represented the city as mayor, he urged the city to take control of Woodland Station.
“From the outset, millions of public dollars have been invested in Woodland Station to become our business and urban residential center,” stated Randolph. “Instead, it has become the barren view-corridor to a blighted warehouse and an unsightly mobile home park. For those of us who have been here and remember it, at least the doomed rodeo arena reminded us of our ranching legacy.”
As a result, Randolph urged the city to reclaim the property, often regarded as the main development anchor of the DDA, and to sell the property, “unencumbered by the DDA and place it finally on the tax rolls.”
However, as an interim step, Randolph urged the council to get rid of Coy as the DDA treasurer. “The results of his disproportionate influence have cost us local taxpayers around $600,000 for legal fees and court-ordered payments,” said the former mayor. “That sum would go a long way toward replacing lost property tax revenues for fire and ambulance for that the DDA board steadfastly refuses to allow…This moment is yours to claim or yet again deflect.”
He also made a few personal stabs at Coy, saying, “For the sake of the community interests that we all share, except for Tanner (Coy), please do not falter.”
Odd Timing of Letter?
Due to the time when the letter was read, during a final council period reserved for official correspondence, no public comment was permitted. Seconds after the Randolph letter reading, Levy pounded the mayoral gavel and ended the meeting. Usually, these types of letters are marked by compliments for the city staff, or the promotion of events, and aren’t that political.
Coy was in attendance at the meeting, but didn’t get a chance to publicly respond to Randolph’s letter.
Immediately following this meeting, he told TMJ News, “If they are so pleased with the outcome of this case, then why are they taking this action?” Moreover, Coy and other DDA representatives questioned how the Beer Garden group can call themselves the big victors in the lawsuit, when they obtained less than a third of the money they sought in damages. “In reality , they lost big and they know it. They are trying to recoup their losses (with the latest attack),” explained the DDA treasurer.
In a later interview, Coy completely endorsed the actions of the DDA board in defending the taxpayers with the lawsuit. He maintains that the Beer Garden development group was trying to obtain the (Woodland Station) property for free with no real valid plans. “I am very proud of how we handled this,” said the DDA treasurer. “We are trying to clean up the corruption,” he added in referring to past actions/decisions of the DDA and by certain city representatives and consultants.
Coy, though, is worried that the letter may be part of a new strategy by the development group to “grab the land for free” by attempting to trigger a new controversy in the eyes of the city council, with the end goal of dissolving the DDA “They want to get the land (Woodland Station) away from the DDA by creating a problem,” said Coy. “They are not willing to let this go.”
However, the treasurer says the DDA clearly wants to move on and “extinguish the flames. It is not our intention to continue the fight.” And in reference to what he claims were personal attacks made in the letter by the former mayor, Coy clearly defended his actions as a community steward, citing his leadership role in such events as the Holiday Home Tour and Moose Is Loose campaign, and the positive impacts made by Tweeds Fine Furnishings, where he serves as president.
Randolph’s letter is expected to take center stage at today’s (Oct. 9) meeting of the DDA board. Most likely, the DDA will issue a formal response, and several representatives could appear at a future city council meeting.
In fact, the timing of the letter has taken some by surprise. It occurred immediately following the conclusion of a lengthy lawsuit, with both sides expressing a desire to move on. In the final decision, Judge Gregory Lyman agreed to award Weatherford $133,000, plus some additional compensation, for their removal work of old Amerigas tanks in the Woodland Station downtown core. The judge agreed that Weatherford’s group made substantial efforts to comply with material obligations under their former agreement with the DDA.
In earlier comments to TMJ, Weatherford said, “Well, I think it bears out what I’ve been saying from the get-go. I did what I was supposed to do and the DDA didn’t. We never sued to get the money. We wanted to do our project and were supposed to get the land. The decision shows the DDA breached. The DDA did not do what they were supposed to do. I feel vindicated.”
Randolph, who has represented the Beer Garden group in key matters, has had strained relations in the last few years with several key members of the current DDA board, and especially Coy. He only agreed to do negotiations with board member Al Born, on behalf of Weatherford’s group, during an earlier dispute over the hauling and collection of mounds of dirt at the Woodland Station site.
Randolph, at one time, was a big proponent of the Woodland Station development. During his stint as mayor, he often defended the concept behind the Woodland Station acquisition, and the partnership crafted between the DDA and the city.