~ by Bob Volpe ~
Last week, the Woodland Park DDA (Downtown Development Authority)and City Council held a workshop to discuss a proposed amendment to the original agreement dealing with the often controversial Woodland Station property.
This downtown development anchor, which once housed Bergstrom Arena and the Saddle Club, has sat mostly vacant for years. Still, it has been the subject of considerable debate, legal skirmishes and development theories.
The workshop’s major topic of discussion centered on the DDA seeking to amend the agreement to change a stipulation that the Woodland Station property be, “transfer(ed) to a developer or developers for no cash consideration but for fair value…”
In recent months, questions have persisted about whether the property can be realistically developed, or whether it should become a park or open space area. In addition, the rules governing its future use have triggered big concerns.
Before the meeting got underway, Mayor Neil Levy commented. He said, “The goal for today is to the council, because we haven’t had time to discuss it. It’s for a little bit more conversation and knowledge
about the disposition and development agreement and how we can move forward.” Levy made it clear this meeting was not to come to any decisions but was rather to clear up and gather information.
City Attorney Jason Meyers began the discussion. He stated that according to IRS rules, the property must be transferred for no cash because “The IRS code requires the property be transferred for free
in order for the bonds to maintain their tax exempt status.”
Meyers then pointed out a caveat that would allow for this condition to be challenged. He said, “If we chose a deliberate action to violate those terms, there are provisions in the IRS code where we can then
remediate the problem.” He continued, “So there is some flexibility (so that we do not necessarily have to be giving away the property for free.”
The code requiring the land to be transferred for free is based on the premise that the land was obtained using tax-exempt financing.
Councilperson Kellie Case said that in the past, the land was to be transferred in exchange for development of the property. DDA Treasurer Tanner Coy commented that Woodland Hardware did pay $280,000 for the lot they developed on the Woodland Station property. He then mentioned that when the aquatic center was being considered Woodland Station property, they would be paying through a debt reduction plan for the $1.8 million the DDA owes on the property.
Meyers then stated that if the land were to be sold for cash, the money received must be used for reducing the DDA’s debt or other capital purposes. The discussion then turned to zoning standards and conditions that some believe are an unfair burden on potential developers. Meyers said, “One
of the other questions, we discussed last time was in order to make this more palatable for developers, what are some of the obstacles we can remove.” Those obstacles include design and special use permits.
Meyers cited standards put in place that go beyond the normal city code standards for other
developments in the city. Coy then stated that no previous project has been denied due to zoning standards, to which Meyers replied, “It is just to simplify the process.”
Tony Perry, president of Park State Bank & Trust, who was in attendance, suggested the design review committee be completely eliminated.
Just before the meeting was adjourned, Mayor Pro Tem, Val Carr, surprised everyone with a statement. Carr said, “Why don’t we try to sell the thing for market value. I know two people who would buy it for
The room exploded with cheers of, “Bring em in!!!”
Levy said, “Well that’s never been brought to the table before.”