DDA Approval of Tava House Development Project Triggers Lively Debate

WP Councilman Questions Board Decision Process

Trevor Phipps

Recent action taken by the  Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to approve the  proposed multi-use Tava House project at Woodland Station commanded center stage during last week’s WP City Council meeting.

Sparks ignited at one point when a  member of the council voiced issues with the okay of  the planned development, which will include a restaurant, events venue and a culinary school

Councilmember Robert Zuluaga, who frequently disagrees with the views of the majority elected panel, listed concerns he had with the project and the process the DDA went through to approve the planned development.  Zuluaga even maintained that the  DDA violated the Robert’s Rules of Order when approving the project.

The discussion got to the point to when Mayor Hilary LaBarre had to intervene and nearly pull out her council referee whistle.  She reminded the elected leaders that the issue was just in the presentation stage and that no back and forth conversations between the elected leaders and the presenter were allowed.

DDA Chairman Tony Perry, who also serves as the president of Park State Bank & Trust, gave an overall presentation regarding the proposed development, planned to be constructed in the Woodland Station area.  He started with a background of the project. Perrythen gave a timeline of the progress of the proposed development over the last few years.

The project will include a beer garden, restaurant, and a culinary school. The development is proposed by a handful of local developers and business owners.

The purpose of his presentation was to officially announce the approval of the project and then discuss the next steps. He said that work with the lawyers was still needed, and then that the DDA would pay the city back $500,000 for the property.

Perry said that the developers are aware of the drainage issues and the possible environmental problems with developing the project. Perry said that the group has been evaluating the project for some time, and that they know the steps they needed to mitigate the property. He said that they hope to start construction at the end of the year, or by April 2023 at the latest.

Violating Their Own Rules

After Perry’s presentation, Zuluaga said that he believes the DDA violated their own bylaws, and that he didn’t like the methodology used to approve the Tava House Project. “I attended your meeting, you guys did not follow Robert’s Rules of Order,” the councilman stated. “It was concerning because to me the purpose of you gathering as a body is to discuss the issues. And what I observed with your board is that you all went your own ways and did your own research. And when it came to a vote, you had no discussions of the issues that are of significant concern to the DDA and the city.”

At the same time, the council member commended the DDA board for moving forward with the project. However,  he expressed concerns that the entire (Woodland Station) property wasn’t going to be completely developed under the plan. “What concerns me is that part of your responsibility as a board is to ensure the full development of the property,” Zuluaga said. “It is all very exciting conceptually for both parties, but in my opinion you can’t just turn around and sell the property and say, ‘hey, guys go ahead and develop it.’ Your job is to ensure the full property gets developed completely. It’s clear to me that the Tava House part of this project is ready to go. But, that is not the point of your job, your job is to make sure the whole project develops.”

Perry responded, and said that the DDA board members had discussions during multiple months of presentations. In addition, the DDA president said he made the choice to have the members state publicly why they voted the way they did. “I have seen the Robert’s Rules of Order not done properly in these kinds of meetings forever, and I as the chair made the decision for one that we would not do any executive sessions behind closed doors,” Perry said. “I did make the decision to challenge every board member to step up and clearly state why they were voting the way they were voting. I thought that was important given the history of the DDA. I thought it was important due to the importance of this project to the community.”

Perry said that the agreement will have details in it to make sure the development gets completed entirely. He also said that he is confident that the Tava House group is committed to developing the entire six-acre property.

The Woodland Station property, which once served as the rodeo and cowboy beacon for Woodland Park, has featured probably close to 10 different development ventures over the last two decades, none of which have ever made it to first base. The area was always considered the commercial anchor for future development in Woodland Park, but that dream has never transpired due to infrastructure and physical challenges at the site. City officials once favored locating the Aquatic Center at Woodland Station, but backed off after reviewing the infrastructure costs.

The Tava House project has appeared to gain more momentum that previous development pursuits.

Other Council News

During the meeting last week, it was announced that the American Legion would be donating money to the city for repairs to the damaged sculpture at the city’s Lion’s Park. Dan Williams, a Teller County Commissioner and the Commander of the American Legion Post 1980, thanked the council for their support of local veterans and presented the $750 check for repairs.

Also at the meeting, Woodland Park Police Chief Chris Deisler presented to police officer with Life Saving Awards. Officers Art Corpuz and Jeff Sanchez were both honored for the steps they took to save lives in the community during emergency calls.