Woodland Station Contract Nearing Finish Line; Preliminary D-Day Now Set for Feb. 16

DDA Confronts a Slew of Development Issues

Bob Volpe

The Woodland Park  Downtown Development Authority (DDA) grappled with a marathon agenda during last week’s monthly meeting, as a heavily discussed multi-use project proposed at  Woodland Station nears the preliminary end zone.

In fact, the most anticipated, agenda item at the Feb. 7 session was the contract for the sale of Woodland Station to the TAVA development group. This group has proposed ambitious plans for a tap house, restaurant, events center, retail, housing and more.  More importantly, it has offered a cash deal for a hefty portion of the Woodland Station property.

But the deal is quite complex.

Before the discussion began, DDA Chairman Tony Perry noted that the final determination of the sale rests in the hands of the WP City Council, not the DDA. The DDA approval of the contract is simply the first step in the process of selling the land, according to Perry.

Perry stated that an executive session meeting will take place on February 16. The session will be attended by Perry, WP council members, various attorneys and TAVA representative Mark Weaver with the goal of  ironing out the details.

At last week’s session, a short debate occurred over who will be overseeing the design details of the Woodland Station development. In the past, the DDA had a committee that dealt with the fine points of design, such as building height, construction materials, landscaping, aesthetics, etc. These details often led to contentious debates between developers and the DDA, partly due to costs and turf wars over who is ultimately in control of a development project at Woodland Station.

Perry tried to clarify this situation further by saying, “I guess my position is that we each have our own position on what we like and don’t like. If the city planning commission is guiding it, it will be consistent with what is being done or has been down with the city, versus what our own personal perspectives are.”

He did concede that in the end the DDA reserves the right to weigh in on final design review.

Discussion then moved on to one of the stumbling blocks that scuttled many plans for the property: The VCUP (Voluntary Cleanup and Redevelopment Program). This issue is somewhat unique to the Woodland Station property, due to the benzene contaminated soil that lies beneath the surface of the property, from past gasoline tank leaks of previous days.

According to Perry, typically the property seller would pay for such a cleanup, or negotiate an agreement on costs. The estimate for the cleanup is $38,900. In this case, in previous meetings, the DDA has agreed to split the costs with the TAVA group. But at last week’s meeting, Perry argued the DDA should not “cut a check for this.” He said, “We need to know if this board has an appetite to split the cost of the environmental with the TAVA group to the tune of $38,900?” He continued, “Will the DDA be cutting a check for that? I would argue, not.”

Instead, Perry suggested the DDA’s share be a credit on the sale price rather than an actual out-of- pocket expense. The board did approve to share the expense for the VCUP in the form of a credit off the sale price of the property. Board member Jerry Good casted the only “no” vote.

This ended the discussion on the TAVA group contract. No action was taken as to approval of the contract itself, as the lawyers and city council have yet to come to a conclusion as to what the final contract will entail.

A Spree of Development Requests

The DDA also handled last week an assertion by Taylor Enterprises, which built an automated car wash in Woodland Park. Taylor Enterprises noted that their TIF agreement included personal property in terms of reimbursement for their investment. A TIF agreement is (Tax Increment Financing) during which incentives are offered to a company or developer to do business in a city in the form of reimbursement for development costs and property. The reimbursement is paid in the form of tax credits.

Taylor Enterprises built the automated car wash in town. Their TIF agreement was entered into by the previous DDA board of directors. Perry promised to look into the matter with the DDA legal team and come to a decision in the future. Perry admitted that mistakes have been made by the DDA in the past, and they are doing everything they can to remedy the consequences of those mistakes and to try to avoid such mistakes in the future.

Moving on, the board tackled the AJ’s  Pizzeria TIF request. The board was split on how to offer the agreement. Public improvements was one of the items the board discussed for the agreement.

The total cost of these improvements to AJ’s  is estimated at approximately $100,000. One board member suggested the board approve a TIF reimbursement of close to $120,000, which is the total of the public improvement and half the demolition costs. After further discussion the reimbursement number was amended to include more of the construction materials, with a total prices of $173,549. The new number was then voted on and approved.

Once these items were addressed, the board moved on to approve a resolution regarding the posting of public notices of DDA meetings. Postings will now be on the city’s website under the DDAs banner. A backup physical posting will be at city hall.

The next resolution was updating the DDA bylaws. Both resolutions passed.

The final item on the agenda was to authorize the chair and treasurer to attend the special executive session of the Woodland Park City Council regarding the contract for the sale of Woodland Station, on February 16th. It also passed.