TAVA House Group Clears Key Government Hurdle
After months of negotiations and delays, the sale of a main portion of Woodland Station to a development group, for a proposed multi-use project, including a tap house restaurant, event center and housing, has become a reality.
But the final sales approval step wasn’t exactly easy, resulting in the relinquishing of a prime vacant area of Woodland Station, controlled by the Downtown Development Authority for nearly two decades.
Last week, at the end of a grueling five-hour long meeting, the Woodland Park City Council okayed a pivotal step in the Woodland Station development project, culminating with the sale of 6.3 acres of Woodland Station property for approximately $800,000.
Two agenda items, which dealt with the city’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA), and their recommendations, took considerable time to resolve and sparked a spirited debate. In the end, the council approved a resolution to amend the Downtown Development Authority’s plan of development and to convey the Woodland Station property to TAVA House Properties, LLC.
Despite getting approval from most council members, the lawyers and representatives from the DDA and TAVA House were bombarded with a slew of questions and clarifications. Councilman Robert Zuluaga led the brunt of the questioning, and emphasized several notable concerns.
How the DDA came up with the contract and the price of the property were major questions that were brought up. Zuluaga argued that the deal was not the best for the community, and he asked why the price on the property was so low.
DDA President Tony Perry fielded the majority of Zuluaga’s questions and provided evidence that the contract was being carried through properly. The lawyers for the DDA and TAVA House were also available to answer all of the legal questions.
Woodland Park Planning Director Karen Schminke started the discussion by describing the plan, and the recommendations from the planning commission and city staff. She said that the passage of the first resolution would basically be an approval of the plan, so that the TAVA House development could break ground on the project.
Zuluaga, however, questioned the fact that the DDA’s responsibility was being waived. He also maintained that that it wasn’t overseeing the specifics of the development. He was also worried that there wasn’t specifics given to the city, similar to ones provided for other developments.
The DDA’s attorney said that the new contract would replace the original contract, drafted in 2009. The attorney also stressed that the DDA had already approved the plan. As a result, there was no issue with the DDA’s authority because this entity, which oversees developments in a designated downtown area, approved the contract.
Even with this explanation, Zuluaga said that he still didn’t like the way the project was being handled. “I am in support of this project going through,” Zuluaga said. “I’m not in support of the way the DDA is handling it and the way you are not aware, in my opinion, of your own responsibility to us the city and to the citizens throughout the process.”
DDA Chairman Tony Perry, the president of Park State Bank & Trust, strongly defended the group’s actions. Moreover, he said the DDA did follow the proper legal process. “I can’t speak to your understanding, I just think you’re wrong,” Perry said. “And I think our attorney is right and the city attorney is right. And I think we have meticulously and carefully walked through this very publicly and very openly.”
During the second resolution surrounding the DDA, the planning director presented the plan to transfer the Woodland Station property to the TAVA House Development group. After the presentation, Zuluaga listed several concerns he wanted to voice publicly.
Questions Raised Over Sales Price
Zuluaga questioned the price the property would be transferred for. “It states in the Constitution that we need to get fair market value for the property,” Zuluaga said. “The appreciation numbers sets that property’s values at $1.621 million. Why is it that we feel we should take away all the restrictions and requirements on the property and we discount it 50 percent? And we think we are giving the people of Woodland Park fair market value?”
Perry said that he provided the council with a definition of what fair market value is. “The sales price of $800,000 was based on the sale of lot one to Woodland Hardware and it extrapolated out to the 6.2 acres,” Perry said. “And understanding a lot of that acreage is a drainage ditch and it is not worth the same value. Number two, the fair value takes into account all types of things. For instance, the fact that the DDA is bringing the property back onto the tax rolls immediately with the sale. That adds to the argument of fair value.”
Perry said that the board agreed to the price and they went through the proper process. Zuluaga still wanted to make it clear he disagreed with the price.
In the end, the council proved both resolutions regarding transferring the property to the TAVA House group. Zuluaga was the only council member who voted “no” on the resolutions.
The developer of the project said that they already had spent around $250,000 on moving the project forward. They had paid for engineering work and lawyer fees so far, and they were excited to officially get the title to the property.
Based on information presented at previous DDA meetings, the development group still has to leap a number of regulatory hurdles to get the project underway. However, delays aren’t unusual for Woodland Station, a prime development area that was once envisioned as the prime commercial anchor for the downtown district. This area, which once sported a rodeo arena and the former Saddle Club, has sat vacant for close to 20 years.