Citizens’ group opposes Meadows metro districts
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A citizens’ group has formally challenged the establishment of three metropolitan districts at Glenwood Meadows and could delay development there. The group, called Glenwood Springs Citizens for Democracy, comprises Big John’s Building and Home president John Lindsey, Big John’s controller Daniel C. Like and Glenwood Springs True Value store manager Tom Maher.Glenwood Springs attorney Lee Leavenworth filed a motion for preliminary injunction on behalf of the group in 9th District Court in Glenwood Springs on Tuesday. A hearing on the matter is set for Oct. 7 at the Garfield County Courthouse in front of District Judge Thomas Ossola. “Big John” Lindsey said he helped form the three-member group because he feels the original intent of the annexation agreement wasn’t met by the developer. “It was supposed to be a box and a grocery store – which they say they can’t get – with less dense commercial and more office space,” he said. “We want to give a voice from the citizens to let them say if they want a shopping center of that magnitude.”He has pointed to the original conceptual sketches of the project that showed a grocery store – not a hardware store – at the shopping center.City officials have said those sketches were just that, sketches, and did not bind the developer to build a grocery store there.Construction on the retail segments of Glenwood Meadows, which is slated to include Target and Lowe’s stores, is set to begin in 2004. But according to Glenwood Meadows developer Robert Macgregor, the court action may delay that construction start. “I presume it could delay that particular avenue,” he said. Macgregor also questioned the true motives behind the actions of the group. “That sounds to me more like the Citizens to Suppress Competition,” Macgregor said. “Follow the money.” “Is this a cross-section of concerned citizens, or a special interest group?” he asked. “Since when did democracy suppress competition? We’ve all got a right to look over our interests, but to call upon the judicial process to do that is pretty strange.”Macgregor also said he feels that the members of the group filed the court action specifically to delay or prevent the Lowe’s home improvement store from being built at Meadows.
Members of the group earlier requested a petition that could force formation of the metro districts to go to a vote.”We prepared a referendum petition to see if we could obtain signatures to get a referendum,” Leavenworth said Thursday.But in a letter to the group, city clerk Robin Clemons said the issue is not eligible to be placed on the ballot under the city charter, Leavenworth said.The court action filed this week is an effort to overrule Clemons’ decision.The petition itself would be specifically aimed at overturning an Aug. 21 City Council resolution that places Meadows metro districts on the Nov. 4 ballot. If that election goes on as planned, only the owners of the Meadows property would be eligible to vote. Leavenworth said the goal of the citizens’ group is for all residents of the city to vote on the districts.If Ossola grants the injunction, Leavenworth said the group will have 11 days to collect the nearly 300 signatures needed to refer the metro districts to voters. Even if enough signatures are gathered, the new ballot question could not be included in the Nov. 4 election, he said.”They think it’s important enough to be put out to a vote of the people,” he said. Glenwood Springs City Attorney Karl Hanlon said the city plans to fight the motion. “We’ll be filing an answer and response to the preliminary injunction next week,” Hanlon said. “Then we’ll have the hearing on the preliminary injunction; that’s set for Oct. 7.”He said the whole idea behind the formation of metropolitan districts is so existing city residents won’t have to pay for infrastructure improvements at Meadows. Hanlon also said city officials believe Clemons made the right decision in denying the group’s request to take out a petition. “The city believes the appropriate time to challenge Glenwood Meadows was during the annexation process,” Hanlon said.
The three metropolitan districts – which comprise the commercial component of the Glenwood Meadows project, the residential portion of the project and a third district that oversees the other two – would be set up to pay back the estimated $19 million cost to install infrastructure in Glenwood Meadows.That money will be used to build roads and utilities within Meadows, as well as off-site improvements mandated by the city in its annexation agreement such as intersection improvements. If approved, the districts would have a total borrowing capability of up to $24 million. The plan calls for the money to be paid back using two revenue streams:-One is a 1 percent “public impact fee” that will be tacked onto each purchase made by consumers at Glenwood Meadows. As an example, the public impact fee will cost consumers 50 cents on a $50 purchase at any establishment in Glenwood Meadows. -The districts also have the ability to levy hefty property taxes on both residential and commercial property owners within the district. Homeowners could face up to a 40 mill levy, while commercial property owners could see taxes rise to 50 mills, comparable to taxes now levied by school districts. Leavenworth has said one name for the multi-district system is the “master-slave concept.”He said while the residential and commercial districts will have separate boards of directors, each is bound to pay back all incurred debt. All debt, he continued, is incurred by the third district, which will most likely remain under the control of the developers. As part of City Council’s approval of the metropolitan districts, council mandated that all property sales at Glenwood Meadows must include a disclosure of how much the potential property buyers can expect to pay in property taxes. Leavenworth has said his clients “have an interest in this” because of their concern that they’ll lose substantial business to the Lowe’s Home Improvement store that’s slated to be built at Glenwood Meadows. “Obviously they’re concerned about it – it could put them out of business,” he said.But he said his clients’ main goal is to promote fairness by forcing the developer to pay for its own infrastructure. Contact Greg Mass: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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