Glenwood Springs City Council tables Meadows public improvement fee conversation for 60 days
Council members express concern with lack of revenue data
Some Glenwood Springs City Council members already support extending a Public Improvement Fee (PIF) at Glenwood Meadows, but the body delayed making a decision for 60 days to better ascertain the potential benefits.
Installed nearly 20 years ago, the PIF is scheduled to end in 2025, but Glenwood Meadows shopping center owners asked the council Thursday to support a 15-year extension.
Established in 2005, the PIF was created to finance on- and offsite public improvements, including public roads, traffic and safety controls, water and sewer systems, storm water drainage systems, debris flow management systems and landscaping, which were estimated to cost about $16.4 million.
Property owners have the final say on whether to impose a PIF, with or without support from the city. If the city does not support the PIF, however, it is unlikely to receive any of the PIF revenue, City Attorney Karl Hanlon said.
The extension could decrease the PIF from 1.5% to 1% in 2026, and monies collected after could be used to pay for streets improvements, maintenance on the city side as well as defray operating costs for Meadows businesses and pay down debt incurred while the developer constructed improvements required by the city during the initial construction of the plaza, said Steve Shoflick, a representative of the Glenwood Meadows owners.
Answering council member Paula Stepp’s question about why the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights did not apply to PIFs, Hanlon said the fee is enforced by a private entity.
“A public improvement fee is a fee agreed to by the property owners to be collected on behalf of the metropolitan district,” Hanlon said.
While it looks like a tax and acts like a tax, it is not a tax, because it isn’t imposed by government, he added.
Mayor Jonathan Godes said regardless of who collects the money and in whose name, the public at large views the fee as a tax.
“Most people were sold this as, ‘This is a tax you didn’t vote on, but it’s OK, because it will go away in 20 years,’” Godes said. “If it is renewed, I think the community should have the opportunity to vote on this.”
Despite several attempts at “napkin math” by multiple meeting attendees, no solid information was presented about how much revenue the PIF could generate. Estimates ranged from $19 million to $32 million.
Shoflick said regardless of the amount collected through the PIF, Glenwood Springs would receive about $4 million for roadway improvements immediately after the extension was implemented and an additional $1 million over the course of 15 years for roadway maintenance in the Meadows. To defray operating costs, such as snow removal, Meadows tenants could receive PIF revenue of about $1 per square foot of retail space annually, which could total about $350,000 a year for the metropolitan district.
The remaining monies could be used to pay off senior and junior debt, which are issued by the metropolitan district overseeing the properties, Shoflick said.
Metro districts are independent governmental entities formed to finance, design, acquire, install, construct, operate and/or maintain public improvements that are not otherwise being provided, according to the Colorado Association of Home Builders.
Hanlon said senior debt is issued based on the ability to secure revenue, primarily through a PIF. Financial institutions purchase senior debt on the open market; thus, the debt must be repaid. Junior debt is purchased by developers, he said.
“Junior debt gets paid if there happens to be money left over after the senior debt is paid off, which typically only happens if the development overperforms,” Hanlon explained.
Council member Shelley Kaup said because Shoflick’s presentation did not contain a revenue projection or include transparent data about how all the collected monies would be used, she was not ready to make a decision on the extension.
Public Works Director Matt Langhorst said the streets in the area need a significant amount of repairs and upgrades.
“This money would give us the funding to remove entire sections of roadway and build them to design standards, mill and overlay sections that are still good but have some cracking and replace a lot of the concrete in the middle islands,” Langhorst said. “Then, that maintenance money will really help us keep up with all of those crack repairs.”
Without money from the PIF, Langhorst said the city might need to divert up to $4 million from other capital improvement projects in the near future to address the deteriorating road conditions around the plaza.
During public comments on the agenda item, part-time Glenwood Springs resident Gary Vick told council they should wait to make a decision until they felt they understood all the financial data and potential implications of supporting a PIF extension.
Godes said he agreed with Vick, and he made a motion to deny the letter of support with the option for the property owners to bring it back at a later date. Stepp seconded the motion, which failed 6-1, with Mayor Pro Tem Charlie Willman and council members Ingrid Wussow, Tony Hershey, Steve Davis, Kaup and Stepp voting against.
“I can’t support this motion,” Willman said. “It sends a bad message.”
Stepp said she seconded the motion because she felt rushed by Hershey, who repeatedly interrupted her when she tried to ask Hanlon a question about seconding the motion. Stepp explained that she voted against the motion because she would rather see more data on the extension and revenues before making a final decision.
Without the PIF money, Wussow said the city would have to find other revenue to repair infrastructure at the Meadows, so she wouldn’t support Godes’ motion.
“Those roads are ours from this point forward,” Wussow said. “If we don’t have the funds to improve them, we’ll have to pull it from other projects. We have to make a game plan for how to get the roads back up to the shape they need to be in.”
Following Godes’ failed motion, Davis made a motion to table the conversation for 60 days, providing staff and the property owners time to put together more PIF revenue information for council to review. Wussow seconded the motion, which passed 6-1, with Godes voting against.
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at email@example.com.
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