City’s special improvements district questioned
Requests from a handful of newly rezoned commercial property owners in the 800 block of Pitkin Avenue to be included in Glenwood Springs’ downtown General Improvements District have prompted city leaders to revisit the overall effectiveness of the special taxing district.
City Council recently adopted new rules giving the city flexibility to consider expanding the district to include fringe properties that are now zoned for commercial or mixed uses, but which are still being used for residential purposes.
The move comes after the properties were rezoned from residential to commercial at the owners’ request in 2013, due mostly to the changing nature of the neighborhood now that the Glenwood Springs Post Office serves as a regional distribution center.
A marked increase in regular heavy truck traffic at the downtown facility throughout the day and nighttime hours since the former West Glenwood postal sorting facility closed a few years ago has been a source of much consternation for those who live nearby.
At the time of the rezoning request, property owners also asked to be included in the GID in an effort to open up options for future redevelopment.
Doing so would allow an exemption for providing on-site parking, in exchange for paying an extra property tax into a fund intended for general downtown improvements, including public parking.
But council has been reluctant to expand the GID, especially since the special district has done little to generate enough money to make any significant improvements in the more than 30 years since it was first established.
“As an overall revenue generator, it’s a failure,” Mayor Mike Gamba said. “Generally, I support the concept, but we need to have something that actually provides enough money to make some improvements.”
Currently, a separate 2.445 mill levy on properties within the GID generates an average of about $40,000 a year, according to city Finance Director Charles Kelty.
Most of that money is used to pay for downtown landscaping and various repairs and maintenance, and to supplement some of the projects undertaken by the separate Downtown Development Authority (DDA), he said.
Although funding for public parking was one of the original intents behind establishing the GID, the scant funds weren’t even used when the city built its more than $4 million parking garage at Ninth and Cooper two years ago.
Funding for that project came from the city’s special Acquisitions and Improvements sales tax fund, and from the DDA, which operates under a separate tax increment financing structure.
Gamba said it might make sense to roll the GID fund into the DDA. Or, if the GID is to be maintained on its own, an additional funding source may also be needed, he said.
He and others have already begun floating the idea of implementing paid parking in certain parts of the downtown area, including street meters and possibly day fees for using the parking garage, as a way to generate funds for future parking improvements.
“I would want to get more information on that, and what some of the benefits would be to go with some metered parking,” Gamba said. “It’s just a thought.”
As for the Pitkin Avenue property owners, Gamba said it makes sense to provide some relief given the changing nature of that area and the likelihood that the confluence area to the west will eventually be redeveloped.
“I do hope we can take a hard look at the GID, and how to fix it,” he said.
City Council member Leo McKinney agreed during a recent council discussion on the matter.
“As it is, I don’t believe the GID functions to the benefit of anybody,” McKinney said. “If it’s broke, we need to fix it or do away with it.”
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