Ross sues Glenwood Springs, city officials over urban renewal authority | PostIndependent.com

Ross sues Glenwood Springs, city officials over urban renewal authority

A customer leaves Ross at the Glenwood Springs Mall on a recent afternoon.

Ross Dress For Less, the Glenwood Springs Mall's anchor tenant, has filed a complaint in Garfield County District Court challenging the city's recently formed urban renewal authority that could result in redevelopment of the property.

Ross, in its complaint, stated that, "Unbeknownst to Ross, the mall owner [Frank Woods] paid $25,000 for a study to show the mall property is 'blighted,' and encouraged city staff and city council to use urban renewal to fund Mall renovations and to terminate or re-write Ross's lease."

Ricker Cunningham, a consultant out of Littleton, completed the West Glenwood Springs Conditions Survey on Nov. 13, 2018 and submitted its findings to the Glenwood Springs City Council.

The survey concluded that, of the 11 possible blight factors, 10 were present within the two West Glenwood parcels that make up the Glenwood Springs Mall property.

Blight, as defined by the same survey, "is a cumulative conclusion based on the presence of several conditions or factors (physical, market, and other), defined by state law, that collectively contribute to the deterioration of an area."

In its complaint, Ross alleged that the survey Cunningham completed was "riddled with errors, omissions, and typographical mistakes."

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The complaint also alleged that, "Mr. Woods, a principal of the owner, was actively involved in reviewing and revising the urban renewal documents prior to their finalization and in pushing to maintain the Dec. 6, 2018 city council hearing date."

Woods' attorney, Carolynne C. White of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, did not return a request for comment Tuesday.

At the Dec. 6, 2018 Glenwood Springs City Council meeting, councilors in back-to-back 6-0 votes approved two resolutions concerning the formation of the urban renewal authority.

The first resolution found that one or more blighted areas exist in Glenwood Springs and stated the need for the redevelopment and rehabilitation of such areas in accordance with the Colorado Urban Renewal Law. The second formally established the new West Glenwood Springs Urban Renewal Authority Plan.

Now, the city of Glenwood Springs, City Council and the urban renewal authority are named as defendants in the complaint filed through Ross's legal counsel, Faegre Baker Daniels, on Jan. 4.

"It is not unexpected in a situation like this," Glenwood Springs City Attorney Karl Hanlon said Tuesday of Ross's complaint. "What Ross is challenging is, specifically, the formation of the [urban renewal authority]."

The West Glenwood Springs Conditions Survey, in addition to investigating blight, also examined the lease agreement between the Glenwood Springs Mall and Ross Dress For Less dated June 10, 2011.

According to Ricker Cunningham's review, "there exist numerous provisions which extend extraordinary control to [Ross Dress For Less], which effectively make it all-but impossible for the [Glenwood Springs Mall] to freely manage the mall properties in a manner appropriate for the market and commensurate with operators of comparable facilities."

According to the survey, the primary mall building has a vacancy rate of approximately 90 percent.

However, Ross, in its legal complaint, claims that Woods "misled city staff and city council to believe that Ross was using various lease rights to withhold consent and prevent new tenants from entering the mall."

Additionally, the complaint also alleged that, "city council was therefore manipulated to enable the mall owner to walk away from his lease obligations and maximize his profits at the expense of a tenant in good standing."

Asked if they felt manipulated or misled by Woods, Glenwood Springs Mayor Michael Gamba and West Glenwood Councilor Rick Voorhees both declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

mabennett@postindependent.com