Supporters, detractors weigh in on Silt urban renewal plans
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
SILT, Colorado – The Silt Trustees hosted more than two hours of debate Monday over their plans to create an urban renewal authority.
In the end the trustees voted unanimously to establish an urban renewal authority and an economic development revolving fund, both aimed at pulling Silt up by its commercial bootstraps.
According to Mayor Dave Moore, the commercial possibilities inherent in the urban renewal authority “will yield 150 jobs, including construction workers,” and will contribute to a general rise in property values around town.
To get the process started, the trustees designated areas of the town as blighted based on a number of special criteria defined under state law.
With the establishment of the authority, the town can now look for potential development partners interested in setting up shop in Silt.
But some local residents and property owners were skeptical about the plan, and one asked that his property be withdrawn from the blight area in which the authority is to operate.
“I just don’t like that term, blight,” said Keith Gilstrap.
He told the trustees he has no objection to the use of the authority to frame the economic development effort, but is worried that classifying his property as blighted could hurt its value.
“I wanted to voice my support for the urban renewal authority,” said property owner Fred Cook, who said he has taken part in other urban renewal authority projects in other communities and found them to be beneficial.
“This really is a great tool,” he said. He predicted it “will enhance the economic development of the town.”
Peggy Tibbetts, a Silt resident, asked why the town did not put the matter to a vote.
“You all have had months to study this,” she told the trustees. “We haven’t. I think it should go to a vote of the people.”
Trustee Rick Aluise said he opposed such a move. He noted that a decade ago, Silt voters were asked to approve the town’s efforts to attract a grocery store, including financial incentives, and turned the plan down.
“I will not favor taking it to a vote,” Aluise said. He said he ran for office in 2010 with the intent to get more businesses in town.
“If you didn’t want an urban renewal authority, you shouldn’t have voted for me,” he said. “If you don’t like the urban renewal authority, vote me out.”
Several people questioned the trustees’ decision that anyone who wished to exempt their property from the authority’s “blight area” had to speak up at Monday’s meeting.
Lacking a formal objection from a property owner, all properties on the list drawn up by the town’s consultants would be included in the authority’s boundary, said town attorney Lee Leavenworth.
The blight area covers one block north and south of Main Street, from First to 16th.
Robin Robinson of Silt wanted to know how that would work for property owners who were not at the meeting.
Aluise responded that the town is not taking over anybody’s property by condemnation, or forcing any property owner to become a partner.
“I don’t see that there is a downside,” he said repeatedly, to having property included in the authority’s boundary.
“Any urban renewal plan that gets developed is going to be a partnership between the town and the property owner,” Leavenworth agreed.
For those whose property is not included in the blight area now, the trustees made it clear that they hope to update the study in the future, and excluded properties could be included then.
The trustees also established an economic development revolving fund. The town government would accept grants or loans into the fund, and then direct the money to the authority to use for economic development projects.
The loans would be repaid through “tax increment financing,” in which property and sales tax revenues are tapped to pay off bonds or loans used for development projects.
The repayment comes only from added property value that results from redevelopment, or from sales tax revenues from previously vacant land used for commercial development, so that there is no tax hike imposed on the general population.
Although the trustees voted unanimously to establish the authority, dissension arose regarding the authority’s governing board.
Moore argued for using the Silt Trustees temporarily as the authority commissioners, and then appointing commissioners from the community.
“We don’t need another responsibility,” he said, noting that the elected trustees have plenty to do already.
“I have particular names,” he said. “These are people who want to be in there. They know what to do.”
His argument fell on deaf ears, however. The trustees voted 5-1 to appoint themselves as the authority’s board of commissioners, with Moore dissenting.
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