TIF ruling could aid downtown in competing with Meadows | PostIndependent.com

TIF ruling could aid downtown in competing with Meadows

Post Independent/Kara K. PearsonJoan Chaffin laughs as she poses for a portrait Thursday in her store, The Mountain Peddler, on Grand Avenue in Glenwood. Chaffin has owned the store for almost 29 years.

Now that a downtown tax mechanism has shifted out of park, and may provide money for parking, it could help Glenwood Springs’ retail core compete with behemoths such as Target and Lowe’s.

A Colorado Supreme Court ruling this summer ended a legal battle over the city Downtown Development Authority’s efforts to use tax increment financing (TIF) to pay for downtown improvements.

City officials have said a parking structure could top the list of capital projects that may be funded through the so-called TIF program. A performing arts theater also may be looked at as a possible use for funds.

Under the TIF plan, the city decided to collect all new tax revenues created by growth in the tax base in the downtown district over a 20-year period, and use the money for downtown improvements. State law allows TIF funding, but Colorado Mountain College and Garfield County contended the city violated the law in how it was being implemented.

They sued in 2002, arguing that the financing plan would deprive them of nearly $4 million in tax revenues.

In 2003, Thomas Ossola, then a district court judge, issued a summary judgment in favor of the city, finding that CMC and the county had no legal standing in the case.

Earlier this year, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld Ossola’s ruling. In August, the Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear the county and college’s appeal.

“It’s been a little unfortunate that we’ve had to fight a legal battle with our fellow jurisdictions but the upside is the money’s been accruing over that time period,” said Andrew McGregor, Glenwood Springs’ community development director.

The city reportedly has accumulated at least $500,000 since it began collecting the tax.

One reason CMC objected to the measure is that that the downtown district eventually could include Glenwood Meadows, depriving the college of the project’s tax revenues over the life of the TIF plan.

Although the city’s funding for capital improvements downtown is secure, DDA district voters last fall defeated a property tax measure that would have funded marketing and promotions. As a result, the city has restructured the DDA, and it is moving away from retail marketing and promotions and leaving it to downtown merchants to handle those functions separately.

Voters in the DDA district may be asked next year to approve issuing bonds based on future TIF income so the district can pursue major projects.

In the meantime the DDA will come up with a list of projects for City Council to consider. One or more parking structures are expected to be on top of that list, given a shortage of parking downtown. The city already has drafted plans for a possible parking structure on city land next to the new downtown fire station on Cooper Avenue.

Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516


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