While the City of Littleton, Colorado is not a “trend setter” among Colorado municipalities, it is still worthy of comment on what recently happened there. Littleton voters in a clear-cut “voice” expressed their desire to pull in the reins …
This item is available in full to subscribers.
If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.
Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.
If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.
While the City of Littleton, Colorado is not a “trend setter” among Colorado municipalities, it is still worthy of comment on what recently happened there. Littleton voters in a clear-cut “voice” expressed their desire to pull in the reins of local officials involving the powers of urban renewal and eminent domain. In a 60 to 40 percent outcome (5,755 to 3,811), voters took away these economic development tools from their city council and urban renewal authority board of directors. Instead, each time there is a desire to use any of these tools, a special election will be required to secure the approval of the people. In other words, the city council and city manager are not able to provide a definitive answer to a developer on such issues.
Certainly, the power of eminent domain whereby an urban renewal authority board can condemn private property can cause disagreement, hard feelings and all kinds of rhetoric. In the same manner, the use of tax increment financing (TIF) can stir up controversy with arguments on both sides of using this tool to help finance public improvements benefitting the developer. The expansion of designating a geographical area to be “blighted” can get neighbors up in arms. Such a designation can be especially questionable when the city council declares farm land to be “blighted” such as Westminster and Thornton have done in the past to provide a means to an end in facilitating development such as major retail development. However, sometimes these tools are the only means to make a development or redevelopment work financially.
Is it reasonable
The key point in bringing up the Littleton situation along with an older action involving the Estes Park, Colorado urban renewal authority is that a balance of reason and logic must prevail. Like anything else, does it “pass the smell test”? Is it reasonable? What would the prudent man say? “Will it sell in Peoria?” Elected officials and urban renewal boards must be diligent in their decision-making and the process used with the public to get to a final conclusion i.e. whether to expand the urban renewal boundary or whether to grant a TIF agreement for a specific development. When decisions get to far from the middle like a one-sided “sweetheart deal” for a developer, the public is likely to challenge the decision and perhaps go so far as to take away the power that generated the issue in the first place.
Remember what is the greater good
In the case of Estes Park, the “trigger” ignite the fuse was a decision to declare the fairgrounds on the edge of town as “blighted” and to spend millions of dollars on a new fairgrounds complex. That action led to a vote of the people to disband the urban renewal authority in Estes Park. As an outsider who follows political actions and trends, I would say that the Estes Park public was correct in deciding the town officials over extended the intent of the urban renewal state law. Also, I think there have been times when land has been designated as “blighted” by city councils, which is a precursor to condemnation or TIF agreements, when it was questionable if the actions met the intent of the law. As long as no one legally opposed such designations, things just kept moving along.
Potential future detriment
I believe the Littleton and Estes Park “decisions” by their respective voters will in time prove to be a mistake. The turnaround time to have voters decide on a land condemnation or TIF package will take too long or the whole process will be too shaky for developers to be interested in redevelopment opportunities in Littleton. In the case of Estes Park, with a key area downtown still sitting vacant after a major fire several years ago, I cannot help but think that urban renewal may be the only tool to redevelop that key parcel. Anyway, reasonable, prudent, transparent actions are fundamental to upholding the trust of the voters in general and certainly in urban renewal situations.
Other items that may interest you
We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.