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Council approves urban renewal authority

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Fire chief expresses reservations over use of property tax revenue

By Jeremy Johnson

FORT LUPTON — A little more than a month after a plan to address redevelopment in Fort Lupton failed to gain a second sponsor and “died on the vine,” the panel appeared to have a change of heart.

In a unanimous vote Monday, Aug. 18, Fort Lupton City Council approved the initial formation of an Urban Renewal Authority, about six weeks after the same motion failed to reach a vote at all.

For supporters of the URA, that prior result was likely the best they could have hoped for: Had the motion gone up for vote and been denied, it could not have been brought back to the table. 

During the initial go-around, at least two city council members cited a lack of information as the reason behind their decision not to back the creation of the URA. Following the June 2 council meeting, Councilman Kevin Schwickrath simply said there were “too many unanswered questions,” while Councilwoman Shannon Rhoda said she was concerned about taking money away from other entities that rely on the city’s tax base. 

That latter concern was reiterated on Aug. 18 when, after Mayor Tommy Holton opened discussion up to the public, Fort Lupton Fire Chief Phil Tiffany took to the podium to plead his case.

Tiffany told council he and the fire district’s board of trustees support the growth of Fort Lupton, but have seen similar authorities have negative impacts in other communities, particularly on entities such as fire departments which, for the most part, operate on funds provided by the property tax base. 

“We’re supportive of the town’s efforts to grow and move forward, and we want to be part of that,” Tiffany said. “But we want you to consider some things as you move forward … (a URA) could have significant impacts on the fire district.”

Tiffany said the fire department is 98-percent funded by property tax, and said he is worried the development of a URA will usurp those funds. He said he’s heard “rumors and conversations” that the entire City of Fort Lupton would be “within the Urban Renewal Authority.”

“That is something we would be opposed to because we don’t think it would be a good, positive thing moving forward,” he said. “We would think it is intended for certain purposes and we would like you to … stay with those purposes.”

Tiffany said the fire department is financially “stable” currently but said that wasn’t the case as recently as “three or four years ago.”

“We just ask as the city moves forward with the URA board that you keep us in consideration, and that we work together to form some sort of amicable strategy to address these concerns and make this very positive for the city and residents of Fort Lupton,” he concluded.

Holton concurred.

“That’s our goal, too. I mean, I don’t want to see anybody be impacted to the extent where we’re going to lose services,” Holton said. “But this is just the start of the process, no maps have been drawn. I mean, there’s been a few talks and discussion, but as far as anything in writing, anything concrete, it hasn’t happened yet. So, you guys will be at the table, as well as other taxing districts that want to be there.”

Following the approval of the URA, council also approved an additional $5,000 for the URA’s potential legal counsel. Assistant City Administrator Aaron Herrera, who along with the planning department spent more than a year researching and drawing up plans for the URA, said he had about $100 of URA funding left in the account and needed the nest egg for any potential future negotiations. 

Like Holton, Herrera said there were no URA districts drawn up at this point. Several areas had been discussed at the June 2 meeting, but those preliminary maps were apparently scrapped or set aside while Herrera and planners directed their focus on the initial stages – the formation of the authority. 

According to an amendment filed with council, in a preliminary blight study conducted in October 2013, the city’s planning department said they identified five of 11 blight factors set forth by Colorado statutes, including deteriorating structures, failing streets, unsanitary or unsafe conditions and unusual topography or inadequate public utilities.

 

Contact Staff Writer Jeremy Johnson at 303-659-2522, ext. 217, or jjohnson@metrowestnewspaperscom.