Elections, Littleton

Guest editorial: Time for a new majority on Littleton City Council

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of guest op-eds by candidates for municipal government races written for CompleteColorado.com.

We tried to get Initiative 300 in front of the voters before urban renewal and tax increment financing became a reality in Littleton. We were too late. Four urban renewal plans were rushed through and approved by a majority of City Council prior to the voters approving 300 at the ballot box in March.

icon_op_edMy opponent, 8-year councilmember Debbie Brinkman, supported all four urban renewal plans. We are about to see the impact of her decisions.

Councilwoman Brinkman has been a strong proponent of urban renewal and tax increment financing, and announced last week that Sam’s Club and Walmart are coming to Littleton.

According to Brinkman, the two large stores will be built on one of the last large parcels of undeveloped land south of Mineral and west of Santa Fe Drive. If you remember, Brinkman led the battle to overturn the council’s decision to rezone similar property for a Walmart in 2006.

In 2014 she approved not only urban renewal plans that will allow a Walmart and a Sam’s Club, but also the use of taxpayer dollars to help build them through tax increment financing. This means any increment from property taxes will be diverted away from the schools, parks, city, and county for 25 years. Even more detrimental to the taxpayers of Littleton are the sales taxes collected above the base that will be diverted from our General Fund for the next 25 years.

Yes, that’s right – for the next 25 years Littleton will not benefit from the sales taxes collected by Sam’s Club and Walmart.

To be specific, the tax increment means any sales tax collected by the two stores that is above the base is considered increment, and all increment is diverted away from the city for 25 years. The base is determined by looking back at the last 12 months of sales tax collection. Any amount above the base is increment. Since the land is vacant, the base is zero! Thus, all sales tax revenue will belong to the urban renewal authority. It will not go to the General Fund to be used for maintenance of our infrastructure, to fund our library, our museum, the fire or police, and not the Omni Bus or Shopping Cart.

The urban renewal authority will have the money (and lots of it) to use however they deem necessary in the Santa Fe urban renewal area.

There are two possible ways that this scheme can be undone.

One way is through the courts. The particular parcel of land is zoned agricultural, and the urban renewal law was amended in 2010 in an effort to make it more difficult to include agricultural land in an urban renewal area. The inclusion has been challenged by Arapahoe County, and the case will be heard in January 2016. If the Court finds in favor of Arapahoe County, the land would have to be excluded from the urban renewal area and the tax increment financing scheme vanishes, restoring future sales tax revenues to Littleton’s General Fund where they belong.

The second way is for a simple majority of the Littleton City Council to abolish the authority by ordinance.

Electing a new council majority is the surest way to change the course of urban renewal in Littleton.

This can be done by voting for myself, along with Brenda Stokes, Doug Clark, and Peggy Cole for Littleton City Council.

Carol Brzeczek was one of the proponents of the successful Littleton Initiative 300 effort and a candidate for Littleton City Council District 4.

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