Nine acres of publicly-owned, prime real estate in metro Denver’s hot market to be ‘sold’ for $30, and the sales and property tax revenue until 2034 rebated to the developer as well. All for the construction of a two story parking garage topped with four floors of apartments that will loom over already congested Wadsworth Bypass and end the ‘grand view’ from Grandview Avenue in Arvada.
Yes, this scheme has caused quite a stir in Arvada.
But this sweetheart deal only highlights a much bigger problem.
In the last couple of years or so, the unelected Arvada Urban Renewal Authority board and the city council have actually committed to giving away nearly $50 million in tax revenue and land to private, for-profit corporations and developers. From the minimum value of $6 million for the $30 land deal to $6 million in sales tax rebates to Walmart to the $7.2 million rebated to the Solana apartment developers, Arvada government has been on a spree of self-aggrandizement through manipulating and distorting the free market with taxpayer dollars.
All of these giveaways were approved or sanctioned by the same city council that unanimously voted to put a sales tax hike on the November 2016 election ballot, claiming more money was needed to repair and maintain our deteriorating streets. Arvada taxes groceries, so this would have been a highly regressive tax increase and resulted in one of the highest sales tax rates in the entire state of Colorado.
Voters wisely turned down the tax hike, but the large amount of giveaways in part explains why city government doesn’t have the revenue required for basic services like keeping the streets in good order. They’ve given away current and future tax revenue worth millions and millions of dollars to special private businesses.
So, while you are paying Arvada sales tax on bananas, a box of cereal, a new school backpack, etc. and supporting police, water, sewer, parks — the developers and businesses with sweetheart deals are rebated the taxes collected, getting a free-ride on city services.
The entire Denver metro region is now experiencing a remarkable burst of economic growth — we don’t need government hand-outs to developers to entice them to open businesses and build in our community. Arvada is a wonderful city — new developers and businesses ought to be paying us to locate here!
And they do … when the free market is allowed to work and Urban Renewal and City Hall let them open here by following the regular rules all other developers and businesses have to follow, and then pay 100 percent of the taxes they generate like all the rest of us.
Now, citizens and taxpayers have a plan to put some guardrails on the government giveaways. The Protect Arvada Taxpayers (PAT) charter amendment would require that any ‘incentive’ to developers over $2.5 million and/or a sale of public land to a private business valued over $1 million be taken to the voters for approval. The PAT proposal is a citizen initiative, petitions are circulating now to place the plan on the ballot.
The Protect Arvada Taxpayers amendment does not take away any economic development tools for City Hall or the Arvada Urban Renewal Authority, but it does mean that for circumstances involving large sums of tax revenue or sales of public land to a private business, we, the people and taxpayers, get to be the ultimate decision-makers.
Growth and progress for our community are fully compatible with fiscal responsibility.
More information at: ProtectArvadaTaxpayers.com
Dave Chandler lives in Arvada, and is one of the proponents of the Protect Arvada Taxpayers charter amendment.