LOVELAND–In Loveland, a community of about 78,000 people just an hour north of Denver, two citizen-initiated ballot measures that were squarely aimed as backlash over a new private development using taxpayer subsidies to build, were passing handily as of Wednesday morning. At the same time, two other city council/fire authority-initiated initiatives to counter those measures, were being defeated.
Ballot question 300 (14,986 yes to 7,861 no) will remove a 3 percent sales tax on the retail sales of food for home consumption, while ballot question 301 (15,642 yes to 6,768 no) will require voter approval for future urban renewal projects (URA).
The charter changes came about because proponents lost an earlier fight to stop the South Centerra urban renewal development, which uses tax increment financing (TIF) as a funding mechanism.
Under the South Centerra agreement, the city will give up 1.25 percent of all sales tax revenue from retail within the development for 25 years to help with the infrastructure on the project.
Now, with the passage of 300, the city will also lose a 3 percent on all food purchases city-wide, which is a major blow to the Centerra South subsidies because the anchor store on the project is a Whole Foods.
The repeal means about a $500 yearly savings for the average family of 4, but an estimated $10.5 million annual loss to the city.
Ballot question 301 requires voter approval before any new urban renewal areas (URAs) are approved in the city, which could effectively stop another 750 acres of land adjacent to South Centerra which is expected to be developed under a separate URA.
Voters in Littleton, Colorado in 2015 passed a somewhat similar vote on urban renewal measure, overwhelmingly (60-40) approving a citizen-led measure mandating voter approval for any urban renewal plan that utilizes TIF.
Loveland City Council has a history of sidestepping voter consent and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) by using creative financing measures for major capital expenditures. In 2019, the city canceled a planned election asking voters to spend $95 million on a municipal broadband project. Rather, council moved forward and used Certificates of a Participation (COPs), a multi-year, financing scheme that circumvents TABOR in essence by borrowing the money under the guise of repetitive, 1-year lease-to-own contracts.
Two other questions on the Loveland ballot, one that would add a sales tax for the Loveland Fire/Rescue Authority and one that would de-TABOR current city sales taxes were both being narrowly defeated as of Wednesday (11,920 to 11,182 and 11,800 to 10,898, respectively).
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