Brewery incentives come as surprise

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City council and the public alike were surprised to find out that a $300,000 incentive package is part of the Breckenridge Brewery deal.

Council approved the rezone that allows Breckenridge Brewery to happen in March, but there was no mention of incentives at the time. Councilor Bruce Beckman said he would have liked more time to consider the proposal before voting on it June 4, having just received it five days before the meeting. City Manager Michael Penny said he’d work on a better process for the future.

“There’s just been a lot of moving pieces to it,” said Penny. “This is not the cleanest way to get it in front of you.”

This is the first time the city has utilized incentives since council approved the new economic-development plan last month. It takes the focus off growing small businesses, the long-standing approach in Littleton, and allows for a variety of financial tactics to lure new ones.

Penny says the deal is a win for everyone, allowing the developer, BW Holdings LLC, to reduce out-of-pocket expenses while guaranteeing some income for the city up front. The developer is spending $400,000 on public improvements, including $225,000 for a traffic light at Briarwood Avenue and Santa Fe Drive to allow safer access to the site.

The shareback plan outlined in the agreement would rebate some of those expenses by splitting the brewery’s sales-tax revenue with the developer, up to $300,000. Councilor Phil Cernanec successfully amended the plan to give the city the first $40,000, then start giving the developer half. It’s expected to take about five years to reach the total.

The city also split $175,000 in fees BW Holdings is projected to pay, and that amount — $87,500 — is included in the $300,000.

Doug Clark, former mayor, says incentives are a bad idea. He presented data from the city’s finance department that showed revenue was increasing without incentives, and questioned how staff would decide which companies deserved incentives and which didn’t.

“Just because some staff member has gone out to lunch with them? Because somebody likes to drink beer? Because the business owners are the right race?” he asked, adding that incentives create the opportunity for corruption.

Councilor Peggy Cole agreed and was the sole vote against the plan.

“I really want the brewery to come, but for me, this is not the way to make it happen,” she said. “I hope I get to my car safely tonight, but I do not support these incentives.”

Councilor Bruce Beckman said the financial deal is separate from the site plan, which is what they were voting on.

“It does raise questions about who was picked and who was not,” he said. “That’s the problem, but that’s not Breckenridge Brewery’s problem.”

Councilor Jerry Valdes noted the irony of incentivizing Breckenridge Brewery on the site where citizens rallied to fend off a Walmart seven years ago. Leading that movement launched Mayor Debbie Brinkman’s political career.

“A few years back, we weren’t being so kind with another applicant on that same property,” said Valdes.

Brinkman credits a more “vigorous outlook” for drawing the brewery to Littleton, and noted the city needs the sales tax.

“This $300,000 investment is not money out of our pockets,” she said. “Quite honestly, this is money that hasn’t even come to our pockets.”