The Citizens for Rational Development grassroots group has taken yet another battle to the streets of Littleton.
“Littleton's urban-renewal authority is causing several of us to be alarmed,” writes Paul Bingham in a call-to-action email to the community. “Several of us have prepared a citizens' initiative that will cause a special election if we are successful in collecting the required number of signatures of registered voters in Littleton.”
If successful, the initiative would force the city to bring urban-renewal plans to the citizens for a vote if eminent domain, tax-increment financing, revenue sharing or cost sharing is proposed. Currently, Littleton City Council would have the final say.
Bingham's email went out on Aug. 11, the day the city's urban-renewal authority was hosting an open house to get input on its plans to declare two areas ripe for urban renewal: the Santa Fe corridor from Prince Street to just south of Mineral Avenue; and the Columbine Square area along Belleview Avenue, including the shopping areas on both the east and west sides of Federal Boulevard.
Many are confused and angry about the boundaries, wondering why a pristine equine center and a brewery that's not even built yet have been declared “blighted.” Some property owners worry that their property values will drop and their insurance carriers will cancel.
But Ann Ricker, the consultant for LIFT (Littleton Invests For Tomorrow, the city's urban-renewal authority), reminds them that practically the entire city of Denver is under a URA, which made possible things like the new Union Station development, Confluence Park and the relocation of Elitch's.
“Why would it not hurt a property in Denver to be in an urban-renewal authority, but it would hurt a Littleton property?” she asked the crowd at the open house.
Some are concerned that once the boundaries are in place, the city will swoop in and start condemning properties for its own purposes. Ricker notes that it's a power the city already has, and simply having a URA doesn't increase the chances.
Some, including Councilmember Peggy Cole, say that if that's the case, council should just say so. She initiated a resolution along those lines during the Aug. 5 council meeting, with all five of the other councilmembers present supporting her direction to staff to bring back language they can vote on in an upcoming meeting.
“Some have heard us publicly or otherwise say we don't support this, but we haven't had that conversation fully,” she said. “But since we have other tools, and these issues seem to be part of what is making citizens so anxious, I'd like to take it off the table.”
Her motion didn't address the financing methods that the citizens' initiative does, however. Ricker calls them ways to “finance public improvements without raising taxes.”
“I just think there's so much potential for positive things, and I think if we look at it that way, then that's the way it's going to go,” said Donna Wood, a local Realtor.
LIFT was slated to formally accept, or not, the study areas on Aug. 18. If approved, they go on to be reviewed by the city's planning board, Arapahoe County and, finally, city council.
Then the whole process will be repeated on the last two areas: the Broadway corridor from north of Powers Avenue to south of Littleton Boulevard, and the Littleton Boulevard corridor from Windermere Street to Bannock Street.