Fortunately for Jim Rees, executive director of Littleton's urban-renewal authority, the results of the March 3 special election do not mean he's out of a job.
“We've been moving forward, working on the plans we have, and we'll see if we can …
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“We've been moving forward, working on the plans we have, and we'll see if we can get some development going here,” he said on March 12, nine days after the voters made Littleton the only city in the country, as far as Rees knows, where urban-renewal plans are subject to a vote of the people.
Rees explains that nothing finalized before the vote is affected, and urban renewal can proceed as planned in the Columbine Square, Littleton Boulevard and Broadway areas, as well as the southern portion of the Santa Fe plan.
However, the portion of the Santa Fe plan north of Aspen Grove didn't make the cut. City council put off finalizing that section until after the election, so it would now be subject to a public vote. The urban-renewal authority, Littleton Invests for Tomorrow, withdrew its request for approval on March 12, and council was poised to do the same on March 17.
There hasn't been substantial interest on the part of developers on northern Santa Fe anyway, said Rees. He added that there is “active interest” in the Ensor property, the 111-acre agricultural property at Santa Fe and Mineral Avenue. It's currently the subject of litigation between the city and Arapahoe County, which objects to its inclusion in the plan area and to LIFT's efforts in general.
The northern corridor is still in the plan area, however, and Rees said if a project ever is considered, it will have to go to the voters. Other scenarios that might trigger a vote in any of the existing areas would be if the 25-year “time clock” for projects to be completed runs out, or if an exempted property owner wants back in.
“(The voters) took out a tool a property owner could have,” said Rees. “Sales taxes are flat and costs keep going up, so how are you going to address that issue? It's like your own personal finances.”
As to the question, repeated often in the weeks leading up to the election, of whether developers would run for the hills out of Littleton if the ballot measures passed, Rees doesn't think so.
“We've got quite a bit of opportunity just with what we have,” he said. “Maybe if we ever wanted to include the rest of Broadway, that would trigger a vote. And it would make it more complicated, sure. But I think the worst thing to come out of this is the distrust of city government. You elect officials to represent you, and now what we've got is a direct democracy.”
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