Littleton business owners rally for vote on downtown development authority

Community meeting highlights project wish list if voters approve new governing and funding mechanism

Robert Tann
rtann@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 10/25/22

Residents and owners within a certain boundary will vote on three ballot questions that will decide the creation of a DDA board, a funding model and an increase in property taxes within that boundary. Those questions are known as 3F, 3C and 3D respectively. 

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Littleton business owners rally for vote on downtown development authority

Community meeting highlights project wish list if voters approve new governing and funding mechanism

Posted

Seeking to encourage support for the creation of a downtown development authority (DDA) this election, Littleton business owners held a community forum Oct. 24 that heard questions, concerns and praise for the proposal. 

"We need to breathe a new life into the downtown area," said David Law, who owns the Miller & Law law firm on Littleton Boulevard at Prescott Street. “The DDA is the mechanism that is going to allow that to transpire."

Residents and owners within a certain boundary will vote on three ballot questions that will decide the creation of a DDA board, a funding model and an increase in property taxes within that boundary. Those questions are known as 3F, 3C and 3D respectively. 

Littleton's city council unanimously voted to endorse the creation of a DDA, along with several other ballot issues, during a meeting Oct. 4. 

Brad Segal, whose firm Progressive Urban Management Associates consulted with city officials on the DDA, said the authority is designed to be "a steward and a champion” that "provides an independent voice to advocate for downtown and downtown interests."

With voters' approval, a governing board could consist of nine to 11 members made up of business owners and residents who would apply to and be appointed by city council. One city council member will also sit on the board. 

Voters would also have to approve a funding plan known as tax increment financing or TIF, which would allow the DDA to allocate a portion of money generated each year by the downtown area's sales and property taxes to various projects. This model would be self-sustaining, meaning it would not see any new tax increases for businesses or residents. 

But a third prong of the DDA plan could see a slight increase in property taxes, less than 3%, which would pay for other projects — such as snow removal and landscaping — as well as marketing campaigns for downtown events. 

Business owners Oct. 24 urged voters to support all three proposals, saying it would be crucial to the DDA's long-term success. Erika Zierke, who sits on the DDA board for the neighboring City of Englewood, said her board is "led by people who are really invested in the community."

But its creation faced challenges after voters in 2020 approved the boundary and board but voted down a  property tax hike to fund it. Englewood voters did approve a measure to allow the DDA to incur debt of up to $70 million over a 30-year period the following year.

Zierke urged residents voting for Littleton's DDA to support both TIF and a property tax raise. 

Downtown Littleton business owners said their focus for DDA funding would be on rejuvenation and safety. Ruth Graham, who owns Ancient Arts Health Center on Main Street, said projects could include a new collective trash and snow removal service, centralized downtown internet and the return of events such as block parties. 

A perceived increase in homelessness around the downtown area was a major concern for business owners who suggested using the DDA to hire private security for storefronts and discourage those who are unhoused from occupying public spaces. 

“We’ve all been experiencing a little too much hanging out at Bega Park," Graham said. 

Some residents raised concerns about the increase in their property taxes, which Segal said could mean a roughly $20 to $30 annual increase for renters and possibly $100 annually or more for homeowners.

Rich Patrone, who lives near the downtown Littleton RTD station and rents office space on Main Street, said he understood voters' reluctance regarding a tax increase but felt one for the DDA was essential.

“I don’t like to pay taxes … but this is one that’s going to have an impact," Patrone said. "I would vote yes on all three because we really need this to happen."

The election for the DDA will be one-person, one-vote for renters, property owners and businesses within the DDA boundary. Entities such as LLCs, corporations or public services will need to designate one person to vote on their behalf. These people, known as designated voters, may reside outside the DDA boundary. 

The boundary includes all of Main Street and Alamo Avenue, Church Avenue and the Arapahoe Community College campus to the south as well as some undeveloped space near the South Platte River to the west and some of Littleton Boulevard to the east. It also extends north and includes some of West Berry Avenue, Prince Street and Rio Grande Street, including the Arapahoe County government building.

Voters who have not yet received their ballot have until 5 p.m. on Oct. 31 to request one by mail. Election Day is Nov. 8 and voters have until 7 p.m. that day to return their completed ballot to the 24-hour drop box outside the  Arapahoe County Clerk’s Office at 5334 S. Prince Street.

littleton, downtown littleton, dda, election 2022

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