As you may be aware, the City of Colorado Springs would like to utilize TIF (or tax increment financing) to pay for a freeway connection on the northern side of Colorado Springs. The TIF dollars (from 2.5 Million square feet of retail including an enclosed shopping mall and lifestyle center) will be used exclusively for the roadway improvements. The proposal is for nearly $200 million dollars over the span of 25 years.
Prior to making the statements that I am going to make, let me state that I respect Mr. Erickson and the work that he has done and is proposing. I do not blame him for attempting to get the Powers Extension financed through Urban Renewal. If I were in his shoes, and would have thought I had a shot in the dark and getting it through, I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same thing. Let me also state that the opinions in this blog are my own opinions and this is by no means a reflection of the other CSURA board members. These are opinions that I have stated in a public forum at prior CSURA board meetings.
Part 2: Is the Removal of “Blight” Actually Creating More Blight?
The Copper Ridge Development’s request for consideration of TIF has been a hot topic for the Urban Renewal Authority since August 2009, primarily because the state of the land that is desired to be considered “blighted“. According to the Colorado State Statute (CRS-31-25-103) (2) a blighted area “means an area that, in its present condition and use and, by reason of the presence of at least four of the following factors, substantially impairs or arrests the sound growth of the municipality, retards the provision of housing accommodations, or constitutes an economic or social liability, and is a menace to the public health, safety, morals, or welfare; …
(a) Slum, deteriorated, or deteriorating structures;
(b) Predominance of defective or inadequate street layout;
(c) Faulty lot layout in relation to size, adequacy, accessibility, or usefulness;
(d) Unsanitary or unsafe conditions;
(e) Deterioration of site or other improvements;
(f) Unusual topography or inadequate public improvements or utilities;
(g) Defective or unusual conditions of title rendering the title non-marketable;
(h) The existence of conditions that endanger life or property by fire or other causes;
(i) Buildings that are unsafe or unhealthy for persons to live or work in because of building code violations, dilapidation, deterioration, defective design, physical construction, or faulty or inadequate facilities;
(j) Environmental contamination of buildings or property;
(k.5) The existence of health, safety, or welfare factors requiring high levels of municipal services or substantial physical under utilization or vacancy of sites,buildings, or other improvements;
(l) If there is no objection of such property owner or owners and the tenant or tenants of such owner or owners, if and, to the inclusion of such property in an urban renewal area, “blighted area” also means an area that, in its present condition and use and, by reason of the presence of any one of the factors specified in paragraphs (a) to (k.5) of this subsection (2), substantially impairs or arrests the sound growth of the municipality, retards the provision of housing accommodations, or constitutes an economic or social liability, and is a menace to the public health, safety, morals or welfare. For purposes of this paragraph (1), the fact that an owner of an interest in such property does not object to the inclusion of such property in the urban renewal area does not mean that the owner has waived any rights of such owner in connection with laws governing condemnation.
Source: Colorado Revised Statute 31-25-103(2).
If you look through the 12 factors that can be considered for blight, it is hard to imagine that an undeveloped greenfield with prime frontage on Interstate 25 would have any of these factors. On the surface, none of these factors are appropriate. However, at least four of these factors can be legally argued in the State of Colorado. Many people feel that the extension of Powers Boulevard is a public benefit for the City of Colorado Springs. The argument is that it is a benefit to finalize the bypass to the Colorado Springs Airport for a few minutes of time-saving vehicular travel for residents and business users in northern and northeastern Colorado Springs.
My biggest fear with the circumstances of this particular greenfield development is the addition of 2.5 million square feet of retail in an already over-saturated retail area. To date, there are already multiple retail developments on the ground today and two more large retail developments sitting stagnant awaiting the recovery of the economy. We have a mall that is on its last leg before it too gets redeveloped in the vicinity (just over 5-miles away from proposed Copper Ridge). By adding this additional retail, what happens to the existing retail developments and planned developments. My guess is that the existing developments go vacant in the coming years and the other planned developments, where construction has begun, do not get developed at all or at a very slow pace. As I have stated in the title of this blog post, by “blighting” the greenfield at Copper Ridge, are we in turn damaging our City by causing true blight for other developments such as the Shops at Briargate, Monument Marketplace, Colorado Crossing and Interquest Marketplace? The Chapel Hills Mall is an endangered species as it is, but this development will certainly speed the process for the death or redevelopment of Chapel Hills. By the time that the 25-year time period where tax increments go to fund Powers Boulevard is over, how much vitality is left for Copper Ridge?
Major retail developments within 5-miles of Copper Ridge include:
a) The Promenade Shops at Briargate (225,000 sq. ft. of Retail/Restaurant)
b) Interquest Marketplace (1,100,000 sq. ft. of Retail/Entertainment)
c) Colorado Crossing (1,600,000 sq. ft. of Retail/Office)
d) Monument Marketplace (650,000 sq. ft. of Retail)
Copper Ridge will be heard at City Council on Tuesday, May 11. The urgency to get this URA district approved is to get it in ahead of the new Agricultural Land limiting bill passed in March, 2009. HB-1107 will require any land that is assessed as agricultural land to have the consent of the local school district, the County and the City, if it is to be deemed as Urban Renewal. It is uncertain at this point if Copper Ridge has the consent of El Paso County or Colorado Springs School District 20. More information on HB-1107 can be found at this link.