BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
Two years ago, then GV Mayor Ron Rakowsky created a revenue committee, comprised of four of the eight members of city council. Their mission was to look for ways to generate more revenue for the city. Since 2017, commercial development in Greenwood Village, the regular source of new revenue, has slowed down.
Council member Anne Ingebretsen, revenue committee chair, and committee members Dave Bullock, George Lantz, and Judy Hilton held several meetings, and eventually proposed the creation of an Arapahoe Entertainment District (AED). It is a zoning overlay on top of the regular mixed commercial zoning on the north side of East Arapahoe Road from South Yosemite Street west to South Syracuse Street. Its goal is to encourage redevelopment and let property owners know what type of development the city wants there.
Businesses in redeveloped buildings in the AED that fall under the “preferred uses” listed in it (art studios and galleries, craft breweries, distilleries, taprooms, wineries, entertainment in conjunction with eating and drinking establishments, hotels and motels unless they are extended stay establishments, theaters and auditoriums, restaurants/bars, and with permission, outdoor amusement facilities ) are allowed to have lesser setbacks, height up to 75 feet with permission, and less open space than is otherwise permitted in the underlying regular mixed commercial zoning. The AED also has a list of specific building materials that are preferred over others (including natural stone, natural wood, manufactured stone, brick, or tile, and architectural metal), as well as some which are prohibited (reflective glass is prohibited on building facades).
New to the GV municipal code in this plan is the Arapahoe Entertainment District Improvement Program (AEDIP). It says that business owners or operators can get repaid for their costs to redevelop their property with city sales tax dollars. The stated objective of the AEDIP is to “improve aesthetics and walkability of the AED by encouraging enhanced improvements to both public and private property.” The money that can be paid from city coffers to “the record owner or operator of an individual business, or the record owner of the real property upon which more than one business is operated,” is the city sales and use tax derived from the property in excess of the average amount of those taxes collected by the city during the five years preceding redevelopment. It is unclear how that will be calculated if the business or property doesn’t have five years of sales and use tax history. A business or property owner can apply to be paid 100 percent of the additional taxes collected in year one, and declining percentages of the amount collected over the next four years. Costs eligible for reimbursement are those incurred by the property or business owner for “construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, and remodeling of existing private and public property.” Costs for new construction or development are not eligible for reimbursement under the program, which will sunset after eight years.
Traditionally, sales tax rebates are only used for public improvements, not private property improvements, as was done at The Landmark development in Greenwood Village, where incremental sales taxes are being used to retire bonds sold to finance the cost of new public streets and the public parking garage constructed by the original developer of the neighborhood.
Though most of the GV city council was in favor of the plan, Jerry Presley, a 10-year veteran of the city council, saw it differently.
He said, “I’m going to vote against this…. I have real problems with the city investing in private enterprise. I think that’s not our business. I’d much rather use whatever funds we want to use to build public infrastructure to make the streets better, to put up signage, to do things that are a public accommodation. This particular proposal is for an Arapahoe Entertainment District. I understand the reason why we’re trying to do it, we’re trying to generate more tax base, not let it die. I just think that’s not our role…I don’t think we should be giving sales tax rebates to private enterprise…That’s not what government should be doing.”
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