Governor signs URA reform bill
Steamboat Springs — Governor John Hickenlooper has signed a bill that will give counties, school districts and other taxing entities more of a say in how municipalities spend tax dollars on urban renewal projects.
After Jan. 1, any new urban renewal authority will be required to have representation on its board from an elected school board member, a board member of a special taxing district and a board member appointed by the county commissioners.
The bill also requires cities to negotiate with other taxing entities over the proportion of sales and property tax increment that is dedicated to urban renewal projects.
If an agreement can’t be reached, then the municipality must enter mediation with the other entities.
The Colorado Municipal League does not support the law and called the bill “flawed.”
Leaders of the Muncipal League fear the law will hold back existing and proposed urban renewal projects.
State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, a supporter of the URA reform bill, said it will bring “transparency and fairness to the process.”
“It used to be the other taxing districts had no input, and cities would simply do as they wished,” Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, said. “This bill makes it a more balanced process.”
The bill received bipartisan support in the House and the Senate.
The new law comes just weeks before the Steamboat Springs City Council is set to consider creating a new urban renewal plan area in the downtown corridor.
City staff is still gauging how the legislation could affect a potential downtown URA, as well as the existing one at the base of Steamboat Ski Area.
Prior to Hickenlooper signing the bill, City Manager Deb Hinsvark was asking the City Council to consider signing a letter urging the governor to veto it.
Hinsvark has told the council the law could be problematic for both the city’s existing urban renewal authority and the proposed downtown plan area for a number of reasons.
Existing urban renewal authorities could have to meet the negotiating requirements of the new law if a project is added, the boundaries of the URA are altered or if there is a change in a mill levy within a taxing district in the plan area.
Hinsvark said while agreements with counties and other taxing entities are negotiated and worked out, no money will flow into the plan area.
“The language of the law is so problematic that currently planned projects are being halted as investment banks pull out because they cannot quantify their risk when there are so many unknowns,” Hinsvark wrote to the council. “Vectra Bank has confirmed that they will not finance a URA-planned project as long as this legislation is even a possibility.”
Hinsvark was still learning about the law’s impacts Monday.
She said she wants to talk to the council about it Tuesday.
“I think we have the opportunity (Tuesday) night to have a conversation around how council is feeling,” she said. “I hope to have a little more certainly about how our particular URA attorney is going to look at this and what advice he is going to give….It’s a whole new world for us, and we have to figure out how to comply with the new rules in our current plan.”
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