County Official Clashes With Bank Over URA Reform Bill 1348
Loveland, June 3, 2015
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed HB 1348 on Friday as the first concrete step towards curbing abuse of urban renewal laws by local officials. HB 1348 gives counties, schools, health districts, fire authorities and community centered boards that depend on property taxes a voice in the urban renewal process.
As an example, McWhinney's Centerra diverts over 97% of all property taxes within their URA to repay over $115 million in public debt incurred for their developments while the agencies are struggling to provide services to a growing population absent any new taxes. Cities rely mostly on sales taxes so are anxious to provide property taxes as incentives since it really only hurts other local government entities.
Even mil levies specifically passed by voters to fund those entities find their revenue being diverted to repay the public debt incurred by the developer without ever having a say in the decision. Loveland has routinely ignored complaints by impacted organizations in favor of increased developer subsidies using the future revenue of other taxing entities to fund their developer subsidies by abusing their discretion under urban renewal laws.
Loveland Mayor Cecil Gutierrez lamented Tuesday night during a city council meeting that he doesn't believe Loveland will ever have another URA as a result of the governor signing HB 1348. Gutierrez, who ironically promotes regional collaboration, apparently believes the only way Loveland can authorize another URA is over the objection of other regional governments. Now that HB 1348 will become law, Loveland cannot proceed to gift future property taxes without first negotiating with the impacted entities. If they cannot come to agreement, the new law, HB 1348, mandates they submit to binding arbitration to resolve any disputes.
Vectra Bank Flies Off the Handle
One of many companies that benefit from the financing of public debt required to operate URA's, Vectra Bank, is in a kind of feud with Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson over his lobbying for HB 1348.
After Johnson posted a link to the Vectra Bank Facebook page (click on images to the right of this story), the bank's Director of Marketing Communications, Erica McIntire, registered what she describes as a "grievance" with the county when Johnson refused to remove the link. Vectra Bank was angry that people in support of the legislation were posting on their Facebook page in protest of the bank's meddling in the legislative process.
After McIntire registered her "grievance" the Larimer County Commissioner provided the following two sentence reply by email,
"Your grievance is received and rejected. It's called free speech."
McIntire responded again by email to Commissioner Johnson,
"My grievance has not been received by the Board and the County leadership yet, but it will be momentarily. I’m sorry you won’t give us the courtesy of removing the link. As I wouldn’t want you to miss the comments from your constituents that have been submitted to our feedback system in error, I’ll be sure to post them on the county’s public site."
Vectra Bank appears to be carrying the water for Loveland developers Chad and Troy McWhinney. They successfully lobbied the governor to veto a previous attempt by the legislature to pass a bi-partisan URA reform bill. This time Vectra Bank took the lead attempting to fog the issue with misleading messages.
Loveland is proceeding with yet another scheme to fund private development using future tax revenue but this time using a DDA (Downtown Development Authority) instead of a URA (Urban Renewal Authority). Our understanding of the legislation is DDA's will not be impacted by the new reform only URA's. Loveland's DDA will divert not only future property taxes but sales taxes as well leaving a minority of community properties to generate full tax revenues for the city.