Loveland's Independent News Source
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.

Under current law, Colorado cities may establish Urban Renewal Authorities (URA's) which
divert future property taxes within the authority away from the agencies required to provide
services for up to 25 years.   
read LovelandPolitics story from last May regarding URA
reform efforts

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.