|Country's First "Flex URA"
'Received Its First Approval'
Loveland Reporter-Herald Story Angers Planning Commissioners by misrepresenting their vote
Loveland - August 11, 2008
The Loveland Planning Commission voted unanimously Monday night that McWhinney Enterprise's "Flexible" Urban Renewal
Authority (URA) proposed zoning is consistent with the city's comprehensive plan. What the Planning Commission did not vote on
was whether the plan made sense or was consistent with Colorado's Urban Renewal Authority law. The Planning Commission simply
reviewed the plan for consistency with Loveland's comprehensive plan (as required by state law) so the vote wasn't an approval of
the plan but instead an administrative validation that zoning in the plan complies with the city's comprehensive plan.
The Loveland Reporter-Herald opened the August 12, 2008 front page story title "URA plan moves ahead" stating, "McWhinney's
proposed flex-Urban Renewal Authority received its first vote of approval Monday night."
Planning Commissioners who contacted Loveland Politics were angered by what they saw as slanted and false reporting to unfairly
boost McWhinney Enterprise's efforts to show support for their proposal. "It was clear to anyone watching the meeting we had
reservations about what is going on but that isn't what we were voting on. We thought it was well understood it was not a vote to
'approve' the proposal." Stated one angry Commissioner who asked not to be identified. The Loveland Planning Commission saw
their role as largely administrative and the referral regarding compliance with the city's comprehensive plan as largely perfunctory --
contrary to the opening paragraph in the story published in the Reporter-Herald.
Loveland City Attorney, John Duval, provided a memo to the City Council on July 15, that was also provided to the Planning
Commission which stated, "This is an administrative action pursuant to C.R.S. Section 31-25-107(2) to submit to the City's Planning
Commission.....for the Commission's review and recommendation concerning the Modified Plan's compliance with the City's
Planning Commissioners were anxious to weigh-in on the proposed URA modification but were not given the opportunity due to city
staff and city council direction. "We were asked only the minimum question required by law, we would have been happy to discuss
and really vote whether or not to approve the plan," stated one Commissioner angered by the reporting. Some have speculated
McWhinney advocates on Loveland's City Council asked staff to narrowly define the Commission's role to avoid any bad publicity for
McWhinney's unpopular proposal. Commissioners were reminded both before and during their meeting that they were not being
asked to vote on the efficacy of the blight designations or overall proposal.
Same Bad Reporting on School Board Vote on The Proposed Flex URA
LovelandPolitics received similar complaints regarding the Loveland Reporter-Herald's June 6, 2008 article by Lisa Coalwell covering
the Thompson School Board consideration of the proposed "flexibility" modification to the URA. McWhinney Enterprises requested
support from the Thompson School Board but failed to gain support from the school board for their proposed amendments to the
city's MFA (Master Financing Agreement). In fact, Board member Karen Stockly lobbied her colleagues to oppose the plan outright
and fight against it. Instead, the board decided to take what they described as a "neutral" position during their meeting by sending a
letter saying as much.
The McWhinney's public relations machine tried to spin the defeat as a win which found its way into the June 6, article in the Reporter-
Herald. The Herald article reported, "Representatives of the east Loveland developer had asked the Thompson School District Board
of Education to send a letter stating that the district is not in opposition to an amendment to its urban renewal authority in the
Centerra area." Curiously, the same article in the Herald quoted the board president, Bill McCreary as stating, “I can understand
McWhinney’s efforts to enhance development, but I am reluctant to take a position.” It was clear to those who either participated in
the meeting or watched it from the audience what had occurred. However, people reading the article were left to ponder the
conspicuous contradictions in the reported outcome and the comments of the board members.
The reporting gave the a false impression the McWhinney's received what they requested from the School Board instead of what
really happened. McWhinney's "flex" URA was not endorsed by the School Board as they had hoped. The coverage's interesting spin
avoided reporting that very simple fact but it could be gleaned by the reader from the quotes in the story.
Editing the Reporters
Kate Martin, former reporter for the Loveland Reporter-Herald, complained on occasion about the changes made to her articles after
they were submitted for editing. Other reporters have made similar complaints, off-the-record, about the thrust or purpose of their
article being confused by last minute edits that create a different spin to their story. Contrary to what many believe, reporters seldom
if ever write headlines or decide what is dropped and kept from their story for publication. These decisions are left to the news editor
and the overall editor.
Given the Reporter-Herald's long history as an advocate for both senior city staff and the McWhinneys, we are reluctant to complain
about any specific reporter. Cara O'Brien, the reporter credited with today's front page story on the planning commission vote, is
normally a thorough and factual reporter who has a talent for explaining complicated topics. While the opening paragraph was
misleading, the balance of the article fairly reported the objections raised by Commissioner Kevin Stearns over the overall URA
proposal that pretends blight in areas not yet even developed.
McWhinney "Flexibility" May Be First In Nation
Contrary to comments made during the planning commission that the "flexibility" proposal is "business as usual," LovelandPolitics has
learned it may instead be the first in the nation. A number of local citizens have been organizing opposition to the plan and were
unable to find any comparable action by another city in either Colorado or the nation.
The "Flexibility" plan will amend the City of Loveland's agreement with McWhinney Enterprises to allow the developer the right to
determine which properties already determined to be blight will be included in the Urban Renewal Authority district and which will
not. According to State Law, the City Council is to make this determination so creating a "flexibility" to the plan is really an abdication
by the City Council of their elected constitutional authority to a private land developer.
In the words of another indicator, King Edward VIII, "you must believe me when I tell you that I have found it impossible to carry the
heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King." The problem here is the city council is elected and not born into
their governmental responsibilities. Abdicating their own authority is one item that can be accomplished through resignation or
abstaining from a vote but attempting to encumber future elected officials with their decision could be unconstitutional. Therefore,
subsequent legal challenges may put Loveland on the map as the city where the council tried to give its authority to an unelected and
private group of people.
The Loveland Reporter-Herald may be sitting on a national story but unable to report the significance of the event due to internal or
external allegiances to the city staff and/or McWhinney.