Late Urban Renewal Bill Introduced

A bill designed to fundamentally change urban renewal financing was finally introduced late in the legislative session (April 11). House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso (R-Loveland) introduced HB-1375 “Modifications to Statutory Provisions Concerning Urban Renewal” on April 11.

Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson, who is also the Chair of Colorado Counties Inc.’s Finance Committee, has long argued that the current process is unfair because counties and other special district governments do not get a share of the tax increment financing revenues generated by urban renewal projects. He says urban renewal creates service demands for counties but does not provide the revenue to pay for those demands.

This bill would force a city/county negotiation with the goal of gaining tax increment financing revenues for the county. It would require that at least one county representative be appointed to urban renewal authority boards. If an Urban Renewal area straddles two counties (for example in Windsor or Erie) then each county would get a representative.

The Colorado Municipal League opposes the bill, arguing that “urban renewal financial packages are difficult to accomplish – the only thing this bill does is add another layer of difficulty.” In essence, the most compelling argument against requiring county participation in urban renewal is that the cities are entitled to revenues generated by projects in which the cities have some investment and risk. Making the agreements more complicated will not increase private investor interest in them.

Note: It’s interesting that Rep. DelGrosso agreed to carry this bill. He knows the Larimer County Commissioners very well and was no doubt swayed by Steve Johnson’s arguments. DelGrosso was stalled until he convinced Sen. Lois Tochtrop (Adams County) to co-sponsor the bill. She is a Democrat and a swing vote. That fulfills the Governor’s requirement for bipartisan bills. The fact that the two major governmental lobbying groups oppose each other on this bill leads one to suppose that even if it gets through the legislature Gov. Hickenlooper will send them back to the drawing board unless the bill is amended to the point that both can support it before it gets to his desk.

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