City exploring urban renewal district for commercial area
The City of Castle Pines is again considering the creation of an urban renewal authority (URA) that would help property owners in the City’s main business district pay for improvements using a portion of new property tax revenue.
Elected officials began discussing the possibility of an urban renewal district (URD) earlier this year and have since hired a consultant to determine how much property tax revenue could be generated and whether conditions exist to warrant the implementation of the special district, which would cover much of the existing commercial development south of Castle Pines Parkway between I-25 and Lagae Road.
City staff is tentatively scheduled to make a presentation to council during a study session at 5:30 p.m. August 9 to discuss what the URD study will entail. A report will be generated by the end of the year and will determine whether enough “blight” exists in the affected area to create a URA, said Michael Penny, city manager for the City of Castle Pines.
URDs use tax-increment financing to address deterioration and blight by making owner-requested improvements to business facades and infrastructure. The assessed value of property within the district is documented when the URD is created. That base value is then compared to future property assessments, and the URA collects a portion of new property tax revenues generated by the incremental increases in valuation from the improvements.
The funds can be used for projects like parking lots, drainage, landscaping and facade improvements. If approved, the URD would include the former Safeway, which has been vacant for several years. Penny said potential redevelopment on the former Safeway property could have positive ripple effects on surrounding businesses. Much of the existing development in the business district was built in the mid- to late-1980s.
A similar effort was launched by the newly-incorporated City of Castle Pines in 2010, but that proposal included annexed land (now The Canyons development) east of I-25. A citizen-led referendum overturned the ordinance passed by City Council and the authority was dissolved, Penny said.
City staff planned to attend an economic development meeting with the Castle Pines Chamber of Commerce on July 29 to discuss the proposal, and outreach is being planned to inform property owners in the affected area.
In 2013, a similar URA was proposed in Parker, and the then-chief for South Metro Fire Rescue was a vocal opponent because he said taxpayer money was being diverted away from emergency services and going instead to commercial developers and business owners. Penny said he expects some pushback from special districts, but pointed out that any improvements wouldn’t increase demand on services provided by special districts like the school and library districts. He also said the additional property tax revenue generated by the upgrades would not be possible if not for those improvements.
If a URA is created, it would likely keep only a portion of the tax increment. Oftentimes, City Council serves as the authority overseeing the district and approves any projects, although such arrangements have not yet been discussed by Castle Pines leaders. The proposed urban renewal district would not increase taxes on residents living in Castle Pines.
By Chris Michlewicz