LOVELAND, Colorado – A multi-billion dollar development planned for Loveland promises to create hundreds of jobs and boost the local economy.
But some local executives are at odds because the developer wants the taxpayer to foot the bill for infrastructure costs.
McWhinney, the developer of Centerra Mall, is planning another major project.
Centerra South would be across from the original Centerra on a 140-acre lot near Highway 34 and I-25.
1,000 residential units and 700,000 square meters of retail, community and office space are planned.
Loveland Mayor Pro Tem and District 4 Councilman Don Overcash said it would provide a significant economic boost for the area.
“It’s really a huge project for us and for jobs,” Overcash said. “As far as I know, we’re attracting a major employer outside of Colorado to create over 400 jobs.”
The developer wants $147.5 million in taxes earned from the property over 25 years to be diverted to fund the site’s infrastructure, including road construction and water and sewage services.
This type of financing is made possible by an urban renewal plan.
Urban regeneration plans are common throughout Colorado.
They provide public grants to private developers to fund projects that authorities believe will benefit their communities.
Critics argue that urban renewal plans are being overstretched and harming corporate well-being.
“Only the people who live in this area, who shop in this area or choose to do business and conduct their business there, will pay for this infrastructure,” Overcash said. “So no income from other parts of the city is used to fund the infrastructure.”
According to Overcash, the tax money used for the infrastructure will be paid back many times over.
But Loveland Mayor Jacki Marsh said taxpayer money shouldn’t be used to help a private developer like McWhinney.
“They come to us with their hands out all the time,” Marsh said. “We don’t do that with other developers. Where is the level playing field?”
Marsh said she is not an opponent of Centerra South itself.
“I think a lot of elements will be good for Loveland,” Marsh said. “I am against the funding.”
She accused city council members of favoring McWhinney.
“I would say there’s no denying that when you look at the access that this particular developer gets to the city manager, economic development, the planning department, or the finance department,” Marsh said. “I literally had employees telling me they didn’t know who they were working for. Do you work for the McWhinneys? Or do they work for the city? Sometimes it’s not clear.”
Overcash said the mayor’s allegations of favoritism were untrue.
He described the mayor as “anti-McWhinney” and “anti-Centerra.”
“She’s been making references like this for quite a while. We’ve gotten used to it a bit, but it’s very frustrating,” Overcash said.
Some believe that a bill before the governor could potentially derail the project, as it would require the developer to obtain county approval to include farmland in an urban regeneration area.
Sarah Mercer, an attorney representing McWhinney, said the bill will not stop the project from moving forward.
“According to our legal analysis, Senate Bill 273, even if signed by the governor, will not apply to this project,” Mercer said, noting that the effective date applies to urban renewal plans passed on or after the date of entry into force of the law to be approved.
“And since the governor didn’t sign the plan, this bill actually no longer applies to this particular project,” Mercer said.
Loveland City Council voted overwhelmingly 7-2 to approve the Centerra South urban renewal area.
They also approved the financing agreement last week.
Overcash said they will vote on another funding mechanism on June 6th.
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