Pie in the sky

Congratulations to the town of Silt!

Garfield County pledges $1M for Silt infrastructure
Grant to help finance town’s urban renewal program

No doubt the commissioners were impressed with the way the SiltBOTs rammed through their URA resolutions. The BOCC are not big fans of the democratic process either.

But I’m glad Silt got the funding for infrastructure because the bulk of the traffic related to gas drilling runs through this town and the streets and roads are a mess. (See Blight Study) Potholes-r-us. I have an old, 20th century Jeep. The satellite radio is hooked up to the cigarette lighter and the connector thingie falls out every time I hit a pothole. It is so annoying.

Supporters, detractors weigh in on Silt urban renewal plans
Only one property owner pulled out of the deal

Let’s get one thing straight – that was no “debate” on Monday night. At the outset, members of the public were admonished that they had 3 minutes each to speak and if they spoke up outside those parameters Chief Burris would eject them from the meeting. I wasn’t exactly sure what they meant by “eject” and I didn’t really want to find out. Board members were always allowed to respond to the individuals who commented. However in several instances, individuals were not allowed to respond to board members’ comments to them. That’s not a debate.

But it wasn’t really a public hearing either. They just called it that. The SiltBOTs didn’t care what people said. They had already made up their minds.

OBTW, I’m on the town email list. We’re supposed to receive important announcements, information, and agendas from the town staff. It’s kind of hit and miss thing. I rarely get emails and when I do they are kind of happy, clappy cheerleading stuff or PSAs. They only email the meeting agendas if you email the town and ask. Anyhoo, I got no email – nada – zippo – prior to the joint meeting and the public hearing on January 23. In fact, I found out about the public hearing when I read my own blog. I didn’t know about the joint meeting with the BOCC until we arrived – at the end of it. For a few minutes I thought we had missed the public hearing. I guess I should have occupied the town hall so I could have figured out what the hell was going on. I’m just sayin – yeah, they met the state requirements for notifying the public and/or property owners — but no more than that.

I need to correct something from Colson’s article:

But some local residents and property owners were skeptical about the plan, and one asked that his property be withdrawn from the blight area in which the authority is to operate.

“I just don’t like that term, blight,” said Keith Gilstrap.

He told the trustees he has no objection to the use of the authority to frame the economic development effort, but is worried that classifying his property as blighted could hurt its value.

Actually, Mr. Gilstrap said that his attorney advised him to remove his property from the blighted area because it would negatively affect his property value. Several other property owners voiced the same concern. I call that a “downside”.

I’m glad Colson explained that whole revolving loan fund and tax increment financing (TIF) stuff in his article. If I tried it would be the blond leading the blind. Tod understands it thoroughly, but when he explains it to me my eyes roll back in my head and I lapse into a coma. So I’m a lost cause.

Here’s what I understand about the revolving loan fund:  You can use shells to illustrate it in a demonstration speech.

Here’s what I understand about TIF:  The excess tax revenue that comes from increased property values goes to pay off the loans that funded the economic development that increased the property value. The fire department and the school district don’t get a dime of incremental tax funds. Aluise told the firefighter who pointed it out that the fire department should see it as a partnership with the town. I see it as vampire economics.

In the article’s last segment “Trustees to govern urban renewal authority”, Colson made Resolution No. 10 sound pretty cut and dried. Mayor Dave wants to handpick the URA commissioners but he got shot down. Not so fast …

In Resolution No. 10, Section 4 was written this way:

The Board of Trustees declares that the members of the Board of Trustees, including the Mayor, as such Trustees and Mayor from time to time are in office, shall constitute and be the Silt Urban Renewal Authority Board of Commissioners. The Mayor is designated as the Chair of the Urban Renewal Authority Board. Such Trustees and Mayor shall only serve on the Board of Commissioners during their term in office as Trustees or Mayor and, upon leaving the position as a Trustee or Mayor, the position of the Board of Commissioners shall automatically terminate. New elected or appointed Trustees or a new elected or appointed Mayor shall automatically become a member of the Silt Urban Renewal Authority Board of Commissioners. Nothing herein shall prevent the governing body of the Town of Silt acting as the Board of Trustees and the Board of Commissioners from converting in the future to a Board of Commissioners elected by the Mayor and approved by the Board of Trustees as provided for in CRS Section 31-25-104(2)(a). Such conversion shall occur no later than ____ months from the effective date of this Resolution.

Instead of inserting a set date to prohibit a mayor from ever choosing the commissioners, the SiltBOTs struck that last line from the Resolution:  Such conversion shall occur no later than ____ months from the effective date of this Resolution.

But they left in this line:  Nothing herein shall prevent the governing body of the Town of Silt acting as the Board of Trustees and the Board of Commissioners from converting in the future to a Board of Commissioners elected by the Mayor and approved by the Board of Trustees …

Therefore, at any time in the future, the mayor can create a separate, hand-picked URA Board. All he needs are 3 more votes on the Board of Trustees. Obviously Mayor Dave doesn’t have those 3 votes at the moment. But there’s a town election coming up in April with 3 vacant trustee seats up for grabs. I bet he has some “particular names” for candidates in mind.

At the public hearing, the SiltBOTs declined to say whether they had a specific project in the wings for the URA. Mayor Pro-Tem Aluise said that while they don’t have a specific planned project to tie into the URA, the town hopes to use it as a tool to attract commercial development to the town. “Sort of pie in the sky, if you will,” Aluise said.

To me it sounds more like a high stakes fishing expedition. From my own research I had learned that URAs were more successful if they were tied to a planned project already in negotiation, as an incentive. That, in turn, limits the blighted area, and gives the public something tangible to support – as opposed to just pie in the sky. So, imagine my surprise Monday night when I heard “pie in the sky” being tossed around by the SiltBOTs.

Trustee Breslin did mention the Dollar General Store in a sort of ambiguous way. She is really excited about it and plans to shop there! (BTW, before the hearing began Mayor Dave asked Breslin if she had read the Blight Study and she said she hadn’t read the whole thing – so who’s not paying attention?) It was unclear – to me anyway – whether that project would benefit from the URA. I don’t know much about the Dollar General Store project. I haven’t been paying attention. I’m an ignorant little fear muffin. So I did some research, which I will share with my readers because I don’t think you all have been paying attention either.

Resolution No. 8, 2012 to approve the commercial site plan for the Dollar General retail commercial building was introduced, read, passed and adopted by the SiltBOTs at the board meeting on January 9, 2012. The site is the vacant lot at the corner of 4th and Main., where the Farmers Market was held last summer.  I can’t find any language in the resolution about the URA or infrastructure funding so I guess not. Though I’m not really sure …

My point is, it doesn’t really matter how much I pay attention to what’s going on in this town, information is not easily available on any given topic like, say, the URA. Obviously the SiltBOTs wanted to keep the whole thing from the public for as long as possible. The way they handled the formation of the URA shows me they don’t have enough confidence in the program to persuade the public – they didn’t even try. Or maybe they don’t have confidence in the public.

None of this bodes well for the future. The only “pie in the sky” I see on the horizon is Antero’s plan for 850 gas wells on the southern border of Silt. When I consider how the town staff and the SiltBOTs have handled the formation of the Urban Renewal Authority, I have absolutely no confidence that they will be open with the public, include the public, or look out for the public’s best interests as that whole process moves forward.

And neither should you …

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2 Comments on “Pie in the sky”

  1. Al Says:

    Peggy you should know that this is all about getting a grocery store in town and that Mr Alluise will negotiate a sweetheart deal for the lease with these people. Glen Ault broght up the fact that the town should be very careful about being the landlord for this deal which is exactly where the town is headed.Because the town could be left with a failed grocery store and an empty buliding.(What was the name of that little store in Rifle?)Building still for sale or lease….Look at Denver’s loan to the the LoDo area 75% are delenquint or in forclosure process. If a group wants to put in grocery store then let them do it with private money. This URA is and end run around the State Constituion Article(s) 1 and 2
    which basically states that a govt. entity should not finance (favor) one private business over another.

  2. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    Thanks Al, it was Columbine Market, the same company that came to Silt way back when and wanted the moon and the stars to build a grocery store. Even now people say we should have brought the Columbine Market to Silt. Duh — they went bankrupt in Rifle. Which tells me the Silt voters did the right thing. Columbine Market wasn’t financially stable when they negotiated with Silt. If we had voted for the Columbine Market back then I have no doubt the empty building would be in Silt and the board would STILL be blaming the voters.

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