Thank you for the opportunity to serve as a member of the Leadville City Council representing Ward 3. It has been a great learning experience, and I have enjoyed being involved in thoughtful, open-minded debate around issues involving the city for the past two-and-a-half years. The community is lucky to have hardworking people involved on council, staff, and on the many boards and volunteer organizations in town.
As I complete my term, there is an important decision that will be made soon by the Leadville Urban Renewal Authority (LURA), and the public should be better informed.
As of this past December, the LURA board is able to finally accept project requests, and the first financing request received is from the Railyard Development Group. This request will be discussed in an executive session on Jan. 15 followed by a public meeting on Jan. 27 to make a final decision. I do not know any of the request details, but I hope the LURA board is as open and transparent as can be in the process.
In my time on the LURA board and during its creation, I have always been told that the goal of this group was to leverage the existing investment being made in the Railyard Development to fund public improvement projects in our downtown corridor.
Now it seems that the first action of the board may be to subsidize infrastructure costs of a large development.
The argument for supporting this request is that the majority of the LURA funds would not exist without the Railyard Development happening, and I’m okay with that. I think the board should utilize whatever growth happens organically for helping our downtown, but I do not think that the board should artificially accelerate this growth by covering a financing gap in this project.
The Railyard Development broke ground without a LURA board in place, and the economy has only grown since then in Leadville. Cost overruns are a risk a developer takes on, and it is not the city that should bail out a project. However, if it decides to take that on, additional stipulations should be put in place, so that the development meets some needs of the city (such as requiring a percentage of affordable housing). The city has already committed $400,000 of its Xcel under-grounding funds partially in exchange for an eight-foot sidewalk and two-foot divider along Highway 24. Also, the city has allowed exemptions around required green space, density and height restrictions. Growth has been happening rapidly in the past few years without the need for financing from the city.
If you have an opinion on this, please reach out to the LURA board members, city council, or city staff to let your voice be heard. These hardworking individuals do listen and are here to represent the community.
For more information on LURA, please visit https://www.colorado.gov/leadville and click on the link titled, “Leadville Urban Renewal Authority.”