Council kills fee waiver for downtown developers

City Council

Colorado Springs City Council voted down a resolution Tuesday that would have waived fees for downtown residential development in an attempt to support urban infill projects.

Councilors voted 5-4 to kill the proposed amendment to a 1973 ordinance pertaining to fees for the creation of new parks and schools throughout the city.

The amendment — part of an ongoing charge to incentivize downtown development — would have waived the fees for five years to builders in the Imagine Downtown Master Plan Area (south from Cache La Poudre to I-25 and west from Shook’s Run to I-25.

Downtown residential developers Darsey Nicklasson and Jenny Elliott have become the faces of the movement. Nicklasson and business partner Kathy Loo are developing a 33-unit apartment complex called Blue Dot Place at 412 S. Nevada Ave., while Elliott is working with her family’s Downtown Development Group on a five-plex at 210 S. Pueblo Ave.

During an address to Council before the vote, Nicklasson said it “isn’t about who wins and who loses, it’s about whether the fee is applicable in infill areas. … First we need to define infill, and then we need to see how it applies to everyone.”

A provision in the original ordinance stipulated that fees collected be used in the same subdivision in which they were collected. The current code now dictates the flow of that money into a special fund for new park development across the city, adding that “older areas of the city should not be unduly burdened by increases in general taxation to raise funds for needed public lands and capital improvements to serve the residents of new subdivisions.”

Both Elliott and Nicklasson have said that lack of cooperation by the city to see that the amendment be applied fairly and consistently could negatively affect their plans for future development in the city’s core.

“The reality is that these, among other fees, are so prohibitive on the front end that a project can’t move forward,” Elliott told Council. “We are seeking relief from practices that are not applicable to downtown infill development — period.”

Nicklasson told the Business Journal earlier this month that the fees for her complex would amount to more than $60,000, while Elliott’s five-plex would incur fees around $7,000.

On the other side of things, Westside residential developer Eddie Bishop asked Council for a “level playing field” on which all infill developments are considered equally.

“I feel like we should be given the same consideration,” he said. “Everybody should just pay a park fee — all residents should participate. I mean really, the amount of the subsidy works out to be the cost of a good refrigerator.”

Many of the downtown developers who spoke, including longtime Colorado Springs businessman Chuck Murphy, noted that the original ordinance passed in 1973 was intended to apply to greenfield development in the city’s up-and-coming subdivisions (mostly to the east).

“We need infill to have a healthy downtown and to have a healthy community,” Murphy said.

Voting against the proposed amendment were Councilors Keith King, Don Knight, Andy Pico, Helen Collins and Joel Miller. Voting to approve were Merv Bennett, Jill Gaebler, Val Snider and Jan Martin.

3 Responses to Council kills fee waiver for downtown developers

  1. Come on guys!!!

    Justin Burns
    July 24, 2014 at 2:41 pm

  2. I’m tracing a circle and shaking my head. If — as years of housing need assessments and community planning have shown — Colorado Springs downtown needs residential unit infill for all levels of income, it would seem beneifical for everyone if we embrace good projects at every level. Over time, would the fee waivers be recouped by other revenue generation from these?

    Shawna Kemppainen
    July 24, 2014 at 4:51 pm

  3. This is interesting.

    Every at-large council member and Jill Gaebler (of District 5) approved the amendment. Keith King (of District 3 – the President of our City Council and arguably the tie breaker) voted to shoot it down. District 3 is comprised of downtown proper AND a large portion of the west side. One of the comments from the article came from Eddie Bishop, a developer with a direct interest in apartments going in on the west side (676 West Monument in particular). He called for a level playing field regarding fees.

    Is there tension between downtown interests and the west side? I feel like the west side will be a direct beneficiary of downtown incentivization. Of course the sprawl areas will vote this type of thing down – but I’m somewhat surprised by Keith King’s stance.

    Does anybody have some insight?

    Missed Opportunity?
    July 29, 2014 at 4:24 pm