De­vel­oper sues over retro re­fusal

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Austin Briggs Austin Briggs: 303- 954- 1729, abriggs@ den­ver­post. com or @ abriggs

The de­vel­oper of aWal­mar­tan­chored site at 38th Av­enue andWadsworth Boule­vard has filed a law­suit against Wheat Ridge and the city’sUr­ban Re­newal Au­thor­ity.

The law­suit filed by Quad­rant Wheat RidgeCorners says sec­tions of a ci­ti­zen- led bal­lot ini­tia­tive that passed in Novem­ber curb­ing pow­ers of ur­ban re­newal is un­con­sti­tu­tional. The suit seeks a court de­ci­sion that a con­tract signed by Quad­rant and the ci­ty­won’t be af­fected by Bal­lot Ques­tion 300.

The law­suit ar­gues that a sec­tion in the state con­sti­tu­tion pro­hibit­ing retroac­tive laws at the state level ap­plies equally to lo­cal gov­ern­ments and voter- passed ini­tia­tives.

At­tor­ney Bob Det­rick said Quad­rant has spent hun­dreds of thou­sands dol­lars get­ting the pro­ject into place.

“Ab­so­lutely this pro­ject is ready to pro­ceed,” Det­rick said. “All we’re ask­ing for is the court to rule that the bal­lot ini­tia­tive as ap­plied ret­ro­spec­tively is un­con­sti­tu­tional.”

Quad­rant also seeks un­spec­i­fied at­tor­ney and other as­so­ci­ated fees.

TheNovem­ber mea­sure­was ap­proved by 52 per­cent of vot­ers, win­ning by 358 votes.

It re­quires any tax- in­cre­ment fi­nanc­ing pack­age over $ 2.5 mil­lion to be voted on by Wheat Ridge res­i­dents. The mea­sure also takes fi­nal ap­proval for any TIF pack­age un­der $ 2.5 mil­lion away from the city’sUr­ban Re­newalAuthor­ity and places it in the hands of a City Coun­cil vote.

The­mea­sure­was retroac­tive to March 1 of last year; the con­tract be­tween Wheat Ridge and Quad­rant was signed in June.

Plans called for the site — a long- va­cant 14- acre car lot — to be trans­formed into a mixed- use de­vel­op­ment an­chored by a Wal­mart Neigh­bor­hood Mar­ket store along­side res­i­den­tial, retail and restau­rant spa­ces.

To off­set re­me­di­a­tion and pub­lic im­prove­ment costs, the de­vel­oper was awarded a $ 6.2 mil­lion tax- in­cre­ment fi­nanc­ing pack­age in­what the law­suit says is a pro­ject “in ex­cess” of $ 20 mil­lion.

“It took months and months to get ev­ery­thing in place and make it a pack­age ev­ery­one was com­fort­able with,” Det­rick said. “Adding one more layer of un­cer­tainty to a long process in the long run will dis­cour­age de­vel­op­ers from con­sid­er­ing a po­ten­tial site, and they will go some­where else.”

Wheat Ridge spokes­woman Mau­reen Harper said it’s too soon to an­swer spe­cific ques­tions on the law­suit.

“We have re­ceived the law­suit, and our at­tor­ney has it for re­view,” she wrote the Den­ver Post in an e- mail. “City Coun­cil will be briefed on the law­suit later this month.”

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