Town to consider forming urban renewal authority

On Nov. 5, the Pagosa Springs Town Council will hold a public hearing as part of its consideration of whether or not to form an urban renewal authority (URA).
The hearing will be part of town council’s regular meeting that evening, which will be held at the Ross Aragon Community Center to allow for a larger-than-average crowd.
At that meeting, a petition to form a URA that has been signed by registered electors of the town will be presented to council.
“We are encouraging everyone who has an opinion for or against the matter, or who just want more information, to attend,” Town Manager Andrea Phillips told The SUN in an email on Oct. 8.
David Dronet, managing principal of The Springs Resort and Spa, submitted a petition to the town the afternoon of Oct. 2, Phillips explained previously.
That petition has 31 signatures, with a minimum of 25 registered electors of the town required by state statute “to consider whether there is a need to form the URA,” Phillips explained.
“At this time, Council is only being asked to consider the petition to form an Urban Renewal Authority, not to adopt any specific area plan,” Phillips wrote.
What is a URA and what is its function?
URAs, according to an August Colorado Municipal League (CML) publication on the topic, are “independent single-purpose statutory bodies ‘corporate and politic’ authorized to carry out urban renewal projects and regional tourism projects under the Colorado Urban Renewal Law …”
URAs and urban renewal laws “allow municipal governments to engage in urban renewal projects as a means to improve blighted areas,” according to a Colorado Legislative Council Staff issue brief by Katie Ruedebusch.
Slum and blight conditions, that document explains, include:
• Deteriorating structures and deteriorating site improvements;
• Faulty street or lot layout;
• Unsanitary or unsafe conditions;
• Inadequate public facilities;
• Code violations; or
• Other distresses concerning property that are found within Colorado Revised Statute (CRS) 31-25-103(2).
“Through planning and public improvements, urban renewal projects encourage the development of housing, mixed use, office parks, and industrial or retail land to revitalize areas,” the document explains.
If formed, a URA would have the same boundaries as the town, with any potential plans accepted by that URA having more specific, project-related boundaries.
“According to the Department of Local Affairs, there are urban renewal authorities … in 61 Colorado municipalities (one URA per municipality) as of the date of this publication,” the CML publication explains.
The powers of URAs are set out in CRS 31-25-105 and include, but are not limited to, undertaking urban renewal projects (including executing contracts and other documents), provide for or dedicate property for public facilities and improvements, acquire property, invest funds, borrow money and more.
How is a URA formed?
URAs are initiated by at least 25 registered voters signing a petition.
“Before approving the establishment of the Authority, the Town Council must make several findings, including that at least one or more slum or blighted areas exist within the Town, and that the development or redevelopment of the area is necessary in the interest of the public health, safety, morals or welfare of the residents of the municipality,” Phillips wrote.
After a public hearing on the petition, the governing body would adopt a resolution authorizing a URA, the CML publication explains.
The commissioners serving on the URA board would then have to sign and file a certificate about the organization of the URA with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the document indicates.
Who would serve on a URA board?
“If they do authorize forming the Authority, Council will need to appoint a board of commissioners to govern the Authority and carry out its statutory duties,” Phillips wrote in the email, explaining that she would be informing the taxing entities of the petition and “letting them know that they may want to consider making an appointment if it is formed.”
The CML publication indicates that the governing body can designate itself as the authority, meaning the town council would also sit on the board.
In that case, the publication explains, “one additional commissioner each may be appointed by the county commissioners in the county or counties where the municipality is located, from the collective elected boards of special districts, and from the relevant elected school district boards of education that levy property taxes within the ‘boundaries of the urban renewal authority area,’ which is an undefined term that can be interpreted to mean the URA’s area of operation (the municipal limits) or within the boundaries of a proposed or existing urban renewal plan area.”
State statute also allows for a separate appointed board of 13 commissioners, including one appointed by the county commissioners, one from the collective boards of special districts and one from the school district board of education.
The remaining 10 members, with agreement of the municipal governing body, would be appointed by the mayor.
The CML publication notes that the Colorado Sunshine Act would apply to the URA board.
How are projects
determined? How are they funded?
Once formed, the URA can take on and carry out urban renewal plans in specifically described urban renewal areas, with each plan area being approved individually.
“Before an urban renewal plan for a urban renewal area can be approved, the governing body must find the area to be a slum area or blighted area (or both) as defined in the act.
While URA projects can be financed in a number of ways, the primary method of financing urban renewal projects is tax-increment financing (TIF).
A TIF would allow a project’s developers to be reimbursed for the costs of constructing public infrastructure through tax revenues generated on the site.
“The revenue produced by the levy of taxing entities against the increase in assessed valuation of real and personal property resulting from taxable valuation increases in the urban renewal area and revenue from municipal sales tax growth that occurs in that area are the sources of TIF revenue. The resulting revenue is paid into a special fund to be used by the URA for payment of urban renewal project debt obligations for a period not to exceed 25 years,” the CML publication notes.
The Town of Pagosa Springs does not have a municipal sales tax.
Using other forms of revenue can be negotiated.
The URA would have to negotiate with taxing entities regarding the allocation of property tax increment funds.

This story was posted on October 31, 2019.