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Publish Date: 8/24/2005

Voters to decide on metro district
Special tax would aid retail development

LONGMONT — A handful of landowners along the Ken Pratt Extension will decide in November whether to create a taxing district that could pay for $4.3 million in streets, sewers and bridges along the road.

The Longmont City Council on Tuesday night voted unanimously to allow the creation of a metropolitan special district for the Harvest Junction development, between the extension and the city’s recreation center, saying it will promote retail development in town.

“This is going to be a good economic development project for the city,” Councilwoman Karen Benker said.

Councilman Marty Block added, “It is important for Longmont to be attractive for business.”

Panattoni Development Co., which owns Harvest Junction, believes the metro district will allow it to be more attractive to businesses and to more quickly prepare the land for development.

A Lowe’s home-improvement store, Petco and Michael’s craft store have already signed on to the development.

Usually, a developer alone would cover improvement costs, but Panattoni representatives say their project deserves special consideration because of additional hardships it faces.

Panattoni says the fact that the land has been annexed into the city while infrastructure such as large sewer lines is not yet in place makes it more expensive than other projects.

Under city policy, developers must pay for municipal infrastructure to be extended to sites. In this case, the developer must bore a 42-inch storm sewer connecter under the extension at a cost of $281,541, the city said.

Creating the metro district means taxes would be used to pay for the infrastructure improvements, ensuring a lower interest rate for the developer and saving the company money. Such districts have become a popular tool for Front Range cities to speed up development and for developers to reduce their risks and maximize their investment.

The Harvest Junction district, which must be approved by the landowners covered by it, would tax only businesses in the district.

“This was not an easy decision to make,” Councilman Fred Wilson said. “There is no such thing as a sure thing. ... But I expect (the project) to be successful.”

While he voted for the measure, Councilman Tom McCoy said he wasn’t inclined to support the metro district because it could prove to be unfair to other Longmont businesses.

“The plan is really not needed to keep a level playing field for all commercial areas of the community,” he said.

Also Tuesday night, city council voted unanimously to allow the Longmont Downtown Development Authority to put a measure on November’s ballot that would allow for downtown’s Tax Increment Financing district to continue through 2012.

The measure, which could be voted on by downtown property owners only, would not increase taxes but would allow for the continued funding of downtown projects, such as a proposed parking garage.

City council also agreed to use $5,950 from the city’s contingency fund to pay consultants conducting a study on the feasibility of a mixed-use parking structure downtown.

Amanda Arthur can be reached at 303-684-5215, or by e-mail at aarthur@times-call.com.

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