Englewood voters give 'downtown authority' plan mixed, unclear result

Voters say no to some tax, debt measures to fund the entity they OKd

Ellis Arnold
earnold@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 11/4/20

In a twist that may have unclear implications, Englewood voters approved the creation of a “downtown development authority,” a body that would work to economically boost Englewood's …

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Englewood voters give 'downtown authority' plan mixed, unclear result

Voters say no to some tax, debt measures to fund the entity they OKd

Posted

In a twist that may have unclear implications, Englewood voters approved the creation of a “downtown development authority,” a body that would work to economically boost Englewood's CityCenter, its traditional Broadway downtown and its medical areas.

But they didn't approve some of the tax and debt ballot questions that would fund it — and the last financing question appeared to win by just one vote, a result that could change by the time official results are certified.

Unofficial results on Election Night, Nov. 3, from the City of Englewood show that voters approved the creation of the downtown development entity — through ballot issue A — with 91 “yes” votes to 62 “no” votes.

Only property owners, tenants and residents within the proposed “downtown” district were able to vote on the questions. That includes business owners in the district.

The district that the downtown authority would work to revitalize includes the following areas:

• The Englewood CityCenter shopping development, roughly from South Santa Fe Drive to South Elati Street;

• The South Broadway area between Elati and Sherman streets;

• And the city's medical stretch, between Sherman and Lafayette streets. The district's north-south length varies, but it stretches as far as Kenyon Avenue in the southwest and Eastman Avenue on the north.

City officials hope the development authority will help fill vacant storefronts along the downtown Broadway corridor; pursue a hotel for business visitors, hospital patrons and community members in CityCenter; and add residential density to underused sites near Englewood's light rail station.

They also hope it will push for attainable housing and attract office employers to bring more daytime workers downtown to support local merchants and restaurants.

Voters' decision on funding a mixed bag

Hypothetically, the authority would have pursued those goals through a few tools. One is a tax that would have been added to property tax currently assessed on properties in the new “downtown” district of the city.

That tax measure — ballot issue D — failed with 92 “no” votes to 67 “yes” votes.

The authority is expected to begin operations in January 2021. The first year's tax increase, if it was approved, could not have exceeded 2 mills. The tax could ultimately have increased to up to 5 mills.

What that meant is that in 2021, a 900-square foot retail shop that paid about $3,000 in 2020 property tax would have paid an additional $81.20 in 2021, according to Englewood's website. A restaurant of 5,700 square feet that paid about $20,780 in property tax would have paid an additional $570. An apartment building of 47 units and about 30,500 square feet, which paid about $24,500 in property tax, would have paid another $14 per unit.

Another part of the equation — increasing the city's debt with a maximum repayment cost of $216.5 million — was defeated with 83 “no” votes to 74 “yes” votes. That's ballot issue C.

The last tool, tax-increment financing, allows for the reallocation of future increases in sales- and property-tax revenue within the new district's boundary to help finance public improvements in that area.

Ballot issue B authorizes the development authority's collection of tax-increment financing, according to Englewood's website. It was approved by just one vote — 77 in favor to 76 against.

It's unclear how much revenue the development authority could expect to receive through tax-increment financing — and it wasn't immediately clear how the defeat of the property tax increase and debt measures would impact the overall ability of the authority to carry out its mission.

An Englewood spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Read the full look at the development authority plan here.

Voters reject lodging tax increase

A citywide ballot measure — to increase the tax on short-term rentals and hotel and motel stays shorter than 30 days — was roundly defeated, with 63.3% against and 36.8% in favor as of 11:13 p.m. on Election Night.

The measure would have increased Englewood's lodging tax from 2% to 5%. At the Lucky U Motel on Broadway, a room for a night without tax costs about $70 and a $10 deposit, a staff member said on Oct. 9 by phone. A 3% tax increase at that motel would have totaled about $2 per night. That motel offers a weekly rate of $397 including Englewood's current tax, according to the staff member. The Holiday and Wright motels in Englewood offer similar rates.

The tax also applies to short-term rentals such as those facilitated through Airbnb and similar websites unless the rental period is for 30 days or more, according to Chris Harguth, a spokesman for the city.

The text of the ballot question says Englewood's tax revenue would have increased by up to $100,000 in the following fiscal year if it had passed. Englewood's spending in 2019 totaled $108 million, according to the Arapahoe County analysis of this year's ballot proposals.

Obscure internet-service question sees big win

A second citywide ballot question effectively asked voters to allow Englewood to provide Wi-Fi service in city facilities, according to the city.

That question won approval by a landslide of roughly 79.4% in favor to 20.7% against, as of 11:13 p.m. on Election Night.

In 2005, the state Legislature passed Senate Bill 05-152, which required a vote of municipal residents if a city wanted to become a broadband service provider. With the OK from voters, municipalities can provide broadband service directly or through a partnership with a private vendor, according to a fact sheet linked on Englewood's webpage about this year's ballot question.

More than 100 municipalities had given their city or town approval to provide broadband service as of fall 2019, according to that fact sheet.

This ballot question asks Englewood voters to authorize — but not require — the city to provide high-speed internet service, telecommunication services or cable television services as defined by Colorado law. The city could then provide service to residents, businesses, schools, libraries, nonprofit entities and other users, according to the city's website.

Although Englewood's website says, “Passage of this measure would allow the city to explore a variety of options to make broadband service available to residents, students, visitors, nonprofit organizations, schools and businesses,” Englewood doesn't intend to take that step — at least not now.

Englewood submitted the ballot question to its voters to allow it to provide Wi-Fi service in city facilities, Harguth said.

Englewood's information technology staff is working on a multiyear project to install fiber-optic cable from the Englewood Civic Center to other city buildings, Harguth said.

Approval of the Englewood ballot question does not prevent any private business, including existing broadband providers, from initiating or continuing to provide broadband or other internet services, according to the city's website. 

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