LOVELAND, Colo. — A billion-dollar development planned for Loveland promises to bring hundreds of jobs and boost the local economy.
But some local leaders are divided because the developer wants taxpayers to pay for infrastructure costs.
McWhinney, the Centerra shopping center developer, plans to build another massive project.
Centerra South would be located across the street from the original Centerra on 140 acres of land near Highway 34 and I-25.
Plans call for 1,000 housing units and 700,000 square feet of retail, civic and office space.
Loveland Mayor Pro Tem and City Councilor for Ward 4 Don Overcash said it will provide a significant economic boost to the region.
“It's really a huge project for us and in jobs," Overcash said. "We're attracting, from my understanding, a primary employer from outside of Colorado to bring over 400 jobs."
The developer wants $147.5 million in taxes generated from the property over 25 years to be diverted to pay for the site’s infrastructure, including road construction and water and sewer services.
This type of financing is made possible through an urban renewal plan.
Urban renewal plans are common across Colorado.
They provide public subsidies to private developers to help finance projects that officials believe will benefit their communities.
Critics argue urban renewal plans are overused and amount to corporate welfare.
“Only the people who live in this area, who shop in this area or choose to do business and operate their business in this area, will be paying for that infrastructure," Overcash said. "So no revenue from anywhere else in the city will go to pay for the infrastructure."
Overcash said taxpayer money used for infrastructure will be paid back many times over.
But Loveland Mayor Jacki Marsh said taxpayer money should not be used to help a private developer like McWhinney.
“They continually come to us with their hand out," Marsh said. "We don't do that with other developers. Where's the level playing field?”
Marsh said she doesn't oppose the Centerra South itself.
"I think that a lot of the elements will be good for Loveland," Marsh said. "I'm against the financing."
She accused members of the city council of showing favoritism to McWhinney.
"I would say that's undeniable if you look at the access that this particular developer gets to the city manager, economic development, planning department or finance department," Marsh said. "I've literally had employees that tell me that they don't know who they work for. Do they work for the McWhinneys? Or do they work for the city? Sometimes it’s not clear."
Overcash said the mayor's accusations about favoritism are not true.
He described the mayor as being "anti-McWhinney" and "anti-Centerra."
"She’s been making innuendos like this for quite a while. We’ve gotten somewhat used to it, but it’s very frustrating," Overcash said.
Some believe a bill on the governor's desk could potentially derail the project because it would mean the developer would need to get the county's approval to include farmland in an urban renewal area.
Sarah Mercer, an attorney who represents McWhinney, said the bill won't stop the project from moving forward.
"Our legal analysis is Senate Bill 273, even if the governor signs it, won’t apply to this project," Mercer said, noting that the effective date applies to urban renewal plans that are approved on or after the effective date of the legislation.
"And because the governor has not signed the plan, that bill actually will no longer apply to this particular project," Mercer said.
The Loveland City Council overwhelmingly approved the Centerra South urban renewal area in a 7-2 vote.
They also approved the financing agreement last week.
Overcash said they will vote on another funding mechanism on June 6.