Split council vote approves funding mechanism for developers pitching ‘ginormous’ redevelopment of Dillon’s town core
The project being proposed by the developers includes a hotel, an indoor amphitheater, a parking garage and more than 300 residential units — but the approval Tuesday by the Town Council only helps establish a funding mechanism.
A developer proposing a redevelopment plan in Dillon’s town core has received approval to begin the process of establishing metropolitan districts to help fund a project called Triveni Square.
Several residents raised concerns, such as the potential scale of the project proposed by JGJP Dillon, LLC, but the Dillon Town Council voted 5-2 on Tuesday, Feb. 21, to establish a service plan allowing the metropolitan districts to be organized.
Council members who voted in favor of the service plan said the approval does not greenlight the proposed project and is only a “first step” in establishing a mechanism that could help fund redevelopment.
Mayor Carolyn Skowyra and council member Kyle Hendricks voted against the service plan, raising concerns that the proposed project is too big and does not mesh with the town’s goals to increase workforce housing and available parking.
Jake Porritt, the developer, told the council that once a service plan is approved, the development team can begin negotiations with the town to work out what the project will look like, its scale and what it includes.
The service plan states that the districts could encompass about 19 acres of residential and commercial land. Development within that property is expected to consist of 345 residential units — including workforce housing, market-rate housing and condominiums — and 351,000 square feet of commercial space, according to the service plan.
A 2,500- to 3,500-seat indoor amphitheater, a hotel with conference space and an approximately 600-car parking garage are proposed as part of the commercial buildout, Porritt said. He, however, noted that all construction will have to be negotiated with the town and go through the usual approval process before it moves forward.
“A lot of the sexier conversation that everybody wants to have is the next step,” Porritt said. “We’re ready to start having those conversations and start showing more pictures and what our intentions are, but we need to make this time cycle.”
Porritt said the service agreement is before the Town Council now because the developers are looking to meet statutory deadlines to hold an election in May to establish the metropolitan districts.
The initial boundaries of the districts will begin as two just parcels — which are near the property that is now Pug Ryan’s Brewery at the corner of Lake Dillon Drive and La Bonte Street — and over time other nearby parcels may be annexed into the district. The process of bringing new properties into the district requires the consent of the landowner, according to Trisha Harris, a lawyer representing the developer.
Porritt said the name for the project — Triveni Square — came from a word meaning the spot where three rivers meet and is meant to connect with Dillon’s history, since the old town center was located at such a confluence.
What is a metro district?
A metropolitan district is a quasi-governmental unit that can be formed under Colorado state law. These districts, which have similarities to school, fire and water districts, allow the developers who establish them to finance the infrastructure necessary to support a project.
There are hundreds of metropolitan districts throughout Colorado, including in parts of Summit County, such as the Buffalo Mountain Metropolitan District near Silverthorne and the Copper Mountain Metropolitan District.
The service plan approved Tuesdays allows the districts, if established in a May 2 election, to issue debt that is then paid by revenues derived from a mill levy — essentially a tax on properties within the district — and fees.
Harris described the service plan as a document that lays out “guard rails” for the operation of the district — including how much debt it can accrue and the levy limit it can impose on those within its boundaries.
“The intent of districts like this is kind of that the development pays for itself,” Harris said. “The revenues generated to support these districts comes from within the districts.”
She noted that the funds raised through the district cannot go toward development of homes or businesses — those costs fall to the developer — but toward public infrastructure such as parks, sewer systems or street improvements.
The service plan approved by the council sets a combined debt limit of $120 million — with a maximum repayment period of 40 years — for the four districts known collectively as the Triveni Square Metropolitan District. The reason for multiple districts, Harris said, is because residential and commercial districts generally operate differently. The maximum debt mill levy laid out in the document is 50 mills, or $50 for every $1,000 in assessed value.
Each district will be governed by a board of directors composed of people who are qualified as an “eligible elector” under state law. It is expected that over time the people who live or own businesses within each district will assume electoral control of each board, the service plan states.
‘Intrigued’ but ‘wary’
While the Dillon Town Council voted to move forward with the service plan, several residents and business owners turned out to the meeting to voice their concerns about the proposed project and to urge the council to be cautious about moving too fast.
A shared concern among those who spoke during public comment was the scale of the proposed project. And, several council members — including some who voted in favor of the service plan — also echoed this apprehension with the size of the project proposed in the document.
Bobby Craig, who said he owns property in Dillon which could become part of the district, raised concerns that the financial plans in the service agreement have not been fully vetted by the town, that the proposed project fails to mesh with locals’ vision for Dillon and about his ability to redevelop his property with a major project likely to happen nearby.
“We are intrigued by the concept,” Craig said, “but I’ll also say a little wary.”
Calling the proposed project a “mega-development,” Craig said his understanding of the vision for the development of Dillon included something more walkable and street oriented. He also said that he is “scared to death” that if his property doesn’t join the district that it may not be able to be redeveloped.
“This is not a first step,” he said. “This is a first leap.”
Mark Richmond, an owner of 103 Main St., echoed Craig’s comments about the scale of the proposed project and added that most of the town’s discussions with the developers thus far had not had much public input.
“This is a huge endeavor for this council to approve in one night,” Richmond said. “I’m really hopeful we can be careful about this. I’m not opposed but would like to know more.”
Eddie O’Brien — who also owns property in Dillon near the proposed district — also voiced his apprehension about the size of the project being proposed by the developers.
“We are a beautiful, small mountain town,” O’Brien said. “And we have a choice here, we can either be a small mountain town or we can be a venue.”
A split Town Council
While the Dillon Town Council voted to approve the service agreement, even some members who voted in favor had apprehensions about the scale of the development being proposed by JGJP Dillon, LLC.
Council member Dana Christiansen said he shared many of the concerns raised by residents when the developers first approached the town late last year to begin discussions about a potential project.
Christiansen said, however, after talking to the special counsel hired by the town to consult about metropolitan districts, he felt much better about it. He noted that local towns, including Silverthorne, have used these districts to help fund development in recent years.
“It’s not a green light for the whole thing,” he said. “Each piece of this still has to be approved … This is just a funding mechanism.”
Mayor Pro Tem Brad Bailey described approving the service agreement as a “no brainer” and compared it to a gala invitation.
“It’s a small little thing that lets them start the process,” he said.
Still, Bailey warned the developers, “Scale is going to be an issue — it’s going to come up over and over.”
Mayor Skowyra, however, did not agree that the decision to approve the service agreement is a “no brainer.” She questioned why the developers have to establish the district during the May election cycle and can’t wait until the November election cycle.
Porritt said that he is hoping to move forward quickly because the developers wouldn’t be able to hold together all of the parties that have shown interest in their property being included as part of the district.
“The interest wanes if they have to wait until next year,” Porritt said. “It’s hard because time kills deals.”
Skowyra also raised concerns that the development being proposed wouldn’t actually help solve any of the problems that Dillon currently has. The workforce housing proposed as part of the project, she said, would end up supporting the proposed commercial build-out, rather than help support the workforce that exists today.
Moreover, Skowyra noted, the proposed development does not appear, in her opinion, to address the parking needs of the town, since the project removes several existing parking areas — replacing them with a parking garage — while also increasing traffic with more businesses and homes.
“You’re not really addressing our actual needs today — workforce housing and parking” Skowyra said.
Hendricks, who also voted against the service agreement, said he doesn’t see any reason why the council had to immediately give its approval. Calling the proposed project “ginormous,” he said he does not believe it fits with the town’s vision and questioned the benefits that would be gained.
“I don’t see a reason to be hurrying through this,” Hendricks said. “Everything seems to be give us an answer quick — we don’t have to.”
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