Rooney Valley Background
For years, the northern 2/3 of the Rooney Valley has been in the city limits while the southern third (around the fire station) has been in Morrison. In recent years, Lakewood developed the Solterra housing project in its portion of the valley.
Morrison tried to develop an office and retail center at the northeast corner of the C-470 and Morrison Road interchange (called Red Rocks Centre) but failed. The development community is asking Lakewood and Morrison for more customers to patronize new business.
To provide more customers the towns are being asked to build more residential projects.
The two municipalities entered into an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) to share revenues and administrative functions. In 2016 the IGA was modified to have each jurisdiction do more of its own administration. It also provided for a revenue sharing plan of any tax revenues. Using a complicated formula depending upon various land uses, Lakewood would receive a minimum of 10% of the revenues generated up to a maximum of 25%.
Classic Rush Job
One of the disturbing aspects of the Rooney Valley plan was the classic rush job. Morrison has been studying the situation for over a year with dozens of secret meetings. Lakewood city staff has been looking at it for nearly as long.
However, City Council was first approached with a change in the master plan in October 2016. Council was asked to adopt this change at its holiday eve December 12 meeting while the citizens' attention was distracted by the upcoming holidays.
When the independent councilors asked for time to consider this plan, they were told Morrison had a year-end deadline to meet. However, the independents insisted an issue this important required time for study and sufficient public input. The matter was then postponed to February.
During the deliberation process, the independents made a motion to require an impact study be conducted to analyze how new developments would affect current residents. This amendment was defeated by the usual 6-5 establishment-independent vote. The final plan was passed by the same 6 (Paul, Koop, Vincent, Shakti, Harrison, Gutwein) to 5 (Johnson, Able, Roybal, Franks, Wiechman) vote.
What's In It For You?
Since the proposal increases overcrowding, loses open space and costs all taxpayers money, why does the City want to do it?
Basically it is empire building - more people, more taxes, more prestige, etc.
The stated goal is to give the City more power over land use in the valley. While sounding good, it is giving power to the same group who have been overdeveloping the city for years.
It would appear the administration hasn’t gotten over its Federal Center debacle and still want to go into the development business by planning their own community from the ground up, Sims City style.
The Morrison Connection
Morrison is motivated by the desire for more money to supplement its speeding ticket revenues. It has jurisdiction over hundreds of acres of land in southern Rooney Valley. In addition Morrison has sufficient water rights for up to 5000 residences it plans to sell to Rooney Valley developers. This land is currently zoned for commercial development and over a thousand new residences.
However, Morrison only has about 400 voters. If Morrison’s Rooney Valley properties were developed then these new residents would outnumber the current Morrison residents and take over the village government. To avoid losing political power, Morrison doesn’t want to make the new residents citizens of their village.
Therefore, they want Lakewood to annex the new residents and provide city services to them. However, these new Lakewood citizens would shop at the adjacent new shopping center Morrison wants to build at C-470 and Morrison Road. The new Lakewood residents would pay Morrison sales taxes.
The developer, Ventana, is proposing to create a new municipal district to raise up to $50 million dollars in municipal bonds to build basic infrastructure (water, sewer, streets, lights, etc.) The bonds would be paid back by special taxes on the new residences - the same technique used to fund Solterra.
City Seeks to Annex South Rooney Valley
Development under the new mayor and City Council continues to pick up pace. In recent months, the City sought to develop the Ward Lake Tree Farm in the Green Gables area as well as bring thousands of new homes into the Rooney Valley.
Being landlocked the focus has traditionally been on increasing the population density. This year the picture changed with a plan to increase the physical size of the city by annexing over 300 acres in the southern third of the Rooney Valley from the Village of Morrison. This move was designed to bring another 1000 homes into the city.
At the end of last year Morrison sought to jumpstart stalled development in southern Rooney Valley with a proposal to modify the development master plan, disconnect (de-annex) the residential properties in Morrison’s portion of the valley and have Lakewood annex those properties it cuts loose.
In addition to the obvious impacts of 1000 more households on traffic, schools and general overcrowding, this particular proposal has financial implications for taxpayers throughout the city. It is a basic fact of municipal government that residential properties cost the city more than commercial properties.
Since the city’s mill levy is low, the city makes very little money from property taxes on residences. The city receives most of its revenue from sales taxes collected from retail businesses. Therefore, cities financially need retailers, not residences.
When it comes to city expenses, residents cost (police, snow plowing, streets, parks, etc.) more than retailers. Ordinarily there is an effort to balance residences with retailers. However, in this proposal, the retailers (who collect sales taxes) will be in Morrison paying Morrison sales taxes.
Financial Costs to Taxpayers
In addition to storm water drainage costs, there will be the ongoing cost of maintenance and city services (snow plows, pothole repair, police, etc.) to be paid by Lakewood. Since property taxes paid to Lakewood are minimal and Lakewood’s share of the Morrison shopping center sales taxes is limited to a maximum of 25%, the remaining deficit will have to be made up by existing Lakewood taxpayers.
Finally there will be the cost of new schools. While developers pay some impact fees (sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars), new schools cost millions of dollars (R-1 estimates $27 million for a new elementary school). The huge deficit between the developer fees and the actual costs would have to be made up by taxpayers using the standard property taxes and bonds.