Bow Mar and Southwest Plaza mall propose annexation

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By Ramsey Scott

Southwest Plaza is angling to be annexed by the town of Bow Mar in a maneuver designed to return sales-sax revenue to the mall for improvements to public areas.

The owners of the mall, General Growth Properties, and representatives of Bow Mar presented a possible “flagpole” annexation of the mall, which would include the town annexing several streets, to Jeffco’s county commissioners on June 17 during staff briefings. 

The mall is currently embarking on a $75 million to $80 million remodeling project.  

“We're looking at creating a partnership with the town of Bow Mar that would allow us to impose a sales tax and then share back the sales tax, purely for the purpose of maintaining public improvements in public areas,” John Mullins, a consultant for General Growth Properties, said at the June 17 meeting. “Counties don’t have the power to impose a tax and then share revenue back to a public entity, to basically create a climate for re-investment.” 

The sales-tax revenue could go only toward improvements in areas the public has access to, such as interior walkways in the mall, parking lots and sidewalks. It couldn't be used for improvements inside stores. 

In a similar agreement, another mall owned by General Growth Properties, Park Meadows, was annexed by the town of Lone Tree. Under that agreement, Mullins said, General Growth and Lone Tree have a 30-year agreement to split sales-tax revenue 50/50. Once that agreement ends, all sales-tax revenue would go to Lone Tree, unless a new agreement is reached. 

In its presentation, General Growth Properties said it wants to work with Jeffco to ensure the annexation would be revenue-neutral for the county. The group proposed an agreement sending revenue to the county to continue to maintain the annexed portions of West Bowles Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard and to provide law enforcement at the mall. 

“Any services not being funded by the taxes today would be funded by an intergovernmental agreement,” Mullins said. 
Along with providing services, Jeffco’s Planning and Zoning Department would still handle requests for permits and applications at the mall. Yet it would follow Bow Mar’s codes, not Jeffco’s, a concern for Commissioner Casey Tighe. 

Tighe said he wasn’t opposed to the proposal but worried that allowing the area to be controlled by “absentee landlords” in Bow Mar could pose problems. Since the property wouldn't be controlled by the Jeffco government, there’d be no way for neighbors of Southwest Plaza to comment on things like building heights or zoning uses. 

“Those citizens won’t have a direct voice,” Tighe said. “I want to make sure we’re watching out for that. This is a change that could impact the citizens of South Jefferson County for generations.”

Mullins and Bow Mar Town Attorney Jack Reutzel said the goal would be to work out many of those issues with Jeffco in an intergovernmental agreement. 

Commissioner Don Rosier, who represents District 3 where the mall is located, said he liked the fact that Bow Mar and General Properties were working to include the county in the process. The annexation could move forward without Jeffco’s consent or participation. 

Mullins said the goal is to have an agreement worked out among all parties by the end of August. 

General Growth Properties declined to be interviewed about the proposal and the presentation. Chris Murdy, president of the homeowner association Bow Mar Owners Inc., said the group is doing its due diligence but had no comment on the proposal. A message left for Bow Mar’s town government was not returned by press time. 

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.