Foothills seeking input on land sale proposal

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By Ron Hopp

Foothills Park & Recreation District is currently marketing six parcels of property for potential sale and development. Since the district experienced two failed mill-levy elections in 2006 and 2008 and despite the fact that since 2008 the district has worked extremely hard to develop efficiencies and enhance revenue streams so that we can continue to provide services to the community, the fistrict still is unable to address capital needs and keep pace with declining revenues and growing expenses.
Because a determination has been made that it is highly unlikely that a mill-levy-increase election would be successful given the current state of the economy, the district has determined that the disposal of vacant unused parcels would be a way to generate revenue. Therefore, the district entered into a contract with a commercial real estate broker to determine the market interest in a number of different parcels of vacant land. The district has received offers on all of the parcels and is in the process of negotiating sales agreements with parties at each site. The Foothills board of directors will be considering entering into sales agreements with developers as early as the Oct. 11 board meeting. These agreements will be contingent on the planning and zoning process that will be conducted by Jefferson County.  
The parcels up for sale include:
• Northwest corner of Coal Mine and Wadsworth (commercial), 5.47 acres.
• Northeast corner of Coal Mine and Wadsworth (commercial), 4.72 acres.
• Southwest corner of Wadsworth and West Columbine (commercial), 3.85 acres.
• Northwest corner of Simms Street. and South Ward Street (single-family residential), 14.3 acres.
• Southwest corner of Simms Street and South Ward Street (single-family residential), 3.17 acres.
The criteria that was used to determine the list of surplus land parcels:
• Vacant land: Of those vacancies, no park improvements have been made to date, and the parcels identified do not appear in any master plans to make future improvements.  Additionally, the master plan adopted by the board in 2005 specifically states that two of the parcels are planned for future potential sale and development.
• Strong marketability.
• Visibility.
• Location.
• Ability to be developed.
The district believes that owning and maintaining vacant properties is a disservice to the taxpaying public and these properties can be better utilized by the private sector. This action demonstrates fiscal responsibility and is not unlike what a private-sector business would do in a similar financial situation. The district also believes it would be fiscally irresponsible by not taking this action and hopes to generate over $4 million. In addition to the financial benefit the district will receive from the sale of these parcels, the parcels will also produce additional property-tax revenues for the district and the county, as well as sales tax for the county. Revenues generated from the sale of these parcels will assist the district with financial needs that may include addressing capital improvements, debt reduction and/or operations. With the potential of a development to include residential in close proximity to a district-owned and -operated facility, the potential for increased program and facility utilization also exists.  
The alternative to the sale of vacant land is likely the closure of subsidized facilities. Excellent examples of facilities that would likely face closure would be the four outdoor swimming pools, Weaver Hollow, Deer Creek, Columbine West and Sixth Avenue West pools. To give you an idea of the impact in comparison, as previously mentioned, the land sales will generate over $4 million but certainly will impact dozens of homes that are near these potential developments. The closure of four outdoor pools would save the district approximately $175,000 on an annual basis but would affect 47,700 annual users, which is the amount of attendance that these four pools experienced in 2011.  
All agenda items concerning this issue both at the district and the county are open to the public, and agendas are posted in advance. Some processes will involve public hearings with notifications being sent to nearby property owners.  
If you would like more information on this issue, visit http://www.ifoothills.org/about_land_parcels.asp.
The district would like feedback from residents. Do you support or disagree with the sale of these land parcels to address capital needs and to continue to provide services? Please let us know by e-mailing info@fhprd.org.