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Plan to annex mall facing ballot deadline

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By Ramsey Scott

Bow Mar has less than a week to decide if it will place a sales-tax question on November’s ballot as part of a proposed annexation of Southwest Plaza mall by the town.

Mall owner General Growth Properties approached the town earlier this year about annexing the mall, which is in unincorporated Jefferson County. The annexation would let the town levy a sales tax on businesses in the mall, with the revenue split between the town and General Growth Properties. The company could spend the money only on improvements and upkeep to public areas of the mall.

Bow Mar would have to annex portions of South Sheridan Boulevard and West Bowles Avenue to connect the town to the mall.

The town has until Sept. 5 to approve ballot language on the sales-tax proposal and submit it to the secretary of state’s office. That means the town Board of Trustees would have to approve the proposal at its Aug. 25 meeting.

“We’re going to know in the next two weeks what we can really accomplish here and if we can meet the applicants’ wishes to ask voters in 2014, or if we go to the voters in 2015,” said Bow Mar Mayor Rick Pilgrim. “It’s a lot of information and then a lot of decisions in order to meet that schedule. We’re going to try and do that. But I think in the next two weeks we’re either going to be able to tell ourselves yes, or, no, we need more time.”

Pilgrim said Bow Mar is still waiting on revenue projections for a redeveloped Southwest Plaza from General Growth Properties. The mall is in the early stages of an $80 million renovation set to be finished by 2015.

Pilgrim said Bow Mar was working on intergovernmental agreements with Jeffco to provide law enforcement protection to the mall and to determine the annual and long-term costs for the county to provide maintenance to the annexed streets.

Bow Mar’s trustees are working with community members to analyze the available data and come up with direction for the town’s attorney in negotiating the annexation agreements and intergovernmental agreements with Jeffco.

Pilgrim said Bow Mar, which currently doesn’t have commercial property generating sales-tax revenue, is in need of a new revenue source for improvements in the town.

“If you’ve driven through town, maybe you’ve seen what poor shape our roads are in. We’re a low-governance, low-tax community, and we’re totally dependent on property tax,” Pilgrim said. “The sales tax would help us do a number of things, including the urgent needed upgrades to our infrastructure.”

Bow Mar could place a sales-tax question on the ballot before finalizing all the agreements among the town, Jeffco and General Growth Properties. Pilgrim said that if voters reject a sales tax, the annexation would essentially be scrapped at that point.

“I’m keeping an open mind, definitely. I can see the two sides. One side is, this is a big change, and we could really damage the culture of our community” Pilgrim said. “On the other hand, it’s a big change, and it could be a lot of benefit to our town and our residents and to the residents of Jefferson County by the re-energizing of the mall.”

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