Questions remain about proposed mall annexation

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Informational meeting leaves public wanting more answers

By Ramsey Scott

Residents looking for details on a proposed annexation of Southwest Plaza Mall by Bow Mar left a town hall meeting with Commissioner Casey Tighe on July 10 with more questions than answers.

Tighe said he called the meeting as a way to gauge the public’s interest and get input on the proposed annexation. Yet county and Bow Mar officials didn’t have details people were seeking.

The owners of the mall, General Growth Properties, and Bow Mar presented a possible “flagpole” annexation to Jeffco’s county commissioners on June 17. As part of the proposal, Bow Mar would annex sections of Sheridan Boulevard and West Bowles Avenue from Jeffco since Bow Mar and the mall don’t share a border.

The annexation would allow Bow Mar and General Growth to place a special sales tax on the mall.

The revenue would be split between Bow Mar and General Growth, with General Growth only being allowed to spend the revenue on public improvements at the mall. Bow Mar would most likely use the tax revenue  to pay Jeffco for road maintenance and law enforcement at the mall.

Yet how much that sales tax could be -- one number mentioned in discussions was a 3 percent tax -- is just one of the details that both residents and the county still don’t know.

The county is waiting for the final paperwork to be submitted by General Growth and Bow Mar, said Commissioner Don Rosier, who attended the meeting as a resident but spoke at length, answering questions and responding to general comments made by the audience.  

“I think it was a good meeting, what I expected,” Rosier said. “People have concerns and questions. Some people think it’s a great thing, while others think it’s not so great. Without all the information, it’s hard to respond to some of the questions.”

Gary Angerhofer, who lives across the street from the Target at Southwest Plaza, said he and many of his neighbors are still undecided about  the annexation.

“My thoughts were I’m going to pay 3 percent more, and I’m not seeing any benefit for my neighborhood. It’s all going to Bow Mar,” Angerhofer said. “On the other hand, I realize the mall has some problems. If they add amenities to make the property more attractive, it might be more successful. … And as my neighbor said, maybe then we’ll get some decent restaurant selections. ”

Several people at the meeting asked why a mall that’s about to start a $75 million to $80 million renovation project would need a special tax for improvements. One person said a company that’s traded on the New York Stock Exchange can afford its own renovations.

Residents of Bow Mar had many questions themselves about their town annexing the mall. The town consists of 512 acres north of West Bowles Avenue and east of South Sheridan Boulevard with about 892 residents and no commercial land.

 “My gut tells me it’s a mistake. It’s just not consistent with Bow Mar,” said Tom Brown, a tow resident. “There may be unintended consequences that could be very unfortunate.”

Brown said one scenario he worried about was the town annexing the mall while it was being renovated. Since the mall would be generating a small amount of tax revenue, Brown said it would fall upon Bow Mar to pay the county for all the services the county provides the mall.

Bow Mar Trustee Anne Justen attended the meeting as a resident. While she tried to answer some questions from the audience about the proposal, she said the town still was waiting on all the information as well.

“People here have a lot of questions with the specifics that I haven’t heard yet,” Tighe said. “People were skeptical but everyone is listening.”

While a representative from General Growth didn’t attend, the company has scheduled two open houses at Southwest Plaza to explain to residents the specifics of the proposal, said Stephanie Jackson, spokeswoman for General Growth.

“We’re having this open house to share with the community and educate the community on what’s happening and what we’re proposing,” Jackson said. “I don’t have anything early to share with the specific details.”