Opponents bash planned Carbondale development’s ﬁscal claims
Aspen, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE – Proponents and opponents of the Village at Crystal River development are wrangling over projected sales and sales tax figures for the project.
Proponents of the project say they have consistently used projections that have long been available to the town’s Board of Trustees and the public.
The group in opposition, on the other hand, maintains that the development supporters recently changed their numbers after opponents declared that the projections used until then were inflated and unrealistic.
“The fact that (developer Rich) Schierburg is revising sales tax numbers at this late date in the election raises questions about the veracity of his numbers,” said Allyn Harvey, a member of Locals for Smarter Growth, a group that opposes the project.
Carbondale voters started voting last week in a mail-ballot election on whether to ratify or reject a Nov. 1 decision by the town’s Board of Trustees approving a zoning and development plan for the project, which would be built on a 24-acre site west of Highway 133 and north of Main Street.
The election concludes Jan. 31. Ballots must be mailed or delivered to either the Carbondale town clerk or the Garfield County clerk, who is conducting the election, by that date.
The furor over projected sales figures erupted in the wake of a Jan. 4 forum about the project, during which Schierburg accused his opponents of using incorrect information in their public statements.
“They’re factually inaccurate,” Schierburg said of the opposition’s claims that Schierburg’s projected sales at businesses within the Village at Crystal River shopping center, and his projected sales tax revenues, are inflated and unrealistic.
Representatives of the opposition group protested that they have been using figures and information published on Carbondale’s municipal website, http://www.carbondalegov.org.
According to an undated “fiscal impact” memorandum included on the website with the Village at Crystal River application, the shopping-plaza segment of the project is expected to produce total retail sales of nearly $40 million per year.
Of that total, nearly $17 million is expected to be in “net new sales,” meaning people who currently do not shop in Carbondale or in-town residents who would be spending more than they had prior to the opening of the shopping center.
The projected sales tax receipts to the town, according to the memo, would be $590,000.
The fiscal-impact memo, though undated, is grouped with numerous other documents on the town’s website, all listed under the title “TVCR (The Village at Crystal River) Original Submittal.”
According to Schierburg and his representatives, that memo was written in 2008 and is based on findings of a 2005 fiscal impact analysis prepared for the town by a consultant, Economic Planning Systems Inc.
Schierburg now believes the project will generate $335,000 in sales tax revenues, he said, using updated figures based on a 2009 report written for the town by Economic Planning Systems.
The 2008 memo projected that the only business so far that is ready to go into the Village at Crystal River, a relocated City Market grocery store, would bring in $25 million in sales per year, of which $5 million would be net new sales. Sales tax revenues based on those net new sales would be $175,000.
In figures sent in an email to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, dated Jan. 6, Schierburg showed the City Market projections to be unchanged from the memo on the town’s website.
But numbers have changed for a proposed restaurant with a drive-through window and for a proposed gas station and convenience store.
The 2008 memo projected that the restaurant – which opponents call a “fast-food joint” – would generate $2.5 million in taxable retail sales. Of that, $2 million, or 80 percent, would be net new sales.
The gas station and store, according to the memo, would generate $800,000 in revenue, 80 percent of which would be net new sales.
Schierburg said he reduced the projections for the restaurant and the gas station and convenience store in response to the slumping economy. He also maintained that his new projections call for half of the restaurant’s business to be net new sales, while half would be from existing in-town business.
Schierburg added that these new projections have been known to the town and available to the public since at least 2010, a claim that his opponents reject.
Schierburg and his supporters pointed to minutes of 26 different trustee meetings about the Village at Crystal River, which routinely were loaded onto the website but were first directly attached to the project application documents on the website on Jan. 6, according to the town.
At the Jan. 4 forum, Schierburg said he had cut the sales projections for the restaurant to $1.25 million annually, half of which, or $625,000, is expected to be net new sales.
Schierburg’s Jan. 6 email showed the restaurant, however, as generating $1.5 million in net new sales, half of which he maintains will be net new sales. He projects the restaurant will produce $26,250 per year in new sales tax revenues.
Concerning the gas station, Schierburg now says it will generate $600,000 and that only half of that will be in net new sales.
“These are all estimates,” emphasized Carbondale attorney Eric Gross, who works with Schierburg and his supporters, a group known as Say YES to Carbondale.
With a gas station/convenience store and other businesses factored in, Schierburg’s email shows a total of $335,000 in annual sales tax revenues at completion of the project, which could be as many as 20 years from now if the project is approved by the voters.
Opponents of the project, however, remain skeptical about the numbers.
“I think they’re still very questionable, and a slippery foundation for (the project), on which we’re making a decision that will affect the entire town,” said Harvey, a vocal opponent of the project.
Even if the lower numbers prove to be reliable, Harvey said, Schierburg’s own analysis indicates the Village at Crystal River businesses will be pulling in lower numbers of new business and relying on Carbondale residents to switch to the new stores.
“That means more business coming from our local shops,” Harvey said. “They’re just pulling that spending out of our local businesses and over to his project.”
Schierburg has maintained that the Village at Crystal River shops will draw new business from outside Carbondale and that those new shoppers will shop in the downtown area, as well.
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