County commissioners to discuss Powers extension

January 17, 2011

El Paso County Commissioners are scheduled to discuss Tuesday whether the county should divert sales tax revenue from a proposed retail development to pay for a Powers Boulevard extension from State Highway 83 to Interstate 25.  

The commissioners will talk about the subject in a closed-door executive session during Tuesday’s regular meeting, according to agenda materials.

It is not known whether the commissioners will vote on the matter publicly, or whether a resolution will appear on a future agenda. The five-member board has twice postponed making a decision on entering an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Colorado Springs regarding financing Powers construction with city and county sales tax revenue from Copper Ridge at Northgate. The planned retail center would be located east of the Air Force Academy and southwest of North Gate Boulevard and Voyager Parkway. An extension of Powers Boulevard would run through Copper Ridge and on to the Interstate.

City Council agreed to the project in May. To the frustration of developers, county commissioners first delayed the issue in September, and then again in November. It is the final step developers are waiting on, before getting commitments from retailers.
County Attorney Bill Louis said in November that commissioners want to make sure details about the financing are in place. Colorado law does not allow some counties, including El Paso, to share its sales tax revenue, he said, so the county has been exploring other legal means to “let the county pay a fair and equitable share for the Powers-I-25 connection.”

Louis will advise commissioners on negotiation strategies and other legalities in the executive session, according to the executive sessionnotice. Colorado’s open meetings law restricts closed sessions to matters that state or federal law require be kept confidential, security arrangements, real estate deals, legal advice on specific legal questions, matters subject to negotiations and personnel issues. Decisions cannot be made in closed sessions.

Copper Ridge developers have said they want to fund a bond issue with future sales tax revenue to complete Powers because their project will not attract the upscale retailers they desire without the roadway extension. The city’s designation of the land as an urban renewal site enables developers to go that route.

Although the Colorado Department of Transportation is financially responsible for constructing Powers, also known as State Highway 21, the state’s budget crisis has crippled many planned projects — which is why the private-public proposal is on the table.

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