Downtown Colorado Springs land owner bows out of City for Champions deliberation

By Monica Mendoza Updated: December 4, 2013 at 12:29 am • Published: December 3, 2013 | 3:55 pm 0

Chuck Murphy, the only Colorado Springs representative on the state's Economic Development Commission, will recuse himself Wednesday when city officials present their City for Champions proposal at a public hearing in Denver.

Murphy, who owns a construction company and is a downtown land owner, said questions have risen over his possible conflict of interest in the projects. Two of the four projects in the proposal would be built in downtown Colorado Springs.

"I don't want any cloud over their decision," Murphy said Tuesday.

Murphy is one of nine members of the commission, which will review the city's application to have $125.1 million in state sales tax dollars returned to the city over 30 years. The money would be used to build four tourism projects: a downtown multi-use stadium, a downtown U.S. Olympic museum, an Air Force Academy visitors center and a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs medical sports medicine complex.

According to the City for Champions proposal, the stadium would be built in a two-block area bounded by Colorado Avenue and Sierra Madre, Sahwatch and Costilla streets. The museum would be developed southwest of the stadium and east of America the Beautiful Park.

The City for Champions proposal also says southwest downtown improvements would spur development of CityGate, a 19-acre urban renewal site southeast of Sierra Madre and Cimarron streets, just outside the southwest downtown urban renewal zone. CityGate is owned by Springs real estate company Griffis/Blessing Inc. and a Texas partner.

Murphy has tried for years to develop an arts district north of Colorado Avenue and east of I-25, which is part of the 2001 southwest downtown urban renewal area.

Murphy said he did not believe he had a conflict of interest in the City for Champions proposal, but said he will bow out.

"While I'm confident I could objectively assess the project's merits, I also have a duty to the commission and to the public to avoid even the appearance of any conflict and to ensure public confidence in the commission's deliberations," Murphy said.

Murphy will attend the meeting, which will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday, and will make a public statement about his decision to abstain from the vote, he said.

Supporters of the City for Champions proposal are expected to caravan together on a chartered bus led by officials at the Convention and Visitors Bureau. The bus is being paid for out of money that four supporting organizations donated.

Other supporters, including Mayor Steve Bach, City Councilwoman Jan Martin and City Economic Vitality analyst Bob Cope, drove up Tuesday to beat the predicted snowstorm.

A group of opponents also planned to speak at the meeting.

City for Champions backers expect the four projects to generate about $125.1 million in sales taxes over 30 years - money that the city would get to keep under the state program to retire the bonds it would issue to build the projects. An independent consultant hired by the state to review the city's application believes the projects will generate only $53.1 million in taxes. The number is important, because it would determine the city's bonding capacity for the projects.

FOLLOW ALONG

Gazette reporter Megan Schrader will tweet live from Wednesday's Economic Development Commission meeting in Denver, which begins at 9 a.m. Follow her on Twitter: @CapitolSchrader.

What's next

- Dec. 13: Ken Lund, executive director of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, is scheduled to make a recommendation on City for Champions to the Economic Development Commission.

- Dec. 16: The Economic Development Commission will decide whether to award state sales tax funds.

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