Tanner Coy, former treasurer of the Downtown Development Authority, prepares to hand over a box load of DDA documents and financial statements to Elijah Murphy, the board’s new treasurer.

WOODLAND PARK • With a detailed report on cost estimates and annual revenues, K.C. Patel announced that he and his wife plan to build a Fairfield Inn by Marriott in Woodland Park. An $8.6 million project, the 61-unit inn would employ 15 people full time who would earn between $16-$25 an hour.

Patel announced the project at the July 13 meeting of the Downtown Development Authority.

He estimates an annual payroll of approximately $600,000, and that visitors will spend up to $305 a day in Teller County.

“We have a definite contract on the property,” said Patel, who plans to move to Woodland Park with his wife and two girls, ages 7 and 9. “We’ve already done our due diligence.”

Patel paid $440,000 for the land, according to Sally Riley, the city’s planning director. Behind Natural Grocers near the west entrance of the city, it is within the DDA limits and, therefore, eligible for tax-increment financing.

DDA chair Merry Jo Larsen outlined the criteria for reimbursement from the DDA on the improvements. “We can help you, but it really depends on what you bring to the city, in terms of sidewalks, how many you employ and the impact on the city of the project.”

Patel expressed interest in learning more about the potential tax benefit.

The first step, however, for the developer is to submit a contract plan to the city, Riley said. “So that we can see that there aren’t any red flags to the proposed development and provide feedback,” she said. “Mr. Patel will be investing a great deal of funds to do the planning, design and engineering associated with the project.”

The hotel would require a conditional-use permit from the planning commission as well as the city council, Riley said.

Riley announced that she would be attending DDA board meetings due to her appointment by City Manager Michael Lawson. “You will have one point-of-contact to the city so that staff members will not be pulled in different directions,” she said. As well, Riley will be the point of contact for issues around zoning or planning, she said.

From the audience, former DDA treasurer Tanner Coy reported that since 2016, the DDA has reduced its debt from $6.9 million to $3 million — a reduction of 56%. The DDA owes on the bond to Vectra Bank in addition to a loan from the city of Woodland Park.

With three new board members, Jon Gemelke, Tony Perry and Arden Weatherford, the tension during this, their first public meeting, was palpable at times. Perry, president of Park State Bank & Trust, had been a public critic of the DDA’s denial of a request for tax-increment financing by Natural Grocers, which ultimately built the store without the tax reimbursement.

Elijah Murphy, owner of the Historic Ute Inn, was voted in a the new DDA treasurer with five votes. Voting for Murphy in addition to himself were Larsen, Jerry Good, Robert Zuluaga, the city’s liaison to the DDA, and Jan Wilson (via Zoom). Perry received four votes — from himself, Weatherford, Gemelke and Al Born.

Larsen was re-elected chairman, Jerry Good and Gemelke were elected vice-chair and secretary, respectively.

The meeting took a negative tone when Good attempted to defend the board’s position on denying the Natural Grocers’ request for tax-increment financing. Perry countered by saying the board gave the owners a false impression that the request would be granted over a series of months.

At some point, Larsen intervened. “It’s time to put the past behind us,” she said. “We’re moving forward.”

Near the end of the meeting, City Councilman Rusty Neal spoke from the audience, thanking Larsen for her role in chairing the meeting. “I can see there is some contention on certain topics sneaked in and you took control of that in a positive manner,” Neal said. “So, I want to thank you for that.”

The board intends to continue discussion about the Fairfield Inn proposal at its Aug. 3 meeting, which begins at 7:30 a.m.

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