A group opposed to a Wal-Mart redevelopment at the Arvada Plaza is working to put the tax refund portion of the project on the November ballot.
Stop Arvada Walmart, a group of organized citizens that started on Facebook and is up to 342 “likes” as of Aug. 2, is currently circulating petitions to collect signatures with the goal of putting the public improvement fee portion of the redevelopment agreement for Arvada Plaza, approved by Arvada City Council July 15 on the November ballot.
“We’ve been advised by the city that the first ordinance they passed is not legislative in nature and is not referable, but the sales tax issue is,” said Cindi Kreutzer, a founding member of SAW and an Arvada native. “That also happens to be an issue everyone is concerned about anyway. We have citizens that are wondering where their money is going.”
Because the preliminary development plan for the Wal-Mart store and 20,000 square feet of additional retail space at Independence Street and Ralston Road was passed using a quasi-judicial process, it cannot be referred to the ballot; the ordinances approving the PIF can be referred though.
Stop Arvada Walmart has until 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22, to collect the signatures and information of 7,246 registered Arvada voters for the PIF issue to be considered for the November ballot. The number of signatures required is a percentage of all registered voters in the city.
Following a public hearing on July 15, City Council approved 6-1 with a public-private partnership between Arvada Urban Renewal Authority and Industrial Realty Group of Torrance, California, the owner of the Arvada Plaza property. Mayor Pro Tem and District 1 Councilwoman Rachel Zenzinger voted against the ordinance.
Through the approved agreement, AURA will refund IRG $5.8 million of the $9.1 million in public improvements being made to the site and the surrounding area.
The $5.8 million will be collected through a PIF in lieu of the city’s portion of the sales tax, which is three percent. Following the passage of the ordinance, the PIF will be enacted on the IRG property as well as the AURA-owned Independence Center, the northeast corner of Ralston Road and Independence Street that includes Big O Tires, Black Forest Deli, Triangle Liquor, Ace Check Cashing and Classics by Gloria Catering.
AURA has up to 12 years to refund the developer, but AURA Executive Director Maureen Phair said she expects repayment in about half that time.
“It’s money that would normally be spent doing things for our city where we live and it’s sales tax money,” Kreutzer said. “We keep hearing it’s going to be people from Arvada that go to that store, so it’s really our money — it won’t be my money, but it’ll be most people of Arvada that shop there, it’ll be their money — and we expect that sales tax is used for things that affect all of us.”
Kreutzer filed letters of intent with the city regarding the petition on July 22, giving the group 30 days to collect enough signatures to make it on the November ballot.
Arvada Communication Manager Wendy Forbes said once the signatures are collected and turned in by Aug. 22, the city clerk and other staff will verify the signatures are those of registered Arvada voters.
If signatures are disregarded because they are not from registered Arvada voters, Stop Arvada Walmart will have an additional week to collect more signatures to make up the difference.
Kreutzer said they intend to collect more than the required number of signatures to create a buffer. As of July 29, about 30 SAW members were trained on how to collect signatures and were out collecting.
The group is collecting signatures in the areas around the Arvada Plaza and will move further into other parts of the city as much as they need to in order to collect the required signatures, Kreutzer said.
“It’s not just for the whole group, it’s for the whole city because that money belongs to us — or it should — it belongs to our city,” Kreutzer said. “And that’s a point I’m trying really hard to make when I’m talking to people. This is our city and it should be up to us how it runs and what happens with it.”
Though it’s early in the process, Kreutzer said many people are telling the group it’s good they are trying to put it on the ballot.
“Regardless of how people vote, at least it’s out there for the people to decide,” she said.
If the group gets the required amount of signatures, City Council will host a special meeting to formalize the November ballot issue. Forbes said the meeting, if the signatures are collected, will tentatively be Sept. 3.
As of now, the redevelopment planning process is continuing as approved, Forbes said. City staff and the developer are working on creating a final development plan.