Meeker residents turn out for public hearing on Better City proposals

MEEKER | The public meeting Feb. 22 in Meeker was well-attended, with about 75 people meeting at the Fairfield Center to hear more about the proposed Meeker Adventure Center. Representatives from Better City provided background information and detailed information about how the center will be funded.
Meeker Mayor Regas Halandras opened the meeting with an exhortation to have an open mind and plan for the future.
“When I was young Meeker was very different than it is today. Our next generation needs something.”
Better City representative Kelby Bosshardt explained the need for creating economic diversity, specifically to combat the “boom and bust” cycle prevalent in areas that rely on one or two industries as economic drivers.
Better City, a consulting firm from Utah, specializes in developing strategic partnerships between public and private entities.
“We create catalytic projects that create momentum for the economy,” Bosshardt said. “If the private sector isn’t creating jobs on its own, we can use public/private partnerships to create new economic dynamics to get that investment flowing. We either wait for the next (boom and bust) cycle, or we can be proactive.”
He explained that Better City started working on these projects two years ago at the request of the county and both towns. They’ve created a strategic plan, with components for each community and the county.
“It’s a very strategic and methodical plan,” he said, that addresses community development, workforce development and economic development.
“We envision a healthy economy as a 50-legged stool. If any one leg gets kicked out, the economy is still stable.”
The concepts developed for Meeker address strategic needs identified by the work Better City has done thus far.
A plan for increasing affordable, turn-key home ownership options and point-to-point workforce transportation aims to create a “healthy workforce” that’s committed to the community, while the Meeker Adventure Center is a catalyst for economic development as a “new demand driver” that would bring people into the downtown core and stimulate jobs and new industry growth.
“As far as outdoor recreation goes, there isn’t anything along Market Street to attract outdoor recreation enthusiasts,” Bosshardt said. “We need to make Meeker the base camp for adventure in the area. We can do that by creating a center of activity in the downtown corridor.”
The Adventure Center would highlight indoor and outdoor recreational services in the area, including hunting, fishing, camping, backpacking, OHVs and more. The live ammunition shooting range would feature a high-tech self-healing rubber wall with a virtual overlay feature to simulate different shooting environments. The archery range would be capable of serving as a regional facility for training and competition with a 90 yard range length.
Better City has received numerous letters of interest from operators in each of the key areas, some local and some looking to relocate or open a branch. An international company that provides backpacking tours now has the necessary permits with the Forest Service to start operation in the White River National Forest.
Bosshardt explained the capital funding structure for the Center. “It’s structured at $10 million at this point. That could go up or down.”
Of that amount, $2 million (20 percent) or less is expected to come through public funding in the form of Tax Increment Financing (TIF).
“We’re not asking the local government to pay $10 million,” Bosshardt said.
The other 80 percent of the funds would come from non-local public/private sector options: 15 percent from owner/operator equity (either one single investor or “condo-style” with multiple buy-ins); 15 percent would come from Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) funds that provides long term financing for approved energy efficiency projects in commercial buildings; the remaining 50 percent would be would come through a Colorado based commercial note.
“The community would initially own 20 percent of the building,” Bosshardt said. TIF funds from property taxes on the building would be diverted to pay back that public investment.
There will not be an increase in taxes to cover the TIF.
Property tax dollars are divvied up between special districts according to mill levies. For TIF funds to be appropriated, the town’s Urban Renewal Authority would work together with the special districts to determine how much of the TIF funds would be diverted. The project would not take any money away from the special districts, as the TIF funds are based off increases in property tax created by the new development.
If the project were to fail, the ultimate lien holder—the holder of the commercial note—would be “left holding the bag,” not the public. In a worst case scenario, if the project “went completely dark” the bank holding the commercial note would continue to pay the property taxes, which would continue to fund the TIF.
“The bank is the majority owner. They’re going to vet the loan.”
Other information provided included:
n Two bow manufacturers and one fly-tying company are interested.
n The $10 million includes the cost of property acquisition. Better City does not use eminent domain for property acquisition.
n Perceived competition with the Cameo shooting facility being developed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife would actually benefit the Meeker center, according to industry reps from Cabela’s. The Cameo project, which is largely an outdoor facility, is not expected to be finished for 5-8 years.
n The “100 miles of fishing access on the White River” question was addressed with an explanation that the study wasn’t just looking at fishing upriver from Meeker, but includes areas west of town, where property owners have been more amenable to providing easements for responsible guides.
Once again Better City encouraged residents to contact them directly with concerns about the center or any of the other components of the plan.
As to whether the public meeting changed any minds about the center one way or another, that remains to be seen. The results of an online survey at www.theheraldtimes.com thus far have the respondents evenly divided. We’ll publish the full results next week. If you haven’t taken the survey, visit the Herald Times website.