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UPDATE: Colorado Springs council delays vote on tax exemption for Scheels developer

Opposition from business owners cited

Colorado Springs City Council to vote again on Scheels project

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - (UPDATE: Wednesday, June 12)

Concerns expressed by some affected business owners and nearby homeowners led to a delay Tuesday on a decision regarding the project to build a Scheels sporting goods store in north Colorado Springs.

The City Council had scheduled its first vote on whether to approve a request from Nor'wood, the project developer, to be excluded from paying taxes in the North Interquest Business Improvement District.

The district is a group of around two dozen adjacent business and property owners along Interquest Parkway who pay a tax to maintain streets and other infrastructure.

At Tuesday's meeting, council president Richard Skorman said the council decided to postpone the vote after hearing concerns from district members and nearby homeowners that Nor'wood won't pay its fair share of taxes to maintain the district.

"We pulled it from the agenda so that we can have a good discussion about it," Skorman said.  

A new date for the vote hasn't been scheduled.

Specifics on why Nor'wood is seeking the exemption were unavailable Tuesday.

The council recently approved $16 million in tax incentives for Scheels, a decision that has received considerable criticism.

(PREVIOUS STORY: June 7)

The Colorado Springs City Council is preparing for a second vote regarding the construction of the Scheels sporting goods store four months after approving tax incentives for the business.

This time, however, it is the developer for Scheels -- Nor'wood -- requesting a tax break.

According to City Councilman Bill Murray and Tim Leonard, a property and business owner along Interquest Parkway, Nor'wood wants to be exempt from a tax paid by surrounding merchants as part of a business improvement district.

The tax finances street improvements and infrastructure maintenance.

It's unclear how much the tax would be for Nor'wood, and the developer's reason for seeking an exemption hasn't been explained.

In February, the council voted to grant Scheels $16 million in tax incentives, a decision that generated criticism and remains hard to understand or accept to some.

"We just want Scheels and Nor'wood to pay their fair share," Leonard said.  "Having them do that lowers the tax burden for the rest of us."

Leonard signed a letter Thursday representing 23 merchants in the district, asking the council to deny Nor'wood's request.

Leonard and Murray said Scheels and Nor'wood did not inform the city that they were seeking the exemption.

"We were told that there was no opposition from the homeowners in the new neighborhood next door," Murray said.  "But I learned of it from homeowners who are concerned about large construction equipment going in and out and damaging streets."

Murray said he's concerned about setting a dangerous precedent.

"Other new businesses may come in and ask for similar incentives," he said.  "I'm not in favor of giving incentives to retail businesses in the fastest-growing area of the city."

Murray described the situation as "murky."

"We don't know if Nor'wood offered incentives to get Scheels here," he said.  "And the city hasn't been up front about how all of this is developing."

People living in the adjacent Foothills Farm neighborhood have mixed feelings about the project.

"The construction traffic and noise are bad enough already," said Dan Parillo.  "Now, we'll also have to watch the vacant parcels nearby that are getting developed, too.  This isn't what we moved here for."

Jonathan Reed disagrees.

"I love all of the development here," he said.  "You wouldn't move to this neighborhood unless you were reasonably open to development."

The council expects to vote on the matter Tuesday, June 11.


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