Developing a community of 30,000 residents over a 25-year period is complicated—there’s no way around it. We hope our article and chart will help you make sense of the process, the entities and the acronyms.
Fourteen years after producing the first issue of the Front Porch, we have finally created what we hope is a simple graphic so people can, without reading the fine print in contracts and legal documents, understand how the Stapleton development process works. The chart on the next page shows the main entities involved in the process that has turned airport runways into residences—lots of them.
The chart looks simple enough, but as we’ve attended meetings and listened to the many questions and concerns that accompany such an enormous development process, how it all works has not seemed so clear.
Councilman Chris Herndon acknowledges the difficulty of understanding all that’s involved to make such an undertaking successful. “Every now and then we just need to remind people of the scope of this project. This is the largest infill development in the country and to have something of this magnitude it is, as you all said, ‘sloppy,’ and there are not clear lines at times as we move forward. But, everyone has good intentions in ensuring that we have a product that Forest City can be proud of, the City can be proud of, and the constituents that are going to live here. And I’m one of them. I live here. I’m very vested in ensuring that we get this right. I think when the TIF is over we’re going to say we did a really good job.”
For residents with time, and an interest in better understanding the development process and the magnitude of the development, the meetings of all the public entities shown on the chart are open to the public.
Although Park Creek Metropolitan District (PCMD), the entity that uses our taxes to build infrastructure, does not allow residents on the board, residents can be on the board of Westerly Creek Metropolitan District (WCMD), which collects the Stapleton special district tax.
WCMD is required to pass all revenue to Park Creek Metro District, so there’s not much decision making in the position, but, as former WCMD board member Steve Lawrence explains, “It was a process where I felt my role was to understand what was going on, to ask clarifying questions. I felt it was my responsibility to understand the budget.
“There’s the opportunity for oversight of a $60-million tax budget. I felt good about being there. I knew more than my neighbors, and if they had a question they felt comfortable asking me, so there was some kind of conduit there. And I thought that was important enough to at least participate and understand what the process is that’s governed by statute.
“We were managing the financing of the building of Stapleton and making sure that near term revenues covered the cost of the debt and the construction of the infrastructure.”
In the April issue, the Front Porch will interview candidates who will be running for seats on WCMD. The election will be held May 6 at 7350 E. 29th Ave, 2nd floor.
Denver International Airport (DIA)
All Stapleton airport land was initially owned by DIA. DIA is required by the FAA to receive market value for the developable Stapleton land. Trunk (regional) open space is conveyed for free, subject to use restrictions. An appraisal obtained before the developer was hired set the cost at $15,000 to $38,000 per acre based on eight different districts. The cost is adjusted semi-annually by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). DIA is required to remediate any environmental issues on the land before it is sold or transferred. DIA’s primary goal in this process is to sell the land as expeditiously as possible at market value and use the proceeds for aviation purposes, not to plan for future use of the land. Stapleton Development Corporation is the entity that is concerned with future land use.
The Stapleton Development Corporation (SDC)
SDC was approved by City Council in 1995. When land is conveyed from DIA, SDC places covenants on it that require it to be developed according to the Stapleton Development Plan (the Green Book). The Stapleton master developer, Forest City, has a contract that gives them the option to buy 2,935 developable acres from SDC and the purchase price is passed on to DIA. 1,116 acres of trunk (regional) open space are required to be conveyed from DIA at no cost to SDC. The trunk open space land is then transferred with covenants placed on it by SDC to Park Creek Metro District to be developed and subsequently turned over to Denver Parks.
SDC is governed by a volunteer board of 11 members appointed by the Mayor and DURA. Funding for SDC was a fixed amount ($10 million) established by DIA at the beginning of the project. That funding is projected to run out in 2014 and efforts are currently under way to determine sources of future funding.
SDC is also charged with preserving the principles of the Green Book and does that, in part, through information gathered by the Citizens Advisory Board. SDC has the authority to withhold land sales if they believe the development is not following the principles of the Green Book, though they have never exercised that authority.
Citizens Advisory Board (CAB)
CAB annually prepares reports for SDC on Forest City’s performance on specific goals that are based on the principles of the Green Book. CAB’s primary committees are Zoning and Planning (ZAP), Affordable Housing and Parks Advisory Group (PAG). Those committees meet monthly to get updates on development, ask questions and give community feedback. Though there is general agreement that the overall development is going well, the Affordable Housing Committee has repeatedly expressed concerns that affordable for sale housing has been running well behind the percentages set in the Stapleton Affordable Housing Plan. The percentages must be met by completion of the redevelopment but the committee would like to see more interim progress. PAG and ZAP have expressed a desire to be informed earlier about development plans to give community input in the planning process before final decisions are made.
Forest City, Stapleton’s Master Developer, serves as construction manager for Park Creek Metropolitan District (PCMD, see below) and loans money to PCMD when needed to continue the pace of development on infrastructure. As infrastructure is completed, Forest City sells development-ready land to residential and commercial builders and retains ownership of some apartments and commercial properties that it leases.
System Development Fees
Forest City pays an additional $15,000 per acre (over and beyond the purchase price of developable land), which funds regional parks.
Park Creek Metro District
The Park Creek Metro District’s (PCMD) main role is to get the Stapleton infrastructure built. It, like all special districts in Colorado is regulated by state law and operates according to a service plan that defines its purpose, scope and funding. PCMD uses the funds from Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and Westerly Creek Metro District mil levies (both explained in the February Front Porch), along with System Development Fees, loans from the developer, and bonds or other obligations for the construction.
The 2012 audited financial statement for PCMD showed the total debt at that time was $341,459,034. The original service plan projected payoff in 2041. The District declined to make a current projection for the payoff date.
Official PCMD documents that must be filed with the state, can be found online at dola.colorado.gov > Division of Local Government > Local Government Information System.
The PCMD board is comprised of five elected members; two are electors through Forest City and three are electors through SDC. Only those who own property within the boundaries of PCMD are eligible to vote or be a director. The boundary of the District is a 16-acre plot along the south side of I-70 west of Havana with five contracts for ownership, three of which go to SDC members, two to Forest City. This arrangement was set up to bring community representation to the board since many special district boards are 100% developers. On the PCMD board, the community is represented through the SDC-appointed members, though these members do not have an obligation to discuss their votes with SDC.
After trunk open space is developed and transferred to the city, local open space will continue to be owned in perpetuity by PCMD. Even after infrastructure debt is paid, Westerly Creek Metro District tax assessments will continue for maintenance of that property and special district operating expenses.
PCMD meetings, held the 4th Thursday of the month at 9am, are open to the public. Location is 7350 E. 29th Ave, 2nd floor.