By Sandy Barnes
A request from the Berthoud Village Shopping Center owners for tax incentives spurred an impassioned Town Board discussion on options for encouraging business growth at the Tuesday, June 2 meeting. Citing challenging economic times and the negative effects of the Town’s former no-growth policy, Robert Bisetti and John Donaldson of the DD&B Investment Group have asked for a tax increment financing program and a waiver of building permit fees for future projects at the shopping center.
During his presentation to the trustees on the issue, Town Planner Tim Katers advised that any incentives offered to retail and commercial properties be available on a Town-wide basis. “With this basis, the Town would not be providing a competitive advantage to one developer’s project over a neighboring project,” Katers stated in his report. “We need to figure out what works here … what we can manage here,” he remarked.
Town Administrator Jim White said that a previous incentive offered for a proposed Safeway project was approximately 40 percent of sales tax proceeds. DD&B is asking for a similar break for a 20-year period.
Trustee Michael Patrick pointed to the difference between the Town offering incentives for new commercial and retail development and assisting existing property owners. “What we’re talking about here is a different concept altogether,” he said. “These economic incentives have to be looked at really carefully.” Commercial properties all over the country are in financial trouble, he added. “You have to look at all benefits, or lack of,” said Patrick. “We’re trying to find win-win partnerships.”
While saying that he understood the Town-wide concept of incentives, Trustee Dick Shepard said, “If we’ve got a person coming in, negotiate from there on a case-by-case basis.”
“We’re starting to deal with two different entities here,” Shepard added. He also asked how the Town would decide when to end incentives. “Are we going to tell a business two years from now you can’t have this?”
“This is frustrating to me,” said Mayor Tom Patterson. “I think it’s a mistake to say we can’t do this because we can’t roll it back.” Patterson advised not setting a deadline for when incentives end, but rather to keep watching and reviewing economic trends. “This is a dynamic,” he said.
Trustee Glen Buckingham said he thought incentives should be granted to business owners, and not to landowners or developers. Sales tax incentives should be offered only for “real retail” new businesses, he said. “We should be selective; not everyone’s equal,” Buckingham remarked. He also observed that DD&B is already in the Town’s enterprise zone, which provides some economic benefits to businesses.
Mayor Pro Tem David Gregg said he felt the board would be remiss in talking about further incentives before completing its review of the Town budget. “I do think we can come up with certain global incentives,” Gregg said. He also noted that although the Town survives by sales tax revenues, 78 percent of spending by Berthoud residents is done outside the city limits. “If people spent an extra $100 a month in Berthoud, the numbers would look better,” Gregg noted.