Jefferson County on Tuesday granted a decade-long grace period on a loan of more than $6.4 million to an undeveloped metropolitan district for construction of the C-470 and Alameda interchange.
Green Tree Metropolitan District, which is governed by at least one developer who has contributed substantially to Jeffco Republican campaigns, borrowed the money in 2007 from the county to help construct the $17 million interchange.
Under the loan’s original terms in an intergovernmental agreement, Green Tree was to begin repayment at the end of 2011 with an installment of more than $2 million. The remaining principal and interest were to be repaid at the end of 2013.
But the district cites the economy for a lack of development that would allow it to begin repaying the debt.
“Our agreement anticipated development that would allow for repayment starting late this year. With current conditions we are many years away from any development necessary to begin to repay the cost of this interchange,” Green Tree board member John Mullins wrote in an e-mail to Jefferson County. “We are suggesting 2021 as a better date.”
Commissioner Kevin McCasky, who recently announced his impending resignation from the Board of Commissioners to take a job as president of the Jefferson Economic Council, said that ideally the county would have contributed the money rather than making a loan.
“I never wanted a loan. Unabashedly, I was in favor of this economic investment,” McCasky said of the interchange, which connects C-470 to the upscale Solterra development. “I’d like to cancel it as a loan.”
McCasky, who has received at least $9,000 in campaign contributions from three members of Green Tree’s board, said the donations played no factor in his decision to approve the loan.
And despite the fact that McCasky received $3,500 from the board members less than two months before the agreement was approved, he said he had no idea who sat on the district’s board.
“This isn’t about Green Tree. … I don’t even know who Green Tree is. They’re just the metropolitan district managing the property,” McCasky said. “It’s immaterial who the board members are.”
On Aug. 7, 2007, McCasky received $500 from John Mullins, $500 from Bill Jenkins and $2,500 from Greg Stevinson — all Green Tree board members. The original intergovernmental agreement was approved on Oct. 2, 2007.
Additionally, Commissioner Faye Griffin has received $9,000 to date from Stevinson in her runs for county treasurer and commissioner, though she was not in her current office when the agreement was drafted. She also received $250 from Mullins and $250 from Jenkins in 2008.
The trio, whose collectively owned land-development company, Three Dinos, currently owns about 100 acres near the interchange, sued the county in 2009 over a decades-old agreement that granted Jeffco control over a section of West Alameda Avenue.
As part of an out-of-court settlement, the county bought 19 acres of the land for $1.4 million. That deal, however, was disguised as a routine open space purchase.
Former county administrator Jim Moore, who openly objected to the lack of public disclosure, was fired, in part for refusing to put the land sale on the commissioners’ public hearing agenda.
“You have to ask the people who contributed to my campaign why they gave me money,” McCasky said. “It takes money to run campaigns.”
The interchange, he explained, has proved to be an asset to the county, considering the number of cars exiting C-470 at Alameda every day. Further, Jeffco’s money is well spent if it helps fuel development that will ultimately increase the tax base and create new jobs, he said.
“We have a workforce of 300,000. We have 200,000 jobs. We export 100,000 people a day,” McCasky said. “I’ve been trying to create a better balance of commercially zoned property.”
“I can’t think of a better way to do it,” he added about the metropolitan district’s location. “It’s right along the interstate.”
Meanwhile, the commercial properties that could provide new jobs and valuable property tax revenue have yet to be built.
Stevinson could not be reached for comment by press time.
“No one anticipated this. No one anticipated the extreme drop in interest in any form of development,” Jenkins said. “It doesn’t have to do particularly with this site — it’s across the board.”
The interchange, Jenkins said, was originally approved in 1986, though it never received adequate funding. Construction was finally made possible by a 60 percent contribution from Carma Developers, the company behind the Solterra community.
“They saw it as a gateway to their project,” Jenkins said, adding that Carma paid for all of the interchange’s upgrades, including the iron accents and bicycle accessibility. “They are the largest contributor to that interchange out there.”
The vice president of Carma Colorado, Mike Partheymuller, is also chairman of the Jefferson Economic Council’s board of directors, the nonprofit that hired McCasky last week.
Jenkins and his associates have yet to attract an anchor for the commercial project, though pursuant to the terms of the agreement with Jeffco, they continue to try, he said. Until the district is able to issue bonds, it will not be able to repay the loan, he said.
“The timing stunk. Retailers, office users and manufacturers all retracted,” he said, noting that the district is looking for a large retailer such as a grocery store, discount outlet or entertainment facility. “Bonds are issued once you have a revenue stream. If you drive out there, you don’t see anything that would generate revenue. … We’re trying like heck to get users out there.”
Contact Emile Hallez Williams at email@example.com 303-933-2233, ext. 22.