In the mid 1980s, the City of Delta established an urban renewal authority for the purpose of renovating downtown Delta. Merchants agreed to give up their vendor fee -- the portion of sales tax collections they were allowed to keep to cover bookkeeping expenses -- to fund the effort.
Through the Delta Urban Renewal Authority, the Last Chance building at the corner of 3rd and Main was purchased and converted into a visitors' center that today houses the Delta Area Chamber of Commerce. The old firehouse at 3rd and Meeker was transformed into the Delta County Museum.
Funds were also used for murals, signage, parking lots and streetscaping on Main Street.
The changes, while relatively cosmetic in nature, were credited for a shift in attitude that fueled a long string of major projects, including Confluence Park, Horse Country Arena and Bill Heddles Recreation Center.
Once again, the city is looking to DURA as a possible avenue for financing economic development opportunities. The DURA of the 1980s still exists, but it would have to be revitalized to comply with new statutory requirements.
During a recent work session, city manager David Torgler outlined how the city, in collaboration with other taxing entities in Delta County, would utilize DURA to begin implementing the economic development strategic plan developed by Better City. River corridor activation and a hotel/conference center are the two cornerstones of that plan.
The first step, Torgler said, is hiring a law firm that has experience in urban renewal authorities. One proposal has been received, from the firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farmer Schreck, for a 12-month contract at a cost of $6,000 per month.
That cost would have to be borne by the city until DURA is again operational and has established its own funding mechanism. An administrative grant from the Department of Local Affairs is available to cover a portion of the cost.
One source of potential funding for the urban renewal authority is known as "tax increment financing," in which taxing entities agree to give up either sales or property taxes generated through the economic development efforts. If efforts to locate a hotel in Delta are successful, for example, the property taxes would be redirected to DURA. Torgler said city officials have begun approaching other taxing districts to discuss the concept.
The DURA board would be expanded from the current five city council members to include representatives from those taxing districts. After a project plan is developed and funds are secured, DURA can then proceed with land acquisition, infrastructure improvements, environmental cleanup as needed along the Gunnison River corridor, river projects or right-of-way improvements.
Torgler explained other sources of funding for DURA can include grants, private investment, public investment, or a public/private partnership.
While councilmembers are still trying to educate themselves about the legal, statutory and financial aspects of urban renewal authorities, councilmember Bill Raley said it's clear help is needed to bring DURA into compliance with House Bill 1348.
"We don't dare get into this very far without good legal representation," he said.
The July 28 work session was for informational purposes only; formal consideration of a contract with Brownstein Hyatt Farmer Schreck was scheduled for the council's Aug. 2 meeting.