Government & Politics  December 1, 2023

Editorial: Loveland fight presents risks for economy

Loveland’s political climate has been stormy in recent years, and if the first several weeks of the current city council’s term is any indication, the political winds have reached hurricane intensity.

Elections indeed have consequences, and the Nov. 7 election turned the city’s politics on its head. Out was mayor pro tem Don Overcash, who had challenged Mayor Jackie Marsh for the mayoral seat. Marsh won with 50.61% of the vote, defeating Overcash and challenger Janice Ververs.

In were three new councilmembers who shared Marsh’s skepticism of an urban-renewal plan for the Centerra South development at Interstate 25 and U.S. Highway 34. The plan — as well as a master finance agreement and intergovernmental agreement — provided a funding mechanism for infrastructure improvements for the project, which would include retail, restaurant, office and residential development.

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The prior council approved the urban-renewal plan handily in May, 7-2.

But with her new council majority, Marsh pushed through measures to rescind the council approval of the plans at a Nov. 21 meeting, with the urban-renewal plan being rescinded on a 6-2 vote, and the master finance agreement rescinded on a 5-3 vote.

Developer McWhinney Real Estate Services Inc., based in Loveland, responded just a week later, filing suit in Larimer County District Court, accusing the council of acting illegally and unconstitutionally.

The lawsuit came on the same day that the council approved moratoria on new oil and gas drilling, as well as new metropolitan districts.

The measures signal a sea change in Loveland politics, with skeptics of governmental incentives for development projects now in charge.

What remains to be seen is whether the council acted legally or wisely in rescinding the Centerra South agreements, and whether the city can possibly reach equilibrium with business interests.

Loveland represents a key part of the Northern Colorado and statewide economy, with major employers in the technology, distribution, health care, manufacturing, natural foods, retail and entertainment sectors.

Time will tell whether the council’s actions — overturning actions of a prior council and drawing a lawsuit in turn — might deter other businesses from considering the city for expansion or relocation.

For now, however, both sides are prepared for a fight, and the political winds are kicking up again.

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