Winter Park approves tax incentive program

Hank Shell

The Winter Park Town Council has unanimously approved an ordinance establishing a new program to use anticipated future sales tax revenues from proposed business improvements to subsidize the cost of those improvements.

The Enhanced Sales Tax Incentive Program, or ESTIP, gives the town council power to approve certain business improvements that will benefit the public for the program.

During the board’s Feb. 2 meeting, Town Manager Drew Nelson described the program as a tool the town can use to remove some of the financial barriers for businesses that are interested in making improvements that benefit the public.

Nelson said the program aligns with goals laid out in the Fraser Valley Strategic Economic Development Plan, specifically to “encourage investment in infrastructure, specifically in downtown and places of commercial activity.

“As I noted, I believe that this follows straight in line with the strategic economic development plan,” Nelson said.

Improvements outlined in the ordinance include streets, sidewalks, landscaping, signage, parking areas, off-site water and sewer lines or any improvements the town finds are “public or public related” and will “benefit the economic health of the town.”

New or existing businesses that apply for the program must go through a public hearing process in which the town council will decide whether to approve the improvement.

The enhancement should be “reasonably likely” to generate at least $20,000 of additional sales tax in the first year of operation, the ordinance states.

If approved, the business will enter into an agreement with the town that dictates the duration of the agreement and the maximum amount of sales tax to be remitted, with the agreement expiring at the earlier occurrence.

The town will use historical sales tax revenues from the business or a similar business to determine how much revenue the proposed enhancement may generate.

The ESTIP only applies to the four percent municipal sales tax not already earmarked for lodging and transportation.

Each agreement will state what percentage of the enhanced sales tax the town will share with the applicant.

If applicants do not meet pre-agreed monthly milestones for enhanced sales tax growth, the town isn’t obligated to share funds with the applicant until all deficits are paid off, the ordinance states.

Other Colorado communities including Silvethorne, Northglenn and Wheat Ridge have enacted enhanced sales tax incentive programs.

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-557-6010.

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