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Merle Baranczyk, Mountain Mail publisher, addresses local citizens who attended the Salida Crossings forum Wednesday at City Hall. Salida Crossings developer Duane Cozart and former Salida mayor Jim LiVecchi, who opposes the project, took turns answering questions about the proposed mixed-use development (photo by Joe Stone).

At a public forum hosted by The Mountain Mail newspaper Wednesday, Salida Crossings developer Duane Cozart and former Salida mayor Jim LiVecchi answered questions about their respective support for and opposition to the Salida Crossings mixed-use development. The development will be put to a vote in Salida’s Sept. 25 special election.

Cozart presented factual information about a wide range of topics, including mortgage financing, deed restrictions, zero down payment options, planned developments and the municipal code. LiVecchi, however, made several false statements, beginning with his opening remarks.

“I’m against unprecedented variances to height and density that make a mockery of our existing municipal codes,” said LiVecchi.

The record shows that the city has not issued any variances for the Salida Crossings project. The project was approved as a planned development, and Chapter 16 Article VII of the Salida Municipal Code allows for planned developments.

For example, the municipal code addresses building height in planned developments: “The maximum height of buildings may be increased above the maximum permitted for like buildings in other zone districts” (Section 16-7-40.8).

Salida Crossings developer Duane Cozart (left) makes preliminary comments as Paul Goetz (center) listens and former mayor Jim LiVecchi shuffles papers. Goetz, Mountain Mail managing editor, moderated the forum in which Cozart and LiVecchi answered questions about their respective positions regarding the proposed Salida Crossings mixed-use development (photo by Joe Stone).

As Cozart said, “Everything I did is written in the code. I didn’t change the code. I didn’t manipulate the code.”

LiVecchi said he does not consider any part of the Salida Crossings development to be “affordable,” including the 30 deed-restricted units priced for households earning 64 percent of the area median income.

LiVecchi repeatedly said he prefers rental over ownership for affordable housing and cited the newly constructed Collegiate Commons development in Buena Vista as an example of a good solution to affordable housing.

However, LiVecchi’s position begs the question as to why he undermined a similar project proposed for Salida. Public records show that LiVecchi directed former city attorney Ben Kahn to initiate the Taxpayer Bill of Rights investigation that undermined the proposed Belmont affordable housing development.

The Belmont development qualified for more than $1 million in state and federal affordable housing subsidies that would have benefited Salida. After LiVecchi and Kahn’s TABOR claims derailed the project and sent those funds to other communities, the TABOR claims were demonstrated to be unfounded.

At times, LiVecchi’s statements were difficult to understand, especially when he read his prepared opening and closing statements. For example, LiVecchi read,

“Second question: since Salida paid for the down payment at the expense of the ellery (sic), those on fixed incomes … to me to for (sic) my answer to that b … would be ‘no.’”

Discussing down-payment assistance, Cozart said he expects eight programs sponsored by various agencies to be available, including programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Housing Administration, the Veterans’ Administration and the state of Colorado.

Under none of these programs does the city of Salida pay for anyone’s down payment, and as Cozart emphasized, the citizens of Salida would incur “no cost” for his project. “I asked for nothing. In fact, I’m paying an extra $2oo,ooo out of my pocket to do a beautification plan on Highway 50. … We are not taking a dime out of any of the citizens’ pockets here.”

Cozart summed up his negotiations with the city, which began when LiVecchi was Salida mayor and other opponents of the project – Hal Brown, e.g. – served on city council: “I’m at less height, less density. It was okay then, but it’s not okay now.”

Click here to watch the Salida Crossings question-and-answer forum on YouTube.

Editor’s note: As time and resources allow, we will provide additional coverage of this event.