Bible College seeks to rescind decades-old contract with Woodland Park City

Woodland Park • In 2012, Christian evangelist Andrew Womack envisioned the creation of a megacompus for his thriving Bible College and a non – profit religious service in this small mountain town, with a privately licensed privately developed student dwelling in the future.

A decade later, when the dorm is under construction, Womack wants to get out of this arrangement.

Andrew Womack Ministries and its Charis Bible College submitted documents to the Planning and Building Department of Woodland Park on March 22, 2012, seeking a change in the terms of the agreement with city leaders.

“They were going to privatize the homes of students who were subject to property tax, similar to a private company,” said Woodland Park City Manager Michael Lawson. “According to that amended application, if it is approved, they will waive the property tax.”

Under current planned-unit development or PUD, property tax revenue will be divided into six tax entities: city, Teller County, local library, fire, ambulance, and school districts.

Lawson said he did not know how much property tax revenue could be collected from the proposed project, as the appraisal of students’ homes has not yet been determined.

Since Andrew Womack’s decision to relocate Andrew Womack’s Ministry, which he founded in 1978, and the Charis Bible College, which he founded in 1994, from Colorado, the tax collection on the 500-acre campus on the southwest edge of the city limits has come as a shock. When Springs to Woodland Park opened his campus, The Sanctuary, in 2014.

The North East Teller County Fire Protection District opposed Wommack’s plan for campus, first introduced in 2012, because this growth puts an additional burden on district services, Fire Chief Tyler Lambert said.

Fire district leaders have argued that they need a property tax to add more staff to address the expected surge in calls for service, or they need $ 80,000 to $ 100,000 a year in payments in lieu of taxes – money to help offset property tax losses due to untaxed land. Boundaries.

Now, Lambert has said, “We are against review.”

He said the $ 2.65 million annual budget for almost every fire district comes from property tax revenue.

Requests for help increased by approximately 22%, or 475 additional calls per year between 2012 and 2022, and Lombert said Wommak attributed the campus needs “perfectly”.

“We’ve been running there a little bit – we’ve been there five or six times in the last one or two months, usually on medical-type calls,” he said. “In 2012, we needed at least seven employees, but we only had four to five to respond to incidents, so we’re still below the staffing level because we did not have enough property tax.”

At the time of the original agreement 10 years ago, the Andrew Womack Ministries had included a close PUD that would be used by outside, non – profit developers to build student housing, organization spokeswoman Eileen Quinn said.

The project will be privatized through a lease arrangement or other type of arrangement so that a separate tax can be levied, the 2012 agreement says.

“Despite the best efforts of the ministry to implement that idea, it has proved impractical,” Quinn said in an email.

The new application states that the ministry believes the contract was breached in 2012, Lawson said, citing a number of illegal reasons.

As a religious organization, Womack argues that it should uphold its tax-exempt status with the dormitory project, which the construction supervisor agreed to at the time, but argues that it is “invalid and unenforceable” in the new application.

As a 501c (3) non-profit organization, the Ministry, which includes Charis Bible College, is a constitutionally tax-exempt institution under state and federal laws.

In the request for amendment, “the ministry submitted an application with extensive factual and legal support,” Quinn said.

Under the current application, it is argued that “collaborating with a non-profit organization would jeopardize the level of tax breaks under the Internal Revenue Service Code of Andrew Womack Ministries Inc.”

In addition, the ministry was quoted as saying, “In view of the economy and other factors, the privatized model they are looking at in 2012 is not working economically.”

A decade ago, the petitioner argued, the city’s planning director had estimated direct tax on student housing to generate $ 3.48 million, or $ 316,364 in tax revenue, in 11 years.

Wommak’s economic forecasts presented at a community open house in November show that the ministry and its Christian college will employ 1,453 people locally, $ 4.9 million locally in Woodland Park, $ 1.2 million in Teller County and more than 70 people over the next decade. % Higher than predicted without adding student housing tax.

Last November, Wommak said his ministry would seek city approval to develop six buildings with 66 units and 242 beds. The full-time campus enrollment last semester was 837 students taking Christian ministry training courses.

In recent years, the shortage of housing stock in the area has become a matter of controversy for those who do not have large-scale evangelical religious organizations in the community.

Womack defended those attacks with data showing that $ 99 million was spent on building campus facilities such as classrooms, auditoriums, office space and a 1,100-seat parking garage. He expects to spend between $ 10 million and $ 12 million a year building domes for up to 1,200 students by 2030.

Andrew Womack Ministries “works in good faith with Woodland Park officials and hopes to reach a resolution in favor of both organizations,” Quinn said of the tax dispute.

City leaders are ready for a mutually acceptable deal, Lawson said: “The city is definitely ready to hear it and talk about it.”

Lawson said staff are reviewing the application and making recommendations to the city planning commission. The commission will hear the organization’s request in late April or May, Lawson said.

The application also requires the approval of Woodland Park City Council, which retained the mayor and two other candidates in last week’s municipal election and, unlike some other candidates, won two new members unrelated to Womack’s ministry.

Lawson hopes City Council will not hear the proposal until June or July. Officials said they would receive public opinion at the meetings.

Construction will not begin until the application is resolved, Lawson said. If the work starts, the new development will be subject to the 2012 expectation that it will be subject to property tax.

Mark Sumner, who has lived near Bible College for 14 years, remembers the initial transaction.

“If they have a commitment, they have to stick to it,” he said. “They use substantial services in the city. They have always said that their students buy things like groceries in the city, but the domes are not taxed on whether they pay sales tax on Woodland Park.”

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