The city is proposing an ordinance that will give downtown property owners incentives to put utility lines underground when remodeling buildings.
The proposed ordinance, which will come before the City Council on Tuesday night, will have the city split the cost that building owners have to pay if they choose to put utility lines underground when remodeling. The matching fund would not cover remodeling projects that increase the size of the building by 10 percent or more, and the city would have a maximum contribution of $1,500.
In January, the council voted down an ordinance that would have made all downtown property owners and developers pay for the cost of burying electric, phone and cable lines during any new building, redevelopment or remodeling project.
During that meeting, Councilman Loui Antonucci said he did not what to penalize someone who was trying to rejuvenate the downtown by remodeling a building.
The council asked staff to rework the ordinance so the city would help share the burden put on existing property owners who underground utility lines or offer incentives in the planning process.
The ordinance coming before the council Tuesday would make it voluntary for property owners in the downtown area to underground their utility lines if the remodel is less than 10 percent of the total building size.
For new buildings or any redevelopments that are greater than 10 percent of the building, undergrounding utilities would be mandatory and would not come with any city subsidy.
Undergrounding utility lines could cost the property owner between $1,500 and $30,000, city officials said.
The ordinance would apply to property between Third and 13th streets and Oak Street and the Yampa River.
In a memo to the council, the city estimated that it would spend about $15,000 a year on subsiding underground utility lines for remodels. The money would come out of the 1 percent franchise fee taken out of electric bills, which already is set aside.
In its original ordinance, city officials had hoped that requiring utility lines be placed underground during the building or remodeling period would mean not having to return to the site in a few years to dig for underground lines and redo the electrical system.
The city had planned to start an undergrounding project in 2005, but budget constraints caused the council to push the start year back to 2006. The $4 million project has four phases stretched out until 2012. A Yampa Valley Electric Association 1 percent franchise fee will fund the project, but it could take years before enough money is raised to cover the cost of the project.