Urban Renewal Plan proposed

Mountain business leaders say URP would create funds to rebuild infrastructure

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A group of business leaders at the base of the ski area intend to petition Steamboat Springs City Council to create an Urban Renewal Plan. They say it would create a source of funds to rebuild public infrastructure such as sidewalks and transit facilities in the outdated ski area base village without burdening the public with a new tax.

The proposal is predicated on the belief that outdated roads and pedestrian paths are a deterrent to new development and redevelopment in the base area. Organizers predict that once new public improvements are in place, they will attract private development funds that will further expand the property tax base.

"It's not a new tax," David Baldinger Jr. said. "All it is, is a reallocation of your tax dollars. It's very important to this community to have a way to fix the base area."

Baldinger, principal of Steamboat Village Brokers, is one of six men who has put his name behind an organization called the "Base Area Reinvestment Coalition." The others are Slopeside restaurant proprietor Chris Corna; Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. President Chris Diamond; Chuck Porter, representing the Sheraton/Ski Time Square group; Bill Stuart of Market on the Mountain; and Whitney Ward, owner of the Snowflower II development site. They plan to present the City Council with a petition with 25 signatures on it.

Baldinger said he thinks it's significant that key players at the ski area's base are "holding hands" and are in accord on the proposal.

The Urban Renewal Plan they are asking the City Council to consider is one of two "tax incremental financing" mechanisms provided for by state statute. It would fix the boundaries of an Urban Renewal Area at the base of the ski area and set aside a fraction of incremental property tax growth to be reinvested in public improvements on public land.

The organizers have faith that those investments will stimulate privately funded improvements at Steamboat's base area.

"In the early '90s, we blew it. We had no mechanism in place" to capture a portion of the revenues generated by new development for public projects, Baldinger said. "I just think we can't afford not to have a mechanism in place."

The law requires that the Urban Renewal Area be both the source of revenues that would back bonds funding the improvements and that the improvements take place within its boundaries.

Baldinger said it is impossible to project how much money the URP would generate during its 25-year lifespan because he cannot foresee the growth in property valuation that will result from new development and redevelopment. However, in his mind, it would generate between $5 million and $10 million. That's far less than the $150 million that proponents of a previous Downtown Development Authority projected would result from a bigger proposal that failed here in the late 1990s. Voters shot down the DDA by a wide margin in November 1999.

Briefly, here's how Baldinger said the URP would work: The Urban Renewal Authority would issue bonds to fund capital projects. When new development or redevelopment occurs within the boundaries of the Urban Renewal Area, bond underwriters would approximate the resulting increase in tax revenue. A portion of the incremental increase in property tax revenues would be set aside to pay off the bonds.

The city would determine how the proceeds of the bonds would be spent. However, the bonds would not be the obligation of the city but of the authority.

Baldinger said the Steamboat public schools would be protected by provisions in the state statute from any loss in tax revenue. The city does not collect property taxes. However, other taxing entities -- Routt County for example -- should benefit in the long-term from the resulting stimulation of development activity in the base area and the expansion of the property tax base with more valuable developments, Baldinger said.

He said the City Council is not required by the law to take URP to the voters for approval.

City Manager Paul Hughes tentatively predicted that the City Council would be interested in learning more about a plan that holds the promise of funding needed capital projects.

"Council is always happy to see the private sector take the initiative," Hughes said. "With the right boundaries, it would probably be well received."

The boundaries of the URP would take in commercial and multi-family housing projects and development sites bordering the ski area, or those directly across the street from the ski trails. The area takes in Bear Claw, Apres Ski Way, the Steamboat Grand, Ski Time Square, Bronze Tree and the lower portions of Storm Meadows. Baldinger said the intent was to limit the URP to an area that represents reasonable walking distances for tourists. He thinks the blueprint for the improvement projects already exists in the city's Mountain Town Sub-Area Plan and its five-year capital improvement plan.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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