City planners recommend URA plan

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With little discussion, the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission recommended approval for the urban renewal authority plan, stating it was in conformance with the Steamboat Springs Community Area Plan and the Mountain Town Sub Area Plan.

On Tuesday, the City Council approved the urban renewal authority, but before the city can begin collecting the taxes to fund the authority, a plan has to be presented and passed.

The plan is more of a charter than a typical plan with diagrams, site drawings, specific projects and design elements. Under state statute, the planning commission for the municipality has to submit in writing a recommendation to the City Council that the plan is in conformity with the community plan.

The newly updated Steamboat Springs community plan states that the base area "required significant improvements to infrastructure and physical form to make it more functional and attractive."

The planning commission voted unanimously Thursday night that the proposed URA plan meets that vision.

Commission Chairwoman Kathi Meyer said that throughout the years, all of the commissioners had spent a great deal of time working on community plans, which establish a list of goals and to-do items. Many of the items never make it out of the plan, she said.

"The problem is always the money. I am really pleased someone has stepped forward with an idea to provide a funding mechanism."

The urban renewal authority would raise money for public improvements at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area. The money would come from the increase in property tax created from new development or redevelopment of that area. The added property taxes would otherwise go toward Routt County and the Steamboat Springs School District.

Planning Commissioner Dick Curtis questioned Planning Director Steve Stamey about the reaction of other municipalities.

At Tuesday's council meeting, Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said he thought the process to form an urban renewal authority was moving too fast. Monger said the county did not have a problem with the creation of the authority, but it did have concerns with the plan, which the city is scheduled to adopt Dec. 21.

School district officials feared the district could lose money if the state decides to change the way it finances schools. Any shortfall the authority would create in tax revenue for the school district would be compensated by the state though backfill money. But the state funding could change, they said.

"I sincerely hope the concerns expressed by the county commissioners, School Board and citizens will, in fact, be addressed," Curtis said. "Right now, the plan lacks detail. We need that additional detail in the plan to make everyone comfortable with it. I would like to see total buy-in on this."

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