URA plan before council

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Tonight is Steamboat Springs City Council's last chance to get the Steamboat Springs Reinvestment Authority up and running before 2005.

Two weeks after approving the formation of an urban renewal authority, the council is being asked to approve the plan to go forward with it. The plan is more of a charter for the authority. The actual framework for what projects and improvements are set for the base area will be part of the update to the Mountain Town Sub Area Plan.

"This is not like the plan you are used to with maps of the city, proposed projects, elevations and designs. It is not that sort of plan. It is a guideline for the redevelopment of the base area," City Attorney Tony Lettunich said.

At the Dec. 7 meeting, Routt County commissioners and representatives of the Steamboat Springs School District raised concerns about the plan and the effect it could have on them.

"We expect there to be quite a bit of discussion," City Deputy Manager Wendy DuBord said of tonight's meeting.

The intent of the urban renewal authority is to raise money to fund public improvements in the vicinity of the Steamboat Ski Area's base. The authority would be funded through the increase in property tax created from new development or redevelopment in the area. The city has no property tax, but the school district and county rely heavily on such taxes.

The city estimates that $3.4 million could be raised in 25 years through an incremental tax. As proposed, the projects would be funded through a bond issue and paid off during a 25-year span.

Hopes are that infrastructure improvements will spur private property owners to make improvements and redevelop their properties.

Proponents of the authority have said that if the city were going to capture more than $100,000 in incremental taxes for 2004, the plan would have to be approved before 2005. Routt County Assessor Amy Williams wrote a letter to the city stating that the base tax level for the area was established in early December and would not be changed until August.

Lettunich said that if the city approves the plan after 2004, another tax entity legally could challenge the city for using 2004 values as its taxing base. That lawsuit could tie up funding and improvement projects for another year or two, Lettunich said.

"If the council adopts the plan before the end of 2004, that eliminates at least one argument that might be available to the objectors," Lettunich said.

The plan the council will be asked to approve tonight is a general description of the existing conditions, needs and suggested approach to revitalizing the area. The base area encompasses 347 acres, including Ski Time Square and Tennis Meadows.

To approve the plan, the council also has to find that the area is blighted and the plan conforms to the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan.

A blight study done by URS, a Denver-based firm hired by the city, determined that the base area met seven of the state's 11 criteria needed to demonstrate blight.

Those findings were that the area has deteriorating structures, inadequate street layout, faulty lot size, unsafe conditions, deterioration of site improvements, inadequate public improvements and substantial underutilization or vacancy of sites, buildings or other improvements.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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