Council tables URA plan

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— The Steamboat Springs City Council put off approving a plan for the newly formed urban renewal authority, preferring to ease the concerns of other government agencies first.

At Tuesday night's meeting, the council was scheduled to approve the Steamboat Springs Base Area Reinvestment Plan, but Council President Paul Strong suggested holding off until the city had discussions with the Routt County commissioners and the Steamboat Springs School District.

"I think the downside to tabling is slight and the upside of getting community buy-in is great," Strong said.

The council voted 5-2 to table the plan to its Jan. 18 meeting and agreed to meet with those entities affected by the urban renewal authority. Councilwomen Kathy Connell and Nancy Kramer cast the two objecting votes, questioning how much would be accomplished by postponing the vote.

The intent of the URA 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 by new development or redevelopment in the area.

Money funneled to fund the authority otherwise would go to the county or school district.

No representatives from the county or the school district came to Tuesday's meeting. Both entities expressed concerns with the plan at the Dec. 7 council meeting, when the council approved forming the Steamboat Springs Reinvestment Authority.

The council has 120 days after its first public hearing to adopt the plan, which will give the city until April to approve it.

* City Council President Paul Strong expressed the city's deepest sympathy to the Stamp family and friends for the loss of Ashley Stamp, a 13-year-old girl who died Sunday in a skiing accident. Ashley's mother, Kelly Stamp, has worked with the city for more than 10 years and now works in the Parks, Open Space, and Recreational Services Department. * The council said it liked the use and general concept of the pre-application plans for the Alpenglow Building. As planned, the development would include a three-story, mixed-use building on the southwest corner of Lincoln Avenue and Sixth Street and six townhomes along the remainder of the parcel. The development would replace the Nite's Rest Motel. Council members were concerned about the height of the building and a proposed lighted tower on top of the retail building. * The council decided not to turn the traffic light at Mount Werner Road and Central Park Drive to flashing lights and to keep it operating as intended until after the holiday season. The council will discuss the light at its Jan. 4 meeting. * Councilwoman Kathy Connell announced that Steamboat Springs Airport Manager Matt Grow has resigned to take a job at an airport in Florida. * The council approved adding Martin Luther King Day to the list of employee holidays, effective in 2005. * Connell requested that the city review its ordinance on regulating fireplaces and selling fireplace rights and how it affects multi-family units. * A city finance report showed city sales tax revenue was up 3.14 percent for October, bringing in $868,525. The year-to-date total, $12.1 million, is up 6.49 percent. * The council tabled indefinitely an ordinance approving the purchase of property from Union Pacific Railroad Company.

"I think we have the opportunity to work with community members. We have a deadline of 120 days from tonight. If everyone knows that, it will motivate us and motivate them to come to the table," Councilman Loui Antonucci said.

Kramer and Connell disagreed. Connell said the questions and concerns could be worked out through the natural process of the authority. All projects and financing mechanisms must be approved separately through the authority's board, which is the acting city council.

"Are we going to be leaders in this community or are we going to be more concerned with politics?" Connell said.

In the past year, the city and county have disagreed on a number of issues. The council objected to the commissioner's decision to build a courthouse west of the downtown, and the commissioners objected to the council's filing for recreational water rights.

"We are talking about relationships with other entities that have not shown us the mutual respect that we are going to extend to them," Kramer said.

In a Dec. 17 letter to the council, the commissioners said they thought the plan was rushed and too general.

The school district fears it 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, and the school district is asking for a hold-harmless clause in the plan.

Proponents of the authority have said that if the city is 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.

At Tuesday's meeting, city-hired attorney Malcolm Murray explained to the council that if it waited until 2005 to approve the plan and used the 2004 tax values as its base, the city could be vulnerable to challenges from other entities

"What you are doing, if you wait until January or later, you are putting yourself at risk that someone could challenge the 2004 base," Murray said. "I would be very careful."

Kramer also expressed concerns about speculation that the state Legislature could revise a statute governing URAs during the upcoming legislative session and Steamboat could miss out on the opportunity to use the funding mechanism. She likened it to the city's missed chance at the real estate transfer tax.

Those in favor of tabling the plan think the time allowed for more education and discussion outweighs the risks of waiting.

"We are different up here," Councilman Ken Brenner said. "Whether or not we are required to provide more detail (in the plan) maybe an entirely different question as to whether or not our constituency expects us to provide detail."

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