Special district mulled

Property owners ask for deannexation, special district

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Walter Scott is hedging his bets on how to develop a 180-acre parcel next to the Steamboat Springs Airport.

Two months ago, Scott filed a request with the 14th Judicial District Court to deannex the land from the city of Steamboat Springs, a request the city is not willing to support.

Alternatively, Scott is examining the possibility of creating a special district that would help fund bringing utilities to the same land.

If property owners in the proposed district, the city and then voters approve the special district, Scott said he would not deannex the land.

Scott is part of the Patricia Ann Scott Family Partnership that owns 180 acres on the west side of Elk River Road and 50 acres on the east side of the road next to the Steamboat Springs Airport.

During the course of four years and more than 100 meetings, Scott has looked at ways to bring water, sewer, roads and other utilities to the land, an undertaking he said could cost $12 million.

Last fall, Scott came before the City Council, asking to form a special district, which would create a funding mechanism for putting infrastructure on the land and not place the entire burden on the developer.

At a City Council meeting last month, Scott's attorney, Mark Frierich, said they would like to put a question on the November ballot asking voters to approve a special improvement district.

City Attorney Tony Lettunich said the city is not opposed to the special district but said it should be the landowners' responsibility to organize it.

"Various funding mechanisms could possibly be available; we aren't saying no to their suggestion," Lettunich said, but noted the city shouldn't be responsible for setting up the special district. "Usually it is the developers who put the thing together."

Scott said his skepticism, combined with the city's initial reluctance to pursue the special district concept, had him move forward with the deannexation process.

"I don't think we really have a chance (at a special district)," Scott said.

Deannexation would allow Scott to divide the land into 35-acre parcels and avoid the expense of installing city-required infrastructure and following stringent city guidelines.

However, the land could not be as densely developed if it becomes part of the county. And to annex back into the city in the future, Scott would run the risk of having tougher city regulations to follow.

The deannexation request is being made on the grounds that the Scott property does not have access to utilities that are provided to the rest of the city.

"This is a waste of taxpayers' money. If they can't do what the city is suppose to do, when it is a burden, let us go," Scott said. "Not only can't they do it, they haven't indicated any willingness to do it."

Lettunich argues the city has provided the property with the same access to utilities as other properties.

"It is just expensive to get to," Lettunich said.

One of the biggest infrastructure expenses Scott faces is putting in a loop water system, which would be required under city code if the land is developed. An easy solution for providing a looped system would be to install one pipeline on each side of Elk River Road. Although legal and meeting the original intent of the code, it only would loop his property.

A special district would help create a looped system throughout the property to which future developments could be linked.

The city has opposed the deannexation request to protect the city's boundary and to dispute Scott's claims that it has denied him service.

"At this point, the general charge of the people of the city is to keep the city intact. We don't see a good reason for him to disconnect," Lettunich said.

The Scott property is within the West of Steamboat Springs Plan. Under the plan's mandate to develop land from east to west, Scott's should be one of the first properties developed. If deannexed from the city, the property could complicate the elements of the plan, which include a major road running through his land.

The property and proposal for a special district to support infrastructure is expected to be discussed at the July 20 City Council meeting when the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan is on the agenda.

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