County hears ski area plans

Commissioners discuss plan to fund public improvements

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Routt County commissioners were supportive of a plan to fund improvements at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area that was presented to them Tuesday.

But, they said, they would need to discuss the plan developed by the Base Area Reinvestment Coalition with the county attorney and finance director before giving it their final blessing.

"I'm really supportive of the general concept," Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.

Stahoviak thanked the coalition for coming to discuss the proposal, which would create an Urban Renewal Authority to capture property tax revenue from redevelopment in the base area and put it back into improving the area's public areas.

Proponents of the plan think a few million dollars could be collected for area improvements.

Routt County would be affected by the plan because a portion of the property taxes it collects from redevelopments in the base area would be redirected to the improvements.

Stahoviak and the other commissioners said they also want to be sure the city of Steamboat Springs is committed financially to the project. The city does not collect property taxes, so its revenues would be less affected by the proposal.

"It's like the city is not really giving financial support to what is happening here," Stahoviak said. Drawing from sales-tax revenues along with property taxes, or finding another way for the city to contribute would make the project more of a "cooperative agreement," she said.

David Baldinger Jr. of Steamboat Village Brokers said the city was contributing by setting aside funds to improve Ski Time Square, but that capturing sales-tax growth for the project also is a possibility.

Baldinger told commissioners the base area is long overdue for public improvements. It is difficult for many tourists to find their way around, and business owners shy away from making improvements to their buildings because they don't know what the bus and foot traffic circulation may be in the future, he said.

"It's been really about 20 years since a shovel was put in the ground (there)," Baldinger said.

The ski area is one of the county's major assets, he said, and the public improvements at the base area would benefit the entire county.

The plan involves establishing URA, which would collect and use a portion of property taxes for improving public facilities in the base area. Only a portion of taxes from new developments in that area would be collected and used, and it would create a revenue source to fund the improvements without creating a new tax.

To collect the portion of property-tax growth, the city would create URA, a decision the City Council has the authority to make on its own.

The strategy is very different from creating a Downtown Development Authority, which Steamboat considered in the late 1990s until voters rejected it in 1999, Baldinger said.

County commissioners said they were glad the new proposal covered a smaller area and raised less money.

Baldinger said the coalition is meeting with all interested parties to consider the proposal and plans to petition the City Council to create the URA this summer.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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