URA petition given to city

Residents tell City Council the ski area needs improvements

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A group looking to redevelop the base of the ski area presented two petitions to City Council on Tuesday night asking that an urban renewal authority be formed to fund improvements.

The council asked members of the Base Area Reinvestment Coalition questions about how the authority would be created and operated, but council members gave no feedback on the authority's merits.

Instead, they agreed to hold a work session with the group in November to continue discussions on the issue. The council is the only body that can approve the urban renewal authority and its plans and boundaries.

Two petitions, one from city residents and one from county residents, supported the authority and had about 40 signatures each.

Representing the coalition Tuesday, real estate agent David Baldinger Jr. told the council that the base area was in disrepair, and that an urban renewal authority could provide public improvements such as sidewalks, streetscapes, public art and escalators.

"It is pretty obvious, we are already at a critical point," Baldinger said.

Malcolm Murray, an attorney who has worked with urban renewal authorities across the state, answered the council's questions. He said an authority would not hurt the city's bond rating and advised the council to act as the appointed board for the authority.

Murray also said the improvement project could be initially funded by a deep-pocketed developer who could be reimbursed over time or by issuing bonds.

The group's proposal is for the authority to receive a fraction of property tax revenues from development and redevelopment of land at the base to fund public improvements. The authority would generate $5 million to $10 million during its 25-year lifetime without imposing a new tax on property owners.

The authority would receive new tax revenue that would otherwise come into Routt County or the Steamboat Springs School District during the next 10 to 20 years.

Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Donna Howell expressed concern about the proposal, fearing it could take away a stable funding source. She asked that the school district be exempted.

Baldinger thinks the authority would not negatively affect the school district's finances and said an exemption could be a possible solution.

"If they aren't happy, we aren't happy," coalition member Whitney Ward said.

He said the redevelopment of the base area would spark development outside the authority's boundaries, bringing in more money to the school district and county. He also said the money the new development would raise might not be there if it weren't for the improvements.

The group also discussed having an incremental sales tax revenue in the authority's boundaries go to fund public improvements.

Because much of the development and redevelopment is expected to occur with residential properties, Baldinger said the majority of the money is expected to come from property taxes. Sales taxes could still be used to supplement the funding, he said.

After hearing the plan in June, Routt County commissioners said they supported the concept but said the proposal should have city sales tax support and that the city should commit funding for projects at the base area.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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