City explores district taxes

Money would fund improvements in three target areas

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— Steamboat Springs City Council members think special taxing districts could be used to fund improvements in specific areas of the community.

On Tuesday, the council directed staff to consider improvement districts for three areas: west of Steamboat, downtown and near the Steamboat Ski Area.

Don Taylor, the city's director of financial services, briefed the council about types of districts that can raise money through taxes.

Since the adoption of the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan in 1999, the city has not had any annexation proposals in the area.

"We really are at a standstill here," interim City Manager Wendy DuBord said.

On Tuesday, city officials said the lack of development applications for west Steamboat could be attributed to the lack of infrastructure in the area. Council member Towny Anderson said the plan might have made sense at the time it was written, but now it is time for city officials to decide whether the city should provide infrastructure in the area.

"We do have a role," Anderson said.

He said the lack of funding for infrastructure is the only change the plan needs. City and county planners have been working on other ways to make the plan more flexible.

Council President Ken Bren--ner said he was relieved that the council made the decision to look into the possibility of a taxing district for the west of Steamboat area.

"I've been a huge advocate for this for a long, long time," Brenner said.

Taylor also discussed the possibility of a taxing district that would benefit downtown. He said Main Street Steamboat Springs has had preliminary discussions about a business improvement district.

Also, the council discussed the possibility of a taxing district for the mountain base. The recommending committee for the area has held discussions about such a district and has formed a finance committee, Taylor and Brenner said.

Council members agreed that if one proposal for a taxing district could be on the November ballot, they want it to be one that supports the mountain area.

"This one is more urgent," Brenner said.

The financing mechanisms the city will explore include:

Special improvement district: A special improvement district can be created by a city ordinance or by a petition of property owners. Taylor suggested that this type of district might be appropriate for the west of Steamboat area.

Developer/city reimbursement agreements: The developer or the city finance costs for infrastructure. The city would adopt a reimbursement agreement that would require developers who benefit from the infrastructure to pay when they build properties. This was listed as a possibility for the west of Steamboat area and could be used along with a special improvement district.

Business improvement district: A business improvement district, which could be used downtown, raises money through a property tax that applies only to commercial properties. It could be used to raise money for the city's Main Street program, for marketing expenses or to provide additional public services such as snow removal.

General improvement district: A general improvement district is a property tax that applies to residential and commercial properties. It can be formed to construct, install or acquire public improvements as well as pay administrative and operating expenses. Possible operating expenses in the mountain area, where the district was identified as a possibility, include a snowmelt system, an escalator and lift operation costs.

-- To reach Dana Strongin call 871-4229 or e-mail dstrongin@steamboatpilot.com

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