City approves URA plan


The Steamboat Springs City Council approved the plan for an urban renewal authority after hammering out the details on its boundaries, what the city's contribution would be, the role of private property owners and backfilling any potential loss to the school district.

The council discussed the plan for four hours before approving it 4-3 on Tuesday night. Although Councilman Steve Ivancie was one of the three to cast a no vote, he said the plan was a major improvement to the one tabled Dec. 21.

"What we have here is much better," Ivancie said. "We have gone a long ways in building ourselves a strong foundation."

The intent of the urban renewal authority is to raise money to fund public improvements in the vicinity of the Steamboat Ski Area's base. The authority would be funded partially through the increase in property tax created from new development or redevelopment in the area. Money funneled to fund the authority otherwise would go to the county or school district.

"Whether we like it or not, the main economic driver of our community is the ski mountain," Councilwoman Kathy Connell said. "Whether we like it or not, we haven't seen any changes in the tax structure, and a great amount of the city budget is based upon sales tax and is supported by tourists. It is incumbent on City Council to make sure we take care of the hand that feeds us."

One of the most significant changes in Tuesday's approved plan was the council's inclusion of an incremental tax on its sales tax. As with the county's property tax, any increase in sales tax within the authority's boundaries would go to the urban renewal authority.

City Finance Director Don Taylor said the increase in sales tax revenue at the mountain base from 2003 to 2004 was $140,000. The tax increment financing only would apply to the city's 4 percent sales tax and not the half-percent sales tax that goes to the Steamboat Springs School District.

The county had requested that the plan include a city contribution to match its property tax contribution.

At the Steamboat Springs School Board meeting Monday, the school district and the city reached a verbal agreement in which the city would provide the district as much as $30,000 a year during the life of the proposed URA should the authority strip the school system of property tax revenue it can not make up through state backfill. On Tuesday, the council also agreed to those conditions.

One of the major discussion points of Tuesday's meeting was hashing out what involvement private property owners should play in the urban renewal authority. Councilman Ken Brenner suggested that the city should put wording into the plan requiring property owners in the mountain area to form a local marketing district to assist in the improvements.

"There will be a benefit to private investment," Brenner said. "I want to see a mechanism in place."

Other council members bulked at the idea of immediately requiring a local marketing district. Council President Paul Strong said that with the amount of vacancies in the mountain area and the hardships of staying in business, the added expense of a local marketing district could cause businesses to go under. Councilman Loui Antonucci said part of the idea of a URA is to allow and spark business owners to make their own improvements.

The council clearly stated that the intent of the urban renewal authority was to do publicly funded improvement projects to spur private property owners to redevelop or develop their land.

Council members decided the city would not fund public improvements on private property, unless part of the property was acquired as a public easement. And it cleaned up language in the plan requiring any private property owner who specifically and directly benefits from a public improvement project to contribute to the project.

The council also established the boundaries of the authority Tuesday night. As proposed, the boundary included the Tennis Meadows, ran along the south side of AprÃs Ski Way up to Ski Trail Lane across to Storm Meadow condos, down along Burgess Creek Road and south to include the Rockies, Moraine and Porches developments.

The council voted to exclude the group of mainly residential homes in the hook of Ski Trail and to not add in the Tennis Meadows parking lot.

Brenner, Ivancie and Councilwoman Susan Dellinger voted against the final approval of the URA plan. They disagreed with a study finding the area as blighted, were concerned about not receiving a report from the Tax Policy Advisory Committee before approving the plan and questioned dedicating money to a URA over other worthy city problems such as affordable housing and building infrastructure west of Steamboat.


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