Downtown URA proposed

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Cathy Shipley honored

Council member Paul Strong read a proclamation Tuesday night honoring Cathy Shipley, a 15-year employee of the state Department of Local Affairs who, as a regional manager, helped bring $8.5 million in grant funding to Steamboat. Grant funds facilitated by Shipley improved facilities including Yampa Valley Medical Center, Centennial Hall, ski jumps at Howelsen Hill, and the Stock Bridge Transit Center.

"Thank you so very much," Shipley told the council via a conference phone call. "I had no idea of the amount of dollars I never added it up."

— A taxing district known as an Urban Renewal Authority, or URA, has been proposed for downtown Steamboat Springs.

Nancy Kramer, design committee chair for Main Street Steamboat Springs, made the proposal to the Steamboat Springs City Council Tuesday night.

A downtown URA would use a fraction of revenue from future property taxes, and possibly sales taxes, in the area to fund neighborhood improvements within the district boundaries, Kramer said.

A downtown URA would apply to businesses and residences between Second Street and 13th Street, she added, from the Yampa River to the alley between Oak Street and Pine Street.

"We feel this is an incredible measure to capture tax-increment financing to help finance infrastructure improvements," Kramer said.

Council members expressed surprise at the proposal and questioned its effect on both city finances and on revenues for entities such as the Steamboat Springs School District and the Steamboat Springs Fire Department.

"This is out of the blue," council member Paul Strong said. "I certainly need a lot more information."

The city of Steamboat Springs established a URA in an area around the base of Steamboat Ski Area in 2005.

While establishing that URA familiarized city officials with the process -- "We've just recently done this; we know what's involved," city attorney Tony Lettunich said -- council members agreed that a downtown URA would require significant amounts of research and study before implementation.

Council President Ken Brenner said the council will conduct a work session Sept. 12 to discuss the issues invol-ved with a downtown URA.

"I'd like to see open discussion begin as soon as possible between the county, the school district and all the special districts that could be affected," Brenner said.

During public comment, Steamboat Springs resident Rich Levy said the city should preserve its revenue for projects that are already on the table, such as a new community center and environmental improvements to city facilities.

"The URA proposal for downtown will tie up a significant amount of our sales tax, assuming it uses a sales tax," Rich Levy said. "Redevelopment is booming downtown, without any incentives from us."

Kramer said Main Street Steamboat Springs hopes to see the proposal move forward.

"Our objective is to get something in place by December," Kramer said.

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