No metropolitan district for Wildhorse

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— The Steamboat Springs City Council said "no" Tuesday night to a proposal that would have raised property taxes for future homeowners at the Wildhorse Meadows development.

While the council approved the development plan, site layout and community housing plan for Wildhorse Meadows Tuesday, council members rejected a proposal from developers RP Steamboat, LLC, to create a metropolitan district for the development.

The "metro district" would have allowed developers to pay for the construction of development infrastructure, such as roads and water systems, with tax-exempt, low-interest bonds that future homeowners would have paid off with higher property taxes over as many as 30 years, city attorney Tony Lettunich said Wednesday.

Without a metro district, developers would most likely have to pay for infrastructure through large bank loans that they pay off, rather than Wildhorse residents.

"My answer was absolutely no," City Council President Ken Brenner said of allowing Wildhorse developers to create a metro district. "I think it's not only a bad policy, it's also a bad precedent to allow a special district like that to be formed inside the city limits, and to pass all that debt on to future homeowners. I think it would be completely irresponsible of city government to do that."

Council President Pro-tem Susan Dellinger said RP Steamboat partners Whitney Ward and Brent Pearson did not give the council enough information as to how a metro district would benefit the public or what compensation RP Steamboat could provide the city.

"Long-term, it's hard to make that kind of decision without a lot more information," Dellinger said. "We weren't prepared to put something like that on the ballot. We're just not sure (a metro district) is the best choice. The citizens would end up paying for (infrastructure), without the developers paying for it."

Lettunich said the council left the door open to hearing another metro district proposal from Wildhorse developers later this year for possible placement on a November 2007 ballot.

"I think what we'll be doing is considering what, if any, type of special district might be appropriate within our city limits, and for what reasons," Brenner said. "The biggest problem with the metropolitan district is that the city is not in charge -- I can't see any way to avoid those conflicts in the future."

City Clerk Julie Jordan said Wednesday that she did not receive a petition from a community group seeking to ask voters to close Steamboat Springs Airport. Wednesday was the deadline for Jordan to receive a petition that could place an issue on the Nov. 7 ballot for city voters.

"I would not accept (a petition) at this point," Jordan said just before 5 p.m.

Steamboat voters will not be asked this year whether the airport should be closed.

Supporters of a ballot issue to form a "general improvement district," or GID, at the Steamboat Ski Area base did turn in a petition, Jordan said, but it contained only eight signatures. Under state statutes for a GID ballot issue, petitioners have until Aug. 15 to supplement the petition and reach the required 200 signatures.

If a valid petition is submitted, Jordan would mail ballots to about 1,000 voting property owners around the base area. The ballot would ask voters whether they support raising their property taxes, by no more than 6 mills, to fund about $500,000 in operations and maintenance costs for the base area district each year.

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