4 p.m. City Council convenes as the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority to discuss projects at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area
5:20 p.m. City Council convenes as the local Liquor License Authority for a public hearing for a new tavern liquor license application for Heidi's Little Switzerland
5:30 p.m. Review of a study exploring alternative uses for the Steamboat Springs Airport; review of a study developing a master plan for the Steamboat Springs Airport; resolution adopting a master plan for the Steamboat Springs Airport
7 p.m. Public comment; review of the city's facilities plan; discussion of a timeline related to the city's vacation home rental ordinance; executive session to discuss a parcel within city limits
Airport redevelopment costs and benefits
Estimated closure costs $15.9 to $16.9
Estimated redevelopment costs $11.1
Estimated land value $7.4 to $9.2
Potential city subsidy required for redevelopment $6.7 to $9.5
Steamboat Springs Redeveloping Steamboat Springs Airport for other uses would be a money-losing venture for the city, according to a report that will be presented to the Steamboat Springs City Council tonight.
Closure and redevelopment costs would outweigh the land value of the property to the tune of between $6.7 million and $9.5 million, according to a $100,000 study conducted by consultants Matrix Design Group.
The multimillion-dollar subsidy from the city that would be required to close and redevelop the airport is mostly the result of the costly demolition of airport facilities and grants the city would have to repay because it accepted them under contractual obligations that it would operate and maintain the airport.
The city's existing subsidies of the Steamboat Springs Airport is a criticism often cited by airport opponents. Matrix will report the subsidy averaged $242,000 a year from 2001 to 2006. But Matrix also predicts the airport will become a break-even operation for the city once the bonds for its terminal building are paid off in 2009.
The city leases the airport's terminal building to SmartWool. At $177,000 a year, the contract is the airport's largest revenue source. Commercial air service left the Steamboat Springs Airport in 1995.
Matrix's study was conducted among calls from some that the airport should be done away with. In addition to the subsidy argument, critics claim the airport provides little value to the general public and only serves the needs of a privileged few. Critics also say the airport's economic benefits are greatly overstated and that it's redundant and unnecessary because Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden can accommodate all of the region's aviation needs.
Supporters say the airport benefits the city economically by serving local businesses and attracting high-end residents and visitors. Matrix estimates the airport generates $1.2 million in payroll and $3.8 million in total output for the local economy, but that most of that would be transferred to YVRA, not lost, if it closed.
City Manager Alan Lanning predicted the airport debate would make for a lengthy meeting tonight.
"That's not had a full public airing for a long, long time," he said.
The airport, also known as Bob Adams Field, sits on 276 acres on a plateau about 190 feet above the city. The property constitutes the northwestern section of the city's urban growth boundary. In its study, Matrix considered alternative uses such as mixed-use development, housing, industrial uses, park and open space land and other recreational uses. Although its report shows redevelopment would mean a multimillion-dollar loss for the city, Matrix also notes some potential "intangible" benefits such as the opportunity to build affordable housing and the potential for an increased sales tax base.
Although grant repayments to the Federal Aviation Administration pose a daunting hurdle for any redevelopment of the airport, the city would have to get the FAA's approval to close the airport to even get to that point. Jack Dysart, co-chairman of the Steamboat Springs Airport Steering Committee, said the FAA would be less than cooperative.
"They view this as a viable airport and would resist any effort to close it," Dysart said.
In an August 2006 letter to Lanning, Craig Sparks of the Denver Airports District Office elaborated on the FAA's position.
"It is FAA's policy to strengthen the national airports system and not to support the closure of public airports," Sparks wrote. "The FAA has rarely approved an application to close an airport. Such approvals were only in highly unusual circumstances where closing the airport provided a benefit to civil aviation.
"Steamboat Springs Airport is a general aviation airport with 82 based aircraft and over 10,000 annual operations. This is a healthy activity level by any standard for a general aviation airport."
The steering committee was formed in 2006 to guide Matrix's study and a concurrent one to develop an update to the airport's master plan. Dysart said the seven-member committee - which comprises airport supporters, airport critics and neutral members - won't make any specific recommendations to City Council.
"The committee did feel that (Matrix's) findings were important and that they get a public hearing," Dysart said. "The committee isn't making any recommendation other than we think the input is good and the city should pay attention to it."
Co-chairman Michael Turner said the committee did not want its members' personal opinions to influence the work of an independent consultant.
"It is up to City Council, present and future, to decide what they want to do," Turner said.
In what Lanning said would be the "easy part" of tonight's discussion, City Council also will hear a report about the master plan study and be asked to pass a resolution adopting a master plan for the Steamboat Springs Airport. Armstrong Consultants conducted the master plan study at a cost of $216,000. All but $33,000 of that cost was paid for by federal and state grants. The study identifies $40 million in recommended improvements at the airport throughout the next 20 years, with all but $1 million covered by federal and state grants.
Turner said the city must have a master plan in place to qualify for FAA grants, but stressed that adopting the master plan does not obligate the city to do anything.