Steamboat Springs Future public improvements at the base of Steamboat Ski Area could be delayed without an agreement for operations and maintenance, the Steamboat Springs City Council was warned this week.
The multi-year redevelopment of public infrastructure at the base area, which began last year with improvements to Ski Time Square Drive, is scheduled to continue this year with the reconfiguration of the Mount Werner Circle and AprÃs Ski Way intersection into a roundabout, among other projects.
In 2009, city officials hope to turn their focus to projects on private property, such as a promenade around the ski base. Consultants hope to begin design and engineering work this spring. But current policy could prevent that.
"Our direction, as it is now, is that we will not put public money into private property until an O and M (operations and maintenance) agreement is in place," Project Coordinator Joe Kracum told the City Council, which was acting as the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority, on Tuesday.
The Base Area Reinvestment Coalition - a collection of base area property owners - has expressed its commitment to reach a final cost-sharing agreement by Feb. 15 for improvements on private property, including the promenade.
"We're in agreement as private property owners that that's ours to take care of," Sheraton Steamboat General Manager Chuck Porter said Thursday.
The daylighting of Burgess Creek is another project proposed for 2009. Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President Chris Diamond said his company would accept operations and maintenance responsibility for that project.
While an agreement for improvements on private property seems imminent, future maintenance of public property is murkier.
"It's not as simple as one O and M agreement that covers everything," said Porter, who noted property owners think the city should take care of the type of amenities it maintains in other parts of the city, such as bus stops. "I don't think we are looking for them to do anything extraordinary."
The previous City Council took a hard-line stance that private property owners should foot the bill for ongoing care after the city's initial investment in improvements.
That stance may be softening.
"I don't think I was very adamant on that," said City Council President Loui Antonucci, a member of the previous and current councils. "This is a large and philosophical issue the City Council is going to have to deal with."
Antonucci has proposed a middle ground approach that would have the city handle operations and maintenance initially, with responsibility shifting to private property owners as they start to see the financial benefit of the improvements.
The city faces many complications, including budget constraints, if it accepts financial responsibility for the operations and maintenance of new improvements. There also are legal disagreements about whether the city's urban renewal authority, a temporary tax district at the base area that funds improvements, can be used for permanent upkeep.
"It's a complex issue," Diamond said.
Diamond noted it's even unclear who will maintain improvements already in place - such as light poles, banners and signs.
"Who's going to replace the light bulbs?" Diamond asked.
There's even a question as to whether the city could fairly apply its current codes to base area properties. An often-cited example is a sidewalk from Village Drive and AprÃs Ski Way to the Gondola Transit Center, proposed for construction this year. Code requires that the owners of the adjacent property maintain sidewalks - this sidewalk would abut land owned by the Snowflower Condominiums.
"That's value to the community," Kracum told City Council on Tuesday. "Nobody's disagreeing with that. But the value to the property is up for discussion."
Even while he said there shouldn't be a double standard for base area properties, Antonucci said this sidewalk might be an extenuating circumstance. While sidewalks downtown on Lincoln Avenue area clearly vital to the properties they serve, Antonucci said, that isn't necessarily true for the Snowflower.
"I'm not sure that sidewalk has anything to do with the operation of the Snowflower," he said. Antonucci said it would be counterintuitive for the base area improvements to "penalize" anyone.
"There's no gain to Snowflower for that," Diamond added. "Why would they accept the liability and the responsibility?"
While the complexities are significant and the negotiations may be difficult, Antonucci said he is encouraged that everyone is willing to come to the table to work it out.
"I think we all want the same thing," Porter said. "We just have to agree that it's maintained to a standard we can agree with. : I think we're all going to have to step up to make it work."
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