Atlanta resident Greg Cannon rides his snowboard down Headwall on Friday at Steamboat Ski Area after spending some time at Slopeside Grill for aprÃs ski. The base area is being looked at for $15 million in infrastructure improvements, which would include a creek feature.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Atlanta resident Greg Cannon rides his snowboard down Headwall on Friday at Steamboat Ski Area after spending some time at Slopeside Grill for aprÃs ski. The base area is being looked at for $15 million in infrastructure improvements, which would include a creek feature.

Proposed project at base of ski area could break ground this year

Loui Antonucci: City Council not planning to fund project

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Snowmelt system tough to let go

The Urban Redevelopment Area Advisory Committee revived the possibility Feb. 27 of a limited snowmelt system for the new promenade at the base of the ski area.

The committee voted to ask Redevelopment Coordinator Joe Kracum to include cost estimates for installing a snowmelt system in potential problem areas such as stairways and ramps.

And the committee went one step further, agreeing to look into the possibility of installing piping only for a future snowmelt system.

Pointing out that stretches of the promenade in front of new luxury condo projects are almost certain to have developers provide snowmelt systems, committee member Peter Patten urged the committee to consider generating cost estimates for the piping.

Former committee member Bill Jameson backed him up.

"To not provide the plumbing would be rather short-sighted," he said.

— The committee shaping the course of new public improvements at the base of Steamboat Ski Area isn't ready to give up on beginning construction on a pedestrian promenade this year.

The Urban Redevelopment Area Advisory Committee voted unanimously Friday to create a new committee to explore creative financing options that could allow the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority to avoid mothballing the project. The plan received the qualified blessings of Steamboat Springs City Council President Loui Antonucci.

Redevelopment Coordinator Joe Kracum told the group on Friday that the latest cost estimate for the entire project, including the daylighting of Burgess Creek, is $15 million. But some of the underground utility work, plus completion of construction documents and landscaping of a new traffic roundabout, could be accomplished for $4 million.

The group has about $31,000 remaining to spend this year and will use that money to finalize the design package for the pedestrian walkway and related public areas, including the stream banks.

The city's redevelopment authority is funded by new property tax growth at the resort base. However, virtually all of the current revenue stream already is dedicated to recent projects. Interim city Finance Director Bob Litzau has cautioned against going to the bond market for financing the promenade construction at this time. Litzau is concerned about the authority's ability to repay debt given uncertainty about adjustable interest rates, and how the existing assessed valuation in the district might fare in the near future.

The committee got a boost last week with the news that the Torian Plum Homeowners Association overwhelmingly approved the final design of the promenade and agreed in principle to contribute about $35,000 annually to the pedestrian pathway's maintenance. Neighbors including the Sheraton Steamboat Resort and Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. also will contribute maintenance funds.

Despite that encouraging news, the committee seemed resigned to halting construction this year until committee member David Nagel, a Steamboat Springs-based attorney, asked for permission to assemble a committee of experts to look for funding options.

"We're hanging in limbo here. We need to at least generate some minds on this to look at options," Nagel said. "I would propose forming a subcommittee for financing options and get moving on this. There's a lot of good things happening right now (in the bond markets)."

Ski Corp. President Chris Diamond quickly embraced Nagel's plan.

"This is the kind of project that should be being funded right now. It's new investment to create wealth. It's shovel-ready," he said.

Antonucci approved of Nagel's plan but cautioned against misinterpreting his support as meaning City Council would fund it.

"I'd hate to have us come out of the recession in a couple years with no momentum," Antonucci told the group. "I'd like to see a portion of this done. But I don't think there's a chance in hell we'll go into our reserves to fund any part of this."

Nagel was given approval for his plan to assemble a committee of people, some from outside Steamboat, with expertise in finance and municipal bonds, as well as people from city government and the resort community. He will report back to the URAAC before formalizing his subcommittee.

- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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