Our View: Positive steps for base area

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Editorial Board, February 2009 through May 2009

  • Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Paul Hughes, community representative
  • Gail Smith, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— The continued planning and eventual construction of a key base area public improvement project took two small, but significant, steps forward recently. Both steps offer promise of fulfilling the vision of a public-private partnership to revitalize the mountain base.

First came news that the Torian Plum Homeowners Association overwhelmingly approved the final design of the proposed base area promenade. Considered the keystone project of the base area urban renewal authority, the promenade proposal would include the construction of a walkway linking One Steamboat Place and Gondola Square to hotels, restaurants and condominiums farther up the ski area base, including where the proposed Thunderhead redevelopment project is slated for eventual construction. Daylighting Burgess Creek along the promenade is another significant component to the project with an estimated price tag of $15 million.

But the design of the promenade became a sticking point in negotiations between Torian Plum homeowners, who wanted to maintain their historic ski-in/ski-out access, and other base area property owners. The final compromise, although not as ideal as the uniform-width pathway previously proposed, is nonetheless an overall positive for the project.

Actual construction of the promenade is another matter. The URA, formed in early 2005, funds capital improvements at the base area using tax revenues from new development and redevelopment within the URA boundaries. In reality, the URA issues bonds for the improvements, and the tax revenues are used to pay back those bonds.

However, the fragility of the bond market and the global economic downturn has prevented the city from pursuing a $20 million bond to fund URA work. Officials have predicted that promenade construction and other URA work could be postponed three years or longer as a result. Such a delay would be detrimental to the revitalization of our mountain resort.

That's where the second bit of good news comes in. Steamboat Springs-based attorney David Nagel, a URA advisory committee member, recently proposed assembling a subcommittee of experts to explore funding options for a bond. With approval from his fellow URA committee members, Nagel plans to put together a group of local and outside experts in finance and municipal bonds. Any potential success will be dependent upon the city's ability to repay that debt, which will be affected by adjustable interest rates and the assessed valuation of URA properties.

Nonetheless, Nagel's leadership and a workable compromise with the Torian Plum Homeowners Association has at least cleared the way for potential advances in base area projects and funding. We applaud both steps.

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