Base area committee faces difficult choice

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Landscaping costs

Redevelopment Coordinator Joe Kracum said he didn't really mean to suggest this month that the Urban Redevelopment Advisory Committee recommend spending $600,000 on landscaping at the new traffic roundabout at Mount Werner Circle and AprÃs Ski Way.

The use of the term "landscaping" was too narrow for the work entailed, he said Friday.

In addition to irrigating in planting shrubs and flowers in the middle of the roundabout, the budget would have covered a variety of more expensive work that doesn't fit under landscaping, he said. The budget also included installing concrete crosswalks in the intersection, constructing a sidewalk on AprÃs Ski Way along the Snowflower Condominiums property line and installing a significant arrival to the resort, including expensive flagpoles. In addition, it included two years of maintenance.

The sidewalk and crosswalks could easily be deferred to a future year, Kracum said. And there has been debate about the appropriate location for the resort's welcoming installation. However, it would be desirable to install the irrigation system and plantings this year.

He promised to bring the URAAC actual construction bids at an upcoming meeting.

— Members of the committee working on construction of a creekside public promenade at the base of Steamboat Ski Area face a decision: ask Steamboat Springs City Council to back an eight-figure construction project in 2010, or settle for a $5 million utility project in 2009.

Steamboat attorney David Nagel, a member of the Urban Redevelopment Area Advisory Committee, told the group Friday that incremental increases in property taxes coming on line at the base of the ski area would be sufficient to support bonded indebtedness of $16.25 million, nearly enough to build the promenade. And even when assuming a 20 percent decrease in assessed valuation at the base of Mount Werner, an $11.52 million bond issue could be supported.

Nagel consulted with investment bankers and bond attorneys in Denver to arrive at the projections.

The catch is that the bond wouldn't fly without the city's willingness to commit reserves to back a portion of the offering.

"It assumes the moral obligation of the city," Nagel said. "The city has to pledge general fund revenues against the bond."

The city reserves wouldn't necessarily be expended, Nagel said, but neither would they be available for other purposes.

That's something City Council President Loui Antonucci has already predicted City Council would be loath to do.

Should the city not come on board, base area tax revenues would generate a little more than $5 million.

That's enough to build a new Burgess Creek diversion structure at $1.3 million - a necessary precursor to construction of the promenade - and install irrigated landscaping in a traffic roundabout.

However, URAAC members were hesitant to go to the bond market for such a small portion of the overall project.

"It's almost a non-starter. We could do the $5.3 million, and we still won't have a promenade," committee member Jim Schneider said. "We need to ask, 'What's the next piece in terms of getting the promenade?' That's the improvement that has the potential to drive new property and sales taxes."

"That's the stimulus that urban renewal is all about," Jane Blackstone added.

Nagel reminded the committee that the original impetus for looking at funding solutions was to avoid letting the project go completely dormant during the recession.

And Redevelopment Coordinator Joe Kracum urged the committee not to abandon the possibility of undertaking limited construction this summer. The date is too late for the major construction of the promenade anyway, he reasoned. And the creek diversion, although unglamorous, only be can undertaken in late summer and fall, when stream flows are down.

Building a more appealing diversion structure for Burgess Creek this summer would set the stage for promenade construction and creation of a new creekbed in 2010, Kracum said.

Nagel and Blackstone have an appointment with city officials Monday to discuss the financial projections.

URAAC now hopes to bring a recommendation to City Council, which acts as the city's redevelopment authority, in early May.

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