The city’s pending purchase of 586 acres on Emerald Mountain is adding a $755,000 expense to a budget strapped by declining funds for capital projects. The purchase could reduce funds available for future projects, such as an extension of Yampa River Core Trail, which Judy and David Saunders, of Chicago, enjoyed during a snowy day in April 2010.

Photo by John F. Russell

The city’s pending purchase of 586 acres on Emerald Mountain is adding a $755,000 expense to a budget strapped by declining funds for capital projects. The purchase could reduce funds available for future projects, such as an extension of Yampa River Core Trail, which Judy and David Saunders, of Chicago, enjoyed during a snowy day in April 2010.

Emerald deal has wide reach in Steamboat

Orton parcel’s $755,000 cost deepening city’s reserve spending

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— As the city prepares to close next month on a highly prized Emerald Mountain parcel, the reserve spending required for the purchase and Steamboat Springs’ shrinking capital improvements fund is creating some trepidation in City Hall.

“The bottom line is, nothing we do is going to remove the fact that we’re spending a couple million of reserves this year, period … and now we’re asking to spend another $755,000,” city Finance Director Deb Hinsvark said Monday. “The $755,000, no matter how you slice it, is going to put us further into the use of our reserves.”

Spending money on the 586 acres owned by Lyman Orton, highly desired for its recreation value and permanent public use, could significantly reduce the amount of funds available for an array of future capital improvement projects. Potentially affected projects include new headquarters for the Steamboat Springs Police Department and extensions of Yampa River Core Trail.

“There are going to be a lot of mothballed projects to do this,” Hinsvark said.

The city’s capital improvements program is funded by building-use and excise taxes from new development, state and federal grants and even the city’s general fund, which pumped $1.6 million into the program in 2010. The capital fund begins 2011 with a balance of about $5.5 million but is projected to end this year with about $3 million. The fund, drained by a recessionary economy and lack of new development, is projected to have about $2 million available annually from 2013 until at least 2016.

The capital fund also provides hundreds of thousands of dollars for annual paving projects and ongoing expenses, including $90,000 in yearly athletic field improvements contractually required by Triple Crown Sports.

“It’s apparent that if we only have $2 million a year to spend on non-grant-related projects, we would spend half of that amount on our street and parking lot repair projects,” Hinsvark said.

Steamboat Spr­­ings City Council members noted the sharp decline in the capital fund during the budget process in October. Councilman Jon Quinn, for example, called the projections “absolutely terrifying” and “unsustainable.”

But several factors, including the timing of a $600,000 Great Outdoors Colorado grant and strong community desire for the Emerald land, led City Council to move forward with the Orton purchase, which has a total cost of about $1.3 million.

Tax debate coming

The Emerald purchase also could heighten a coming debate about the city’s accommodations tax. That tax is dedicated to uses that promote tourism and improve Steamboat’s identity as a destination resort. Its revenues have long been dedicated to Haymaker Golf Course, but that use of the tax revenue sunsets in 2013, creating an availability of potential funds that has not gone unnoticed by local organizations.

“I’ve been on the (Howelsen) ice rink advisory committee, and they’re very interested in that tax … along with Great Outdoors Colorado (grant funds), to hopefully put up another sheet of ice,” Pete Van de Carr said Monday.

Van de Carr compared interest in accommodations tax revenues to “vultures circling over a dead cow.”

Hinsvark, tho­­ugh, suggested to City Council last week that future accommodations tax revenues could be used to pay back the city for the Emerald purchase. She said the land’s value to tourism and the Bike Town USA initiative could make such a use appropriate.

Accommodations tax revenues, at least in part, also could continue to be used for Haymaker improvements after 2013, Hinsvark said.

City Council President Cari Hermacinski acknowledged the looming issue.

“We all know if there’s one tax that everyone has their eyes on in the very near future, this is clearly it,” Hermacinski said last week. “I think this is really just an introduction to this idea.”

Councilman Scott Myller said he would want “complete buy-in from the lodging community” for any future use of the accommodations tax.

City Council’s discussion of that tax is slated to continue next month.

Meanwhile, government programs manager Winnie Delli­Quadri said the city should be able to close on the Emerald parcel early in March. Some of the $755,000 already has been spent, she said, for items including an appraisal of the Emerald land, an environmental statement and surveying.

“At closing, we will have spent all of the $755,000,” DelliQuadri said. “I anticipate no hiccups at this point; it’s all progressing nicely.”

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Chad Fleischer 3 years, 7 months ago

An accommodation tax is the wrong way to go for paying for what inevitably is for our own benefit as locals and not for tourists. While I fully support the purchase of this tract of land and think it is important to keep in mind that with this purchase will come the governmental red tape.
Will there be a way to keep this land from becoming a highlight reel for special interest groups wanting a cabin, a trail or two or three or ten, a fence, a garden, etc? With this purchase comes more costs and it will be an entity owned by the City, controlled by the City and hopefully very well looked after by our parks and rec dept. Everyone wants more money for their infrastructure but whatever happened to taking pride in doing more with less? How about as a City we continue to spend less, save more and still try to find a viable taxable solution. Any tax increase needs to be broad based not accommodation based. I also think this can and should go a step further and involve thoughts on how we begin to develop a solid plan for a rec center for the City. Any tax revenue should significantly add to the tax base for future funding of all projects that are solely and exclusively for public benefit and not to be used for anything else.
Core Trail, Rec Center, Howlsen Hill, Emerald Purchase, etc. We are so far from a rec center in this town and it needs to become a central focus for the City COuncil once again.
The current economic conditions must be taken advantage of to secure land for this.There are a few parcels that work and make sense to buy and the only other viable option is the tennis center property. Steamboats Core Trail is a bit of a disaster when you consider what Breck, Keystone, Copper, VAil, Aspen and even Glenwood all have. Emerald is an amazing opportunity and we are lucky to be able to purchase this land but we need to make sure we don't botch this one. The K38 is a big concern for allocation of funds as it does not suit the "wants and needs" of the community as a whole for a public benefit. The key to all of this is to treat our local government like a business and stop playing small town politics. We pride ourselves in being so "not mainstream", "western" yet we run our City with the same stale mentality that is not innovative, not progressive. There are so many incredible things we need and want to accomplish as a community but an accommodations tax is not the way to get us there we need to collectively decide that we as a community want to pay to get there and get there fast. I am willing to pay to play as long as I know it doesn't come with bogus pay raises, bogus expenditures, political stalemates and a lack of vision and leadership. What is the 10 year plan for our personal public benefits here in Steamboat? Is the City capable of coming up with one without paying some consulting firm to tell us what we want and need? It is time to take control of our environment, have a vision and goals and chart our path!

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 7 months ago

Everyone wants more money for their infrastructure but whatever happened to taking pride in doing more with less? How about as a City we continue to spend less, save more and still try to find a viable taxable solution.

We are so far from a rec center in this town and it needs to become a central focus for the City COuncil once again.

Steamboats Core Trail is a bit of a disaster when you consider what Breck, Keystone, Copper, VAil, Aspen and even Glenwood all have.

we need to collectively decide that we as a community want to pay to get there and get there fast.

Sounds like we need to be frugal and quickly buy all of the amenities we desperately need without any tax increases.

Which is precisely why why the accommodations tax is being so closely eyed, it is the Holy Grail of tax revenues because it is currently unallocated. What could be sweeter than that?

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kyle pietras 3 years, 7 months ago

It's simple, the loudest scream gets the attention. True and very sad!

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addlip2U 3 years, 7 months ago

"Accommodations tax revenues, at least in part, also could continue to be used for Haymaker improvements after 2013, Hinsvark said."

NOT....

User fees should be raised to fund all operations and Haymaker improvements after 2013! The golf committee has a responsibility to establish a budget that does not rely upon continued tax revenues.

Ditto the "tennis center".

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mtroach 3 years, 7 months ago

Chad, your post reads like a drunken ramble down Lincoln av.

First let's clear up the Emerald wrongs in your post. with this purchase will come the governmental red tape"; of course it will but the new land purchase is to be managed by the HowelsenEmeraldMountainPartnership a private citizen board. Not "an enity owned by the city, controled by the city and hopefully very well looked after by our parks and rec. dept." Please read the paper about HEMP, and the Emerald purchase.

You ask for; " broad based not accomidation based" taxation but just prior ask the city to" spend less, save more and try to find a viable tax soluition" and next ask the city council to start working toawrd " a solid plan for a rec center for the city" . Which is it save more or spend $34mil on a rec center that we don't need and that will require additional funding to operate. Steamboat does not need a city owned rec center to compete with the private gyms and hot springs Health and Rec. What if we use the accomidations tax to fund a city ski rental outfit located in One Steamboat Place, I bet you wouldn't like to compete with the city parks and rec in your business field.

Now you want to use "current economic conditions to secure land for this"(rec center) did you not read the article where council member Quinn said the decline in the capitol budget was "absolutly terrifing" and "unsustainable". Please do't ask the city to buy land for anything, rmember the Iron Horse? The city has no reason to purchase any land for a n unfunded Rec center. Voters spoke loud and clear on the Rec center issue.

You call the Core trail "a bit of a disaster" ; Really I think it's great, we don't have a Frisco or dillion just 20 miles away to link our Core trail to so how do you expect to develop a Core Trail system that rivals Summit county. The Glenwood trail is built onto the old I-70 roadway and paid for by the Feds during the multi-million dollar bridging of Glenwood canyon. Who even mentioned the K-38?

"Bogus pay raises"; where did that come from? How about we expand the Actax to include condo's and home rentals and earmark the funds for infracture work, or paying for plows, or a police station.

The accomidations tax is exactly what this town needs to accomplish great things. Allow our "guests" to pay for what we feel this town needs. It just need to be expanded to include nightly condo and private home rentals, and be earmarked for public infracture works, like paying for open space, extending the Core trail to our suburbs on the west side and out to Haymaker, or building a new police station.

Or we can let it expire and not have the funds at all.

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pitpoodle 3 years, 7 months ago

Hey, here's an idea. What about a SB property tax to fund, not only affordable housing, but also a big rec center? This instead of allowing our "guests" to pay for what we feel this town needs. I am sure this idea has a nice ring to it for our esteemed city council. Hey, why not have both sources of money to spend?

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