Mainstreet Steamboat vows to tackle some Yampa Street improvements by 2013

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Reader poll

Do you support the plans for improvements on Yampa Street to make the area more appealing to pedestrians and cyclists?

  • Yes, it will make the area safer for all users. 58%
  • No, I like Yampa Street how it is. 31%
  • I don't know. 3%
  • I don't care. 7%

507 total votes.

— Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, with the encouragement of community leaders working toward improvements on Yampa Street, has resolved to go to voters in the downtown commercial district in November 2013 to ask for a property tax. The property tax collected only within the boundaries of an existing business improvement district would fund operations and management to help make the entire downtown more of a people magnet.

But first, the executive committee working with a group from the Urban Land Institute to make the Yampa Street commercial district more appealing to pedestrians and cyclists has promised to make at least some intermediate improvements.

“We’re determined to show some improvements by next spring,” Mark Scully said Thursday.

A downtown Steamboat developer, Scully is a member of the group working with a technical assistance panel of experts from the Colorado chapter of the Urban Land Institute studying the most effective path to developing the potential of Yampa Street. Scully spoke Thursday during the summer's final economic development seminar hosted by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

Scully said low-cost improvements to Yampa that could be undertaken in 2013 include using large flower planters to temporarily serve the function that curb bump-outs do on Lincoln Avenue, where they shorten the distance pedestrians must travel to cross the street. Another possibility is small traffic turnarounds not unlike roundabouts that would calm traffic at the intersections of Yampa Street and its side streets. Those likely would be removable in winter, Mainstreet Steamboat manager Tracy Barnett said.

Finally, Scully said he is partial to a new form of traffic calming known as a super sharrow that accommodates a mix of bicycle and vehicle traffic at low speeds. The traffic lane could be painted a friendly color like green, signifying low speed limits — possibly as low as 13 mph on Yampa Street. The intent is to make cyclists feel more comfortable along the streetscape.

Scully said another topic of discussion is the possibility of a part-time pedestrian mall. For example, Yampa Street might be closed to vehicular traffic from 4 to 10 p.m. on one or more weekend nights.

Mainstreet Steamboat already has helped to create the business improvement district that stretches from about Third to 13th streets and Yampa to Oak streets in downtown Steamboat. However, an effort in 2007 to fund the district with a property tax limited to the boundaries of the district failed by six votes. Eligible voters in 2013 would include property owners, business owners and residents of the district. Barnett said the monies would be used for operations and maintenance in the downtown district, including things like flower containers and informational signage.

In addition to the business improvement district tax, Scully said the group is pursuing revenues from the 1 percent city accommodations tax. The tax, which typically generates $650,000 to $800,000 each year, will be freed up from its Haymaker Golf Course obligation beginning in 2014. Nearly 40 ideas for how to use the tax revenues were submitted to the city this summer. A committee is now asking the groups behind the best of those ideas to participate in a more formal RFP process.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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