Members of a grass-roots revitalization committee are taking steps to secure funding mechanisms for downtown improvements starting in 2013. The committee expanded its reach Thursday by meeting with stakeholders on Oak Street.

Photo by Scott Franz

Members of a grass-roots revitalization committee are taking steps to secure funding mechanisms for downtown improvements starting in 2013. The committee expanded its reach Thursday by meeting with stakeholders on Oak Street.

Plans to revitalize downtown Steamboat rely on support from business owners

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— A grass-roots committee of business owners is moving forward with a plan to secure new streams of revenue to improve the downtown area.

And committee members want business owners on all three of the major downtown streets to be part of the effort that started on Yampa Street.

Mark Scully, who is leading the downtown revitalization committee, met Thursday with about 11 Oak Street property owners to start talking about what they would like to see improved on their side of downtown.

The feedback revealed that better sidewalks, lighting and parking are on the list of priorities.

“More participation of Oak Street (property owners) is important in the evolution of this plan,” Scully said, adding that each street downtown likely will have its own set of priorities and capital needs.

He said the revitalization committee that formed months ago to pursue improvements specifically for Yampa Street is committed to hosting a similar meeting with stakeholders on Lincoln Avenue.

Having the support of business owners on all three major downtown streets will be necessary to secure the funding mechanisms that could pay for future improvements.

To provide funding for an already established downtown business improvement district, a majority of property owners in the district would have to vote in November 2013 to support a property tax increase of as much as 4 mills.

A vote to fund the district in 2007 failed by six votes.

Scully and the downtown revitalization committee also are looking to create an urban renewal authority similar to one created at the base of Steamboat Ski Area that has been used to fund improvements there.

Unlike a funded business improvement district, an urban renewal authority would not impose a tax increase on property owners. Instead, it relies on tax increment funding that generates revenue when improvements increase the value of property within the boundaries of the authority.

An urban renewal authority would have to be approved by the Steamboat Springs City Council.

Scully told the Oak Street property owners he doesn't expect the council will approve an urban renewal authority unless a business improvement district successfully is funded.

Scully and Steamboat Springs Planning Director Tyler Gibbs spent nearly two hours outlining the two funding mechanisms that downtown stakeholders likely will seek to fund infrastructure improvements.

Gibbs said all of the revitalization downtown will aim to keep more people in the area for a longer period of time.

“We want to make downtown a place with more things to do and more reasons to linger,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs and Scully pointed to several areas of Denver, including the 16th Street Mall and a revitalized area near Union Station, as locations that have utilized business improvement districts and urban renewal authorities to transform into more pedestrian-friendly hubs.

Scully said the next step for the committee is to seek a $25,000 loan from the city to pay for a study of the potential tax revenue the funding mechanisms could generate. The study also is necessary to identify “blighted” areas downtown.

For the purpose of the study, blight isn't as bad as it sounds.

Gibbs said problems like a lack of street lighting and disconnected sidewalks will qualify as blight.

Oak Street property owner Steve Lewis, who organized Thursday's meeting, said discussions with his neighbors have revealed enthusiasm and skepticism for a property tax increase to fund improvements.

He said it will be important for stakeholders on the street first to prioritize their list of needs.

“I think it's going to help to put together a list of what we'll want to see change,” Lewis said.

The stakeholders at the meeting agreed to swap their list of wants so that if an urban renewal authority is pursued, Oak Street will be better represented.

The downtown revitalization committee will meet again Jan. 8.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Scott Wedel 1 year, 11 months ago

So if Oak St property owners agree they need a sidewalk then what is stopping neighbors from agreeing to build a sidewalk? Do they really need to create a funding district to do what they agree should be done?

" The study also is necessary to identify “blighted” areas downtown."

And create a new definition of "blight". All of the properties downtown are valuable. The reason some properties are not fully developed is because the owner is waiting for better circumstances.

And the school board should tell them to take a hike if this renewal district wants to capture future increases in property taxes for their improvements. Future increases in property taxes will be the result of better economics and not the work of a renewal district. It would be selling out our kid's education to give these owners of expensive properties a property tax break as their properties appreciate in value.

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John St Pierre 1 year, 11 months ago

"blighted" + urban renewal= eminant domain if they don;t like your property or your business.... beware of this extremely slippery slope........ many of the properties on Oak street (houses converted to commercial) some of the existing business and properties on Yampa could easily be identified as Blighted and could if the present resisted be taken in the spirit of Urban renewal based on personel interpretations. It happens quite often in many parts of the country.... I would caution those considering the TIF's to monitor the pending decision by the Missouri Supreme Court on TIF's which could have far reaching implications on them.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 11 months ago

John,

I think, in this case, "blighted" is used to benefit the property owner by having property taxes go to improvements of the property instead of to the schools and so on.

If the city was to come along and say these blighted properties should be taken by eminent domain at current market price and then sold to a developer that would make them nice then all of these properties owners would ferociously fight that.

So we have the wonderful situation of the property owners saying there is blight, but all of the properties are well maintained.

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Steve Lewis 1 year, 11 months ago

As Tyler said, in the context of a URA, "blight" could typically be missing sidewalks or poorly lit streets. Oak and Yampa St both have these. No?

I agree the school district and the County should take a keen interest in the proposal taking shape. Both have experienced the example of the base area URA. Not sure of their impacts felt since that started. In the case of the school district, I believe their concern going in was not a direct loss of revenue to the URA, but the ongoing ability of the state to meet its obligation of backfilling low probability impacts of the URA.

The conversation at this Oak St meeting acknowledged any URA budget should meet with the approval and abilities of the County. They stand to gain in the long run. The district expires in 25 years and should create higher valuation. Unfortunately, the base area URA grew after the County gave input. Not good politics, that.

Hard to imagine eminent domain takings. That would be an ugly result and should not be allowed.

All good points to be kept in mind. There are benefits possible to balance these concerns, which is why the state created the URA statute. There is a long way to go yet with what that balance looks like downtown.

Owner vs tax funded improvements are a mixed question in my opinion. Lincoln Avenue got a major facelift with the recent roadwork. That was not property owner funded. I built my own sidewalk and lights but these barely serve anyone because the whole system is not there. I would prefer the City build these missing sidewalks and lights, but they seem to have much different priorities at City Hall.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 11 months ago

Well, with that definition of blight then just about everything suffers from blight.

And yep, the blight is not so bad to suggest that there might be validity to use eminent domain to take the properties out of the hands of the owners that have allowed the blight to exist. No, the blight needs to be found so that the property owners can BENEFIT from the blight on their expensive properties and so their property taxes can be spent for the BENEFIT of the EXISTING property owners.

While the county and city may see some slight increases of sales taxes if these improvements were made, the property owners would see significant increases in rents and thus their property values if these improvements had the promised results. So if lights and consistent sidewalks are truly believed to have such notable improvements then the property owners would want to make these improvements regardless. The properties are certainly valuable enough that such modest improvements are not an unreasonable cost or burden for the claimed benefits.

If the value of such improvements are reduced by a blighted property then there should be support among the property owners for eminent domain to take the property from the bad property owner.

If Oak St property owners start arguing for the need to use eminent domain to get rid of bad property owners hindering the proper development and economic success of Oak St then their claims of blight could be taken seriously.

Until then this is another example of the great shell game where they claim they can capture a portion of their property taxes to spend on their properties while also claiming that is free money that would have not go to schools and the other recipients of property taxes.

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