Steamboat Springs Sensing the economy may have recovered enough since the last time their tax proposal failed, a group of business leaders soon will take the first major step toward trying to get funding for Steamboat Springs' downtown business improvement district.
“People aren't as adamantly against it as they were a couple years ago when the economy was so bad,” Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett said Tuesday as she recalled the 2007 election when downtown property owners barely rejected a property tax to fund the improvement district. “We were so close the first time. Now, things are starting to turn around.”
The tax proposal in 2007 would have generated an estimated $120,000 annually to fund downtown marketing, advocacy and parking management efforts as well as some beautification projects.
It hasn't yet been decided exactly how much money a new tax initiative would try to net for those projects.
If downtown stakeholders do decide to go forward with a tax proposal, Barnett said an election could be held in April or November.
Next week, the Steamboat City Council will be asked to approve several new appointments to the city's seven-member downtown business improvement district board that has sat dormant and inactive since the last tax vote failed six years ago.
The new proposed board members include Josh Kagan, of Cornerstone Mortgage, J.J. Jenny, owner of Harwigs/L’Apogee, Kim Haggarty, owner of Sweetwater Grill, Jarrett Duty, of Bucking Rainbow Outfitters, and Chris Paoli, of Colorado Group Realty.
They would join past members Bill Hamil, owner of Steamboat Meat and Seafood, and Bill Moser.
Barnett said the new board will help to gauge downtown's appetite for a potential tax increase, among other things.
“This has to be the first step,” Barnett said, adding downtown stakeholders still have a lot of work to do to educate business owners about the benefits they could see from a property tax increase. “We have to have a working committee. Certainly other people can participate. It's not just these seven people who are going to determine everything. It's up to the constituents to decide.”
Downtown business owners and Mainstreet Steamboat decided last summer to delay any vote on a district tax because of a concern the economy still had not recovered enough.
But some business leaders say it has.
Steamboat Meat & Seafood owner Hamil said he's excited the downtown board will be reactivated.
“After the last election, we were just kind of dormant,” he said, adding the “tanking economy” silenced any future conversations about a funded BID. “I think it's exciting we have the new members, and that everybody has a common goal of having this (downtown district) get funded, just like the mountain is. Now is the time to improve this area.”
Many of the plans to improve downtown Steamboat have gone unrealized for decades because of a lack of funding.
Thick books of plans to revitalize Yampa Street have sat on shelves since the 1980s.
Today, funding the BID is just one part of a broader movement to revitalize downtown Steamboat.
Stakeholders held several meetings over the summer to tackle such topics as better parking, beautification projects and the need for new sidewalks.
A promenade on Yampa Street also will be funded with $900,000 of the city's lodging tax.
“These are separate things right now, but eventually, they will all work together,” Barnett said.
Also in the mix is the creation of an urban renewal authority for the downtown area that could be funded in a similar manner to the base of Steamboat Ski Area.
The city has hired a consultant to study the potential of a downtown URA.
What do you think of the ongoing efforts to revitalize downtown Steamboat? Share them in the comments below.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10