Routt County commissioners object to downtown Steamboat Springs urban renewal authority

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Reader poll

Do you agree with the Routt County Board of Commissioners' objection to the proposed downtown urban renewal authority?

  • Yes, it's not fair to impact tax revenue the county receives without its input. 49%
  • Yes, the URA would increase property tax bills for residents. 15%
  • No, the county doesn't have a say in the downtown Steamboat business district. 32%
  • I'm not sure. 5%

117 total votes.

— The Routt County Board of Commissioners have informed Steamboat Springs City Council President Bart Kounovsky by letter that they oppose tentative plans by the city to form an urban renewal authority in the downtown commercial district.

The commissioners say individual taxpayers in Routt County pay higher property tax bills because of the mountain URA, which funded the snowmelted promenade wrapping the ski base and the daylighting of Burgess Creek.

The role of the proposed URA could include capturing new property tax growth in downtown to fund public improvements including sidewalks on Yampa Street and possibly small parks along the river.

Commissioner Tim Corrigan said Thursday that the role of an URA should be to stimulate development of new projects that add to the property tax base. Last decade at the base of the ski area, that meant the Trailhead Lodge and One Steamboat Place luxury condominium projects, Corrigan said. But the county thinks those projects would have been built without a URA, and hence, the county is missing out on tax revenue it otherwise would have been entitled to.

“The county isn’t collecting any property tax on those properties,” Corrigan said. “All of that property tax is being devoted to pay off the bonds (on a snowmelted pedestrian promenade and other projects). We get zero.”

The Board of Commissioners informed Kounovsky they have put the matter on the agenda for a Feb. 12 joint meeting of the two local governments.

Kounovsky said Thursday that he thinks the county’s level of concern is premature.

“I’m a little surprised the county commissioners could come out so forcefully against something that in my mind is still being formulated,” he said. “A definitive plan has not been placed in front of the public, which includes both City Council and the county commissioners.”

County Attorney John Merrell said based on case law, the county commissioners have limited standing to prevent the city from forming a downtown URA. Their influence, if they protested at a public hearing on the formation of the URA, would be limited to objecting to the propriety of some of the steps the city might take in forming the URA.

Like the Steamboat Springs School District, Routt County depends heavily on property taxes to maintain county roads, make its payroll, fund the sheriff’s office and more. The city of Steamboat Springs does not have a municipal property tax and is primarily funded by sales tax.

In Colorado, urban renewal authorities are intended to stimulate the redevelopment of “blighted” areas within a city, for example an abandoned commercial lot, and improve the area by spurring redevelopment.

When the URA at the mountain was established in 2005, it pursued a financial tool called tax incremental financing as a revenue stream to be used to back bonded indebtedness needed to build public improvements like the promenade. The tax incremental financing allows URAs to capture growth in property taxes within their district for a period of decades and reinvest those funds into public improvements.

County Manager Tom Sullivan said the revenue the county has lost to the URA at the mountain has been eating into credits it had built up to cushion its budget from the constraints of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights and hastening the day when the county’s ability to raise taxes might be capped.

In addition, Sullivan said, the county takes the position that the URA has improperly diverted property tax revenue from specific causes approved by voters, including taxes for the purchase of development rights program that conserves ranch land, taxes that support individuals with developmental disabilities and taxes that support the Museum and Heritage fund.

Corrigan and fellow commissioners Doug Monger and Steve Ivancie don’t think property owners in Routt County should have to pay higher taxes to fund improvements in a downtown Steamboat business district.

“I don’t think there’s any question Routt County and its citizens are taking a hit here,” Corrigan said. “We’re not receiving revenue we would have otherwise received.”

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

Comments

John Weibel 1 year, 2 months ago

A better way to preserve the opens space of Routt County, as opposed to the PDR program, would be to allow the processing of farm products on farm as an agricultural enterprise as it done in Boulder, Larimer and other counties throughout the state of Colorado and around the nation.

This would also move the general welfare of the county in a positive direction as is continually thrown out by county officials as to something they are protecting. The safety issue that is brought up is a non-issue when someone looks at the issue with common sense.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

John,

You are one person that has a building classification issue with the building dept which the county commissioners declined to overrule. That does not mean that the county overall has a policy against agricultural processing. They'd allow you to process if you did what the building dept wants.

And the county is correct that base area redevelopment district is capturing money for projects that would have been built whether or not the district was created.

It doesn't matter that the county cannot stop the city from creating the district. The county can still say the district would hurt the county's and other districts finances. County has a responsibility to educate the public on the impacts to the county of SB's plans.

I think it is entirely reasonable that the county commissioners stated the county's concerns with SB considered another renewal district. The city's own projections on why the district will collect sufficient money is because property taxes are expected to increase regardless. County is just stating they see that the city is proposing taking property tax money that would otherwise go to the county and the schools.

Redevelopment districts were supposed to be for poor areas where the land was worth very little and nothing otherwise would happen to change that. If downtown Hayden or Oak Creek proposed a redevelopment district to fund improvements that would increase business activity then county has nothing to complain about. But Yampa St properties are already valuable and if the proposed projects are as beneficial as claimed then it is in the property owner's strong interests to pay for it themselves.

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John Weibel 1 year, 2 months ago

Actually Scott, the commissioners are reviewing that issue at a later date, with the planning department, they will not alter the codes, which I was not seeking to have changes. I was seeking that people do not need to obtain a CUP for a micro dairy in Routt County and that the processing of agricultural products on farm is considered an agricultural building use as it is most other parts of the country and from my recent research is probably the case here and Farm to Consumer legal defense fund is researching it.

It is just so frustrating, trying to plan for the future, do I buy a trailer to process the milk in, or will I be allowed to process in the milk house (as appears to be common practice), or find a commercial facility or punt for the year.

In thinking about the opportunity cost lost from last year alone, I am out quite a bit. Because of one individual at the county who has not set foot on this property to actually assess wether there is an issue or not.

He simply is used to having people say yes sir to him. Also, I do not know if Doug's insistence on the issue is that he favors others in the ag sector and would like to make it difficult for me or what, but the issue is fairly cut and dry, in my opinion and I am near seeking local legal counsel.

The article in the paper really did not present the issues I was seeking to have changed and seemed to indicate that the county had ruled on all issues and end of story.

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John Weibel 1 year, 2 months ago

Follow this link Scott to see the proposed firewall. Being the property owner, I realized the potential increased risk of fire with a boiler in the facility and decided that yes that would potentially cause problems, so it will be located outside the barn to ensure that all areas are low risks of fire. If the building catches fire, it will most likely be a hour before the fire department show up to help contain the fire, so no matter what the firewall situation the building will be a total loss.

The firewall will minimally decrease the risk of damage from fire, it is going to dramatically increase the risk of wind damage. As the property owner, I do not want that to happen, and that is my biggest issue. In addition, I had planned on temporarily processing products in this structure as it is so small and moving the processing elsewhere down the line will eliminate any perceived need for the "firewall" as the uses are the same as my insurer perceives them to be, if I process in the structure.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=602341509792563&set=a.250166871676697.81067.142626639097388&type=1&theater

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John Weibel 1 year, 2 months ago

Scott,

The Building department has taken upon themselves to label anyone who process' their farm products as a commercial activity. That is the problem, everywhere else it is agricultural. That change in classification requires additional expenses in order to wash lettuce.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

John,

So how do other counties decide when processing food changes from ag to commercial? Presumably, large food processing operations are commercial so those counties have to have some boundary line when small scale ag food processing becomes commercial sized food processing.

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John Weibel 1 year, 2 months ago

Generally Scott farms are allowed to process their own products on farm as an extension of an agricultural activity. What I am talking about is so small there really is no question about it in my mind.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 2 months ago

John,

I suggest getting copies of precisely how it is handled in other counties with more food processing operations to suggest to county that is what should be adopted here. It would seem reasonable to suggest that since Routt has less ag processing that other counties that we never development more precise rules to better handle most situations.

As for what to do, seems to me that getting a semi trailer and setting up in there is your best solution. County approval of your shed barn is probably going to take time and then going to have annoying conditions. If the trailer is accepted by the county then you are free. And you can use the trailer for signage and advertising without worrying about county signage rules for buildings.

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John Weibel 1 year, 2 months ago

The CDPHE will approve and license me with the possibility of miinor corrections today. That is my regulatory agency that I need to deal with.

On effecting change at the county level which is what I sought to change not the codes, I have provided them with much information this week and my plan is most likely to process the milk in my milk house and if needed take the county to court.

Their is one farm in the valley the county is allowing to process chickens on site, wihout all the bs and lost revenue I have put up with. What is the difference?

Carl has told one builder friend that even if his work was to code and he did not like it he would not sign off. The friend told him if that happened and cost him money he would sue, which ended that crazy talk. Another putting up heat tape to code this year no not acceptable, yet it was to code and he tried to appeal to Carl to no a avail. There seem to be serious problems in that department that needs addressed.

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