Two seven-member steering committees will help to oversee the funding of the Yampa River Promenade and local trail projects.

Photo by Scott Franz

Two seven-member steering committees will help to oversee the funding of the Yampa River Promenade and local trail projects.

Steamboat City Council plans to ask voters to approve spending lodging tax on both trails, Yampa River Promenade

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— The Steamboat Springs City Council wants the city's lodging tax to create more than one type of tourist driver here in the coming years.

After a more than yearlong process to determine how to next spend the tax, the council Tuesday night voted unanimously to start planning a ballot initiative that will ask voters here to approve spending millions of dollars' worth of the tax throughout the next 20 years on hiking and biking trails and a new promenade on Yampa Street.

In the meeting where the council continued to wrestle over whether both of the finalists for the tax dollars effectively could be funded, the downtown promenade project proved to be too enticing for the council to stick to the lodging tax committee's recommendation to just fund the trail projects.

By extending the commitment of the tax from the committee's recommended 10 years to 20 and planning to bond, the city estimates the trails projects still can earn more than $6 million of the revenue, while the promenade will receive about $1 million.

Even council members Scott Myller and Kenny Reisman, who were most in favor of following the committee's recommendation, came to vote to move forward with the ballot language that would ask to share the funds.

“I think this is a fine compromise,” Myller said minutes after he questioned whether the city should commit any of the tax to downtown when it mostly is generated from lodging properties in other parts of the city.

Council's decision Tuesday night kicked off a new chapter in the process for determining how to spend the 1 percent tax that typically generates $600,000 to $800,000 each year from guest stays.

Pending two more votes from council to approve the ballot language, voters in November will have the ultimate say on whether the dollars will be spent.

They also will decide whether to approve the other desire of the council to split $60,000 of the tax each year between the marketing of the new amenities and capital improvements at Haymaker Golf Course.

Leaders of the Trails Alliance who attended Tuesday's meeting took a few moments before reacting to the news in Centennial Hall and weren't as welcoming of the news as proponents of the promenade.

“It's tough,” Trails Alliance co-founder Eric Meyer said. “I think it's going to be tough to pass a 20-year commitment.”

But Meyer said he still was pleased with council's commitment to the trails.

Doug Davis, executive director of the city's Bike Town USA Initiative, also said he was pleased the council is moving forward with a significant investment to attract more hikers and bikers.

“The community will decide now,” he said.

At the other end of Centennial Hall, proponents of the Yampa promenade said they plan to put the funds to good use.

Although their project is estimated to cost $2.1 million, planners talked about finding ways to raise and leverage other money.

“I think anything is better than nothing,” Kim Haggarty, a property owner on Yampa Street, said about the council's commitment to share at least a small part of the tax. “I think it's awesome they're behind us and willing to make this investment.”

Still looming for the tax is the creation of a steering committee that will prioritize projects and recommend how to fund them.

The committee is envisioned to help choose among the more than 46 trails proposed by the Alliance and balance the priorities of biking enthusiasts here and lodging leaders whose properties generate the money.

“I think the decision tonight still leaves a bunch of questions that need to be answered,” Meyer said.

The council on July 16 will vote on the first reading of an ordinance drafting ballot language for how to spend the tax.

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

Comments

John St Pierre 1 year ago

So will the ballot be an all or nothing????

Or will we be able to choose which project.....which would be the correct way...... letting the voters choose the project at this point would be the correct thing to do since the council will not follow its own committee's findings and at this point and they cannot make a decision....

Suggestive Ballot question: Shall the City of Steamboat Spring fund thru its Lodging Tax:
choose one A. Both the Yampa Promanade & Trail Alliance
B. Trail Alliance C. Yampa Promanade

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Scott Wedel 1 year ago

They plan on bonding? Well, I'm voting against that. Issuing bonds adds costs so less money goes to projects. Bonding means the money is dedicated for years so even if it becomes a fiasco then it cannot be fixed. Note how $600,000 a year for 20 years ($12 million) becomes a total of $7 million if they bond? Thanks, city council for just wasting $5 million.

There is also limited matching funds and volunteer labor so while spending money year by year would maximize the impact of the money, bonding would eliminate that beneficial leverage.

Issuing bonds is how one city council forces their decisions to remain unchanged by future city councils. For things like building a golf course where it is a big project that cannot reasonably be stopped once construction starts then issuing bonds is reasonable. For building trails it is so bad that it is not only not needed, it is detrimental to an effective trail building program.

I suggest that the Trails Alliance ask that the City Council put another measure on the ballot stating that 2013 accommodations tax revenues will be spent for building trails. A ballot measure asking that the money be spent on trails and that bonding is not desired and that future city councils can look at the trail building effort and decide if it is going well.

And the measure with the most votes takes effect.

Measure A: Should bonds be issued to take 20 years of future accommodations tax revenues to spend now on trails and improvement Yampa St properties?

Measure B: Should 2013 accommodations tax revenues be spent on building trails?

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Mark Ruckman 1 year ago

I agree with John, is this an all or nothing vote?

If yes, I suspect it will have a hard time passing. If voters are given the 3 options then the council will have clear direction from the community.

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Pat West 1 year ago

Measure C. Retire the tax if we can't decide how to spend it,

I'm disappointed with the councils lack of ability to decide between these projects.

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cindy constantine 1 year ago

With this non-decision you would think we were trying to fund a space shuttle to Mars from Steamboat----what a bunch of weenies and what a slap in the face to the committee which worked hard and came up with viable solutions. I am with Pat on this one---let the money stay in the pockets of the tourists to spend how they see fit. "Come to Steamboat, we have lowered your tax rate for staying so you have more money for activities."

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mark hartless 1 year ago

I once heard a doctor say: "If you're not hungry enough to eat an apple then you're not hungry enough to eat ANYTHING."

If there isn't an obvious NEED then there isn't ANY mandate for the tax at all.

Eating when you are not hungry makes government fat, lazy and unhealthy, just like individuals.

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john bailey 1 year ago

ha, look whos chasing their tail. bunch of wimps, give it to me , i'll figure a way to spend it. on hula lessons for all....~;0) why did you cut off comment on the car/motorbike crash? oh yeah , we need protection from that sort of evil. wussies........

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