Steamboat Springs City Council has new plan for how to spend lodging tax


— Worried that voters here wouldn't get behind its initial proposal to bond and tie up the lodging tax for 20 years, the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night settled on a new plan for how to spend the tax revenue.

The council now wants to ask voters to approve the distribution of the tax for only the next decade on the hiking and biking trails as well as the Yampa River promenade.

Under the new proposal, the tax revenue would be split evenly between the trails and the downtown amenity until the promenade received $900,000, likely after three years.

Then, the remainder of the funds up to $600,000 each year would be used to build the trail projects.

There's more.

If the tax generates more than $600,000, as much as $60,000 would be split evenly between the marketing of the new amenities and capital improvements at Haymaker Golf Course.

Finally, any additional excess revenue would be collected and spent at the City Council's discretion.

The proposal would not involve any bonding.

“I think it's a wise move and easier to sell at the polls,” council member Scott Myller said before he voted for the new ballot language.

For much of the night, the new plan for the lodging tax dollars seemed elusive for the council until several members resolved to take action.

The council also faced a looming deadline to get a ballot question certified for the fall election.

Council member Kenny Reisman compared the body's recent deliberations about how to split the tax revenue as "trying to fit a rope through a needle."

The evening started with members of the Steamboat Springs Trails Alliance urging the council to not bond the tax revenue as originally proposed.

Trail designer Aryeh Copa said the 20-year commitment could doom the group's proposal.

“All of these trails cannot be built at one time and in one summer,” he said. “We would rather take our chances with year-to-year funding. By not bonding, we also greatly increase our chances for grants.”

Reisman said bonding would be fiscally irresponsible, and then he asked the council to accept the recommendation that he and the five other members of the lodging tax committee made to spend 90 percent of the revenue on the trails projects for the next decade, and none of it on Yampa Street.

He added the promenade has other funding opportunities outside of the tax that he thought would be more appropriate.

But Reisman's motion did not gain any traction.

Before the new ballot language passed on first reading, Reisman also questioned what the planners of the promenade could accomplish with $900,000, an amount that is less than half of the projected cost of the project.

Council member Cari Hermacinski said the transfer of development rights off the street could generate at least $1 million for the project, and a funded business improvement district could help generate the rest.

Reisman wasn't the only council member to have a proposal fizzle Tuesday.

Council President Bart Kounovsky's plan to use bonding as a way to get the projects done more quickly also ended up receiving no other support on the dais.

He said the interest payments on the debt throughout 20 years could be offset by the Trails Alliance's projections that the new trails would generate millions of dollars' worth of additional tourism spending.

After much discussion, the council arrived at the new ballot language they predicted would fare better at the ballot box in November because it provides funding for both proposals.

“If one is lopsided, they're going to fail,” council member Kevin Kaminski said. “We need them to go out there and (campaign) on the streets together.”

But Kaminski was the only council member to end up voting against the proposed ballot language.

He said before the vote that the groups were close to reaching the best compromise, and he wanted to spend more time discussing how to maximize the financial opportunities for both projects.

The council will weigh the second reading of the new ballot language Aug. 6.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 9 months ago

This city council has got Yampa St fever of the brain. They seem convinced that all the existing expensive Yampa St properties need is millions of public money. From trying to sell the public services building before having plans for replacement police and fire stations to know consistently rejecting the committee's recommendations in order to find a way to give those property owners public funds.

This city council now has another scheme to make the public accept giving Yampa St property owners a nice big chunk of public funds in order to eventually get trails.

Somehow the public is supposed to approve funding for Yampa St improvements based on highly speculative possibilities that Yampa St property owners could form a business improvement district and that there could be millions received somehow from a development rights transfer program. The business district does not exist The development rights transfer program is a joke because exactly where are they going to allow development by purchasing those rights?

I don't see what is wrong with annual allocations decided by the city council of that time. And if Yampa St has a business improvement district and good matching funds and well defined projects then that city council probably will give them chunks of money. But right now the Trails Alliance is ready to build and Yampa St is ready to put things together to come up with a plan. So fund trails this year and let the next city council allocate next year.

And if the Trails Alliance becomes a fiasco then why do we want to fund it for 10 years? By far the simplest and most accountable approach is annual allocations.


Martha D Young 3 years, 9 months ago

Thank you Scott. I totally support your proposal.


John St Pierre 3 years, 9 months ago

Which part of the feeling in this community about bailing out property owners on Yampa Street does the council not understand.????

Why not put 2 questions on the ballot.... one on the trail system, the other on the Yampa street question.... and allow the VOTERS to decide which project.....


cindy constantine 3 years, 9 months ago

If the ballot language is close to what the article suggests it will fail at the election. This community has no stomach for long term commitments to any project after failures of past councils. Demographics and council members will change over 10 years changing priorities. Scott is right on about allocating the funds annually for the flexibility it will allow to changing "needs". I am beginning to think this council has serious flaws in their inability to make sensible choices.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 9 months ago


I don't think that this is "bailing out" Yampa St property owners because current values are high enough that I doubt any are underwater.

I don't understand why city government has been on a two year mission to throw money at Yampa St property owners. From the staff analysis on selling the public services building to Big Agnes, at least city staff have this theory that Yampa St could be a huge economic driver without taking any business from anywhere else in the city. As best as I can tell, this theory is based upon taking quotes out of context from an urban planner and then making pie in the sky projections upon those misconceptions. As if Yampa St could be compared to other cities riverfront district which are the heart of their downtown districts and that could happen here without taking business from Lincoln or the mountain. So city staff writes staff reports as if Yampa St could generate as much sales tax as Lincoln Ave businesses and it wouldn't take a single sale from elsewhere in SB.

As for the ballot measure, I think a whole lot more needs to explained. I am not sure how the funding preferences will be binding upon future city councils without some hideous legal structure. Nor is it obvious why this funding should not be allocated by future city councils as they see fit.

I don't see what meaning can be derived from the election. Did it pass because of trails and despite Yampa St, or the other way around? Did it fail because of trails, Yampa St, 10 year commitment or something else?

This city council should just approve whatever allocation it wants to approve and be done with it. And let future city councils decide if they are going to honor the recommendations of the accommodations tax committee or let their personal preferences overrides months of public hearings.


mark hartless 3 years, 9 months ago

Eating when you're not hungry is a very bad habit.

It makes government fat and lazy, just like individuals.

If there was not a pressing, specific, immediate need for the tax then it should not have been created in the first place.

If a business (like Duckles Construction for example) went out and purchased a new crane and then AFTERWARDS had to fumble around with ideas on how they were going to ues it or what it was going to lift most of us would say they were extremely poor business operators...


rhys jones 3 years, 9 months ago

Mark --

Drinking when you're already drunk is hardly any better, not an inappropriate analogy.

This airhead (or crooked) council has GOT to GO.


bill schurman 3 years, 9 months ago

What if (and when) the voters reject councils' ballot proposal ? Is there a contingency plan that the new council will have to deal with ??


Cresean Sterne 3 years, 9 months ago

Can we get our old city council from the 90's back..I felt like the city as a whole was way better off then and the community had more say on how Stmbt would go forward with just about everything. It seems that its all about real estate these days which should not be the focus of our council..


john bailey 3 years, 9 months ago

just before my time as a resident here , but spot on with your post, Cresean. But, Rhys, some people can drink them selves sober..~;0)


rhys jones 3 years, 9 months ago

John -- Those people are in an irreversible tailspin. And just like the present Council, many of them are soon history. Their pleasure is their demise.


Scott Ford 3 years, 9 months ago

Hi Bill – You pose a very good question. Answers to this question can only be speculative but it is an important question to ask.

The ballot language that originally created the Accommodation Tax is narrowly focused so that the vast majority of the funds collected can only be used to construct above ground amenities with the purpose of attracting visitors to the area. The Accommodation Tax when passed had no sunset provision it just goes on and on. (Oops)

My best guess is that if the voters do not approve of the projects being proposed or the formula regarding the allocation of the funds, the monies associated with the Accommodation Tax would simply accumulate in a city controlled account. I think it would be safe to assume that it would grow at the rate of $700K+ per year.

It is possible if that happened the project selection committee could start all over again. (Ouch!) Or, a ballot initiative could be proposed to eliminate the tax all together. Or, a ballot initiative could be introduced to re-purpose the funds. At this point in time I think we could likely see a suggestion to re-purpose all or a significant portion of the Accommodation Tax to marketing efforts with some going to above ground amenities maintenance and capital improvements such as the replacement of the irrigation system at the golf course.

Or it is possible that City Council could simply allow the funds to accumulate and use the funds for projects that in their judgment met the intent of the original ballot language. If this happens, and it very well could, we should expect a parade of folks coming before City Council requesting funds and attempting to justify why their proposed project would attract visitors to the area. To be sure this process would be entertaining - but not very efficient, effective or prudent.

I would be interested in hearing the thoughts of others in response to Bill’s question.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 9 months ago

Scott Ford,

Does the city council need voter approvals to spend the accommodations tax?

I thought voter approvals was only needed for issuing bonds and that requirement is due to TABOR.

I don't remember a public vote for using the tax for the Tennis Center and other one year funding allocations.

And if the ballot measure fails then there is no need for the next city council to reform the accommodations tax committee. The new city council could decide that not enough has changed to warrant a new committee and that the last city council screwed up the process by not allowing the public to vote on the committee's recommendations. So the next city council could put the committee's recommendations up for a vote in the April municipal elections.


rhys jones 3 years, 9 months ago

I'm thinking our basic system of city government is flawed, and perhaps we should consider a mayoral system -- ballot initiative, anyone?

The current council system stinks. Public meetings are a farce, morality plays for the common folk, real decisions made in "executive session" or the nearest bar. Finger-pointing is common, accountable people few. It's "groupthink" at its worst. Smoke and mirrors.

This town has had a strong undercurrent since I became familiar with it in the late '80's: Plea deals made at Scotty's, council always in executive session, if not full retreat...

Maybe a Mayor elected by the People -- a person responsive to their demands, and willing to take the heat for City's actions -- might go far to correct these deficiencies. And maybe not.


bill schurman 3 years, 9 months ago

Speaking of a mayor, too bad ex-councilman, Alan Barbee, is not here. He'd whip these present council people in shape.


mark hartless 3 years, 9 months ago

A mayor??... elected by the same people that elected the council??? That's the solution?

No, the problem is not with City Council. Nor is it a lack of a Mayor. Rather it resides with those who put them in power.

Either Council is doing the will of the people... the voters, or, at the very least it is not affraid of the voters because it belieivs/knows they are fools.

And who can blame them? When it comes to knowing the purpose and correct limit to municipal governance the voters don't know "which end of the tube the round comes out of."

Local voters gleefully and whimsically use local government as a social engnieering tool, to stop developments like 700, to start others like Yampa St., to purchase real estate that has nothing to do with government, as a "santa clause" for those who struggle with housing, as a bully, a provider of airline reliability, etc, ad infinitim, ad nauseum. They even go so far as to contemplete giving Conlcil authority, or to accept that Council already has the authority to regulate grocery bags!

Then they wonder why Council feels emboldened???

The explination for this is quite simple. The solution non-existent. The electorate is, by and large, ignorant of the proper role of government locally, statewide, and nationally; and at the same time they are comfortable using governmental force against their fellow citizens for even the most mundane reasons.

The ramifications of that ignorance and willfull misuse of government manifest itself thusly.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 9 months ago


I'd suggest that part of the problem are how there are so rarely major issues of contention during city council races/ Rarely is there an issue which there is a division among the candidates that allows the public to vote for or against candidates because of their stands on the issues.

Last time there was a contentious local issue during the city council elections was probably the Iron Horse and that wiped out those that thought that purchase was a good idea.

And a city council facing budget cuts is far more focused and much less irresponsible than a city council with free money to spend as they wish.


cindy constantine 3 years, 9 months ago

Night skiing on Mt. Werner--now that is a tourism driven idea funded by corporate $$-not taxpayer $$. Make sure the wording of the ballot issue includes allowing the tax to expire so tourists have more $$ in their pockets to spend on activities they wish.


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