Paul Olson rides his bike along the Yampa River Core Trail earlier this year. The Steamboat Springs City Council will meet Tuesday to discuss the two finalists for the lodging tax revenue.

Photo by John F. Russell

Paul Olson rides his bike along the Yampa River Core Trail earlier this year. The Steamboat Springs City Council will meet Tuesday to discuss the two finalists for the lodging tax revenue.

Future use of Steamboat Springs' lodging tax could become clearer Tuesday night

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Past Event

Steamboat Springs City Council meeting

  • Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 5 p.m.
  • Centennial Hall, 124 10th St., Steamboat Springs
  • All ages / Free

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— The letters and emails haven’t stopped.

In the month since the Steamboat Springs City Council voted to reconvene its lodging tax committee to explore funding two of the finalists for the tax revenue, members of the public continue to lobby the council about how they would prefer to see the money spent.

The International Mountain Biking Association recently sent the council a letter supporting the lodging tax committee’s recommendation to spend 90 percent, or an estimated $650,000, of the tax on hiking and biking trails here for the next decade.

But eight other letters in the council’s inbox advocate for finding a way to share the revenue and use some of it to build a new promenade on Yampa Street.

The lobbying could start to die down Tuesday night when the council has a chance to answer two important questions about the tax’s future.

Should it be used to fund more than one type of major amenity, and should the city bond to build the amenity with the tax?

The council's last discussion on the first question revealed it was divided over the answer.

Before the six council members weigh in once again on the lodging tax committee’s recommendation, they will hear a presentation on potential funding scenarios for both projects and the prospect of bonding.

According to minutes from the lodging tax committee’s last meeting June 12, it was determined the tax cannot support the trails and the promenade as they originally were proposed unless the revenue is committed to them for nearly 40 years.

Committee members said that in order to pursue both projects without tying up the tax for the four decades, the costs would have to be reduced through alternative funding sources such as grants or private investment, or the scope of the projects would have to be reduced.

Some of that already has occurred with the planners of the promenade saying they could delay one of their parks to bring the cost down, and the city ruling out some of the Trails Alliance’s planned trails on Rabbit Ears because legal counsel has determined they may be too far outside of city limits to adhere to the ballot language that created the tax.

More vetting recently done by City Manager Deb Hinsvark and proponents of both projects also has revealed a number of new things for the council to consider about the finalists Tuesday night.

For the trails proposal, they include the realization that a majority of the trails would take two years to complete and bonding could allow a majority of the projects to be done in three years.

When weighing the promenade proposal, city staff noted the downtown stakeholders likely still would need to secure an Urban Renewal Authority, propose a tax for a business improvement district and put in place transfer of development rights before the plan could be funded by the lodging tax.

City Council members and proponents of both plans continue to maintain that whatever happens at the end of this yearlong vetting process, Steamboat stands to benefit greatly from the future use of the tax.

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

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Comments

Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

I have no idea why the city council is even pretending that they are considering the spending plan for the next 10 years. There is simply no way that future city councils will automatically rubber stamp this city council's plans for the next 10 years.

This city council is deciding how this city council is spending the lodging revenues during this city council's term in office. That is it. Any plan committing multi-year funding would need voter approvals.

They can claim to be funding year one of the Trails Alliance 10 year plan or year one of the perpetual plan to give away of public dollars to downtown property owners.

I think there is no good reason to believe that building some trails will inspire a significant number of tourists to decide to visit Steamboat. I think trails can be a nice improvement that will be enjoyed by visitors and residents, and thus help the local economy. Trails, like roads, are a public amenity that is part of government's responsibility.

I think the Yampa St plan is likely to be a major fiasco and a waste of public dollars. If the proponent's claims are to be believed then Yampa St property owners would be making the investments themselves. The Yampa St plan is symptomatic of the same arrogance as the Iron Horse purchase, SB Springs terminal expansion and YVHA's Elk River purchase. It is based upon the premise that local government is smarter and better than the free market.

Let Yampa St property owners make their own investments and form their own improvement district if needed.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

The transit center is supposed to be overflow parking for downtown. A few years ago there was a study on downtown parking and the quick answer is that there is plenty of parking for customers but that retail and restaurant employees use up too much of downtown parking.

Downtown employees and business owners should agree to not park downtown so that their customers have an easier time parking.

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cindy constantine 1 year, 5 months ago

I am totally with Scott and Mark on this one. Neither additional trails or a pedestrian mall on Yampa are going to increase tourism!! We have NO BUSINESS as a tax funded City helping one retail/restaurant group at the expense of another ie. those on Oak and Lincoln. Parking and public restrooms are where it is at for a better shopping/eating experience downtown. Because of the time limits on the parking and the lack of restroom facilities, some if not all shoppers are more inclined to leave downtown after their 2 hours---especially if they can not find a place to move their car. Can Council please get some clarity on this issue or better yet--just let the tax expire until the voters can decide a reasonable plan. What is likely to increase tourism is LESS LODGING TAX!!

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Eric Meyer 1 year, 5 months ago

Whether or not the Steamboat Springs Trails Alliance proposal is funded at any level from the Accommodations tax, we hope community members (supporters and opponents) join us in Library Hall at 5:30 pm Friday July 12th for a presentation open to the public titled: "Better Living Through Trails". Members from the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) will be putting on this presentation while they are in town helping Routt County Riders, an IMBA chapter, maintain and improve our current trail system.

Better Living Through Trails: The power of mountain biking to improve your community

Overview: This presentation explores the positive relationships between communities and their trail systems. Trails as community assets can improve quality of life and livability in a community for both the biking and non-biking members, and can attract significant tourism dollars in addition in increasing overall quality of life. With statistics and case studies, participants will learn how to turn a quality community trail system into a destination trail system, and learn how to effectively market a trail system. This presentation is a great way to show the community that a club is concerned with the health of the local citizens, the health of local green spaces and the health of the local economy.

To help clear up a little misinformation we have heard out there.... The proposal suggests that the money go from the city (who collects the tax) to the land manager invovled with the specific project. The land manager would then contract the approved projects. The four local non-profits involved are not asking for any of the accommodations tax, but are committed to helping maintain whatever trail system we have in place as Routt County Riders members have done for years.

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Martha D Young 1 year, 5 months ago

Thank you Scott, Mark, Cindy and Eric. Regarding Cindy's wish to abolish the lodging tax: I'd like the revenue from the lodging tax to be used to lower our outrageous sales tax. Trail development in Steamboat Springs has been extraordinary, thanks to Routt County Riders and all other volunteer and grant money. I hope it can continue.

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Eric Meyer 1 year, 5 months ago

Most Grants require some matching funds. Last Fall Routt County Riders worked with the city on a grant to better sign Emerald Mt. We recently heard that we received the grant and the discussion on design and placement details is happening now. That grant still required approximately 20% matching funds, but ultimately saved the city approximately $25,000. Without having matching funds available, many of the grants are not possible. In order to do projects like extending the core trail, a source available to match is needed. There is a special funding round in Colorado that has approximately 10 million in grant funds specifically for trails available to apply for in 2013 & 2014. Obviously we would not receive all or even most of that, but the minimum ask for this grant round is $500,000. I see this as our best opportunity to extend the core trail as without grant funds, it will likely sit as a plan on the shelf for years.

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jerry carlton 1 year, 5 months ago

Good for you Martha! Lower taxes! Now there is an idea whose time has come!

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

The lodging tax is not that much money compared to the sales tax. It would the equivalent of about 1/8% sales tax.

What is special about the lodging tax is that it is dedicated to spending that can increase lodging and so it is free money for making local improvements.

I think the trails plan can make this a nicer place to visit and live so it could be expected to have a modest positive impact over time.

I think the Yampa St plan is a demonstration of how people with money can seek out any source of government funds to be spent for their further benefit. Any city council member that votes for Yampa St over trails should be voted out of office. Only if Yampa St property owners do something like give a path easement along the river then it would make sense to spend public money improving the path. But as of now, Yampa St is all about public spending to benefit private property owners that aren't spending their own money making improvements or donating a slice of their property to the public in order to receive public improvements.

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