Steamboat City Council not ready to move forward with recommended purchase of riverside lot on Yampa Street

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— After hearing a recommendation Tuesday night from the Yampa Street lodging tax committee to purchase a riverside lot at Seventh and Yampa streets and convert it into a park, the Steamboat Springs City Council turned its attention to another property two blocks up the road.

The council directed staff to look into the ownership issues and the possibility of repurposing a riverside lot at Ninth and Yampa streets that houses parking spaces, the ambulance barn and Routt County Search and Rescue.

Council members wondered whether that parcel, at 911 Yampa St., could be established as a park.

“That seems like a property that should be in the mix as far as it's a lot of riverfront and it's something that we can leverage,” council member Tony Connell said. “That's quite a bit of river frontage you can accomplish right there."

The direction came as council members said the asking price of the lot at Seventh and Yampa streets has jumped to $1.9 million, more than twice the amount of lodging tax funding that is available.

The lodging tax committee that was tasked with prioritizing the spending of $900,000 of lodging tax dollars throughout the next three years came to the conclusion that the purchase of the lot at 655 Yampa St. should be the top priority.

But with a high price tag, not enough funding from the lodging tax and council's determination not to use any of the city's general fund to support lodging tax projects, the council wasn't ready to agree.

Council member Sonja Macys wanted the city to do an “apples to apples” comparison between 655 Yampa St. and the riverside lot that houses the ambulance barn.

Macys said after the meeting that she also was open to the committee looking at some smaller ticket items, such as sidewalks and other functionality upgrades, that could be accomplished within the budget of $900,000 from the lodging tax.

Council member Kenny Reisman expressed some concern that the committee determined no significant part of the parks and promenade project could be accomplished with the $900,000 from the lodging tax.

“Hearing you say 'We cannot accomplish anything' with $900,000, after it was told pretty clearly we can accomplish stuff prior to the ballot, that concerns me as someone who has been through this over the last 15 months or so,” Reisman said.

He encouraged the committee to identify a second priority after the land acquisition in case it doesn't come to fruition.

In the end, council members also directed city staff and committee members to keep vetting some alternative sources of funding for the parks and promenade project.

Possibilities so far range from the establishment of an urban renewal authority downtown to a transfer of development rights program on Yampa Street.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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