Future use of Steamboat Springs’ lodging tax could become clearer Tuesday night | SteamboatToday.com

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

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.

— 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