J Michael Turner: 700 questions
February 3, 2010
The headline story on the front page of the Jan. 24 Steamboat Pilot & Today was titled "700 capital risks weighed." After reading and considering that article, I have several questions that require clarification in order for me to make a more informed decision on the upcoming vote.
The article states that the annexation financial plan "estimates $72 million in potential project funding from the developers." Do the developers actually have $72 million, or will that come from fees and taxes imposed on purchases of properties in time and from future profits from those sales?
The article also states, "Mulcahy said if the market does not generate enough home sales and associated property tax revenue at Steamboat 700, developers will be left holding the bill." So what happens if developers are unable to pay the bill? What is the contingency for the city if they declare bankruptcy or go into foreclosure? Who is really stuck with the bill?
"We're taking the risk of investing $53 million, whether the market will accept it or not," Mulcahy said. Again, do the developers actually have $53 million or are they planning on generating that as the development progresses through profit on sales and fees? Please, some clarification for the voters.
Concerning the cost of two transit buses: "The remaining 80 percent would be funded by the city and grants, which Litzau said have been a stable funding source in recent years." Considering the recent economic climate and effects it has had on state and federal budget allocations, how can we have any reasonable assurance that grant money will be available to pay any portion of the 80 percent of the city's responsibility of the cost of those two new transit busses?
Discussing highway improvements from 13th Street to Downhill Drive, the article states, "Steamboat 700 would pay 77 percent of those costs with the remainder assigned to the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and other potential annexations west of Steamboat such as 360 Village." What agreements or other guarantees are there in place that CDOT and the Federal Highway Administration will accept responsibility for any share of these costs? Is that just an assumption on the part of the developers and city staff? Are we talking about just design or actual work? What is the potential for 360 Village actually happening? When?
"Litzau said the involvement of other funding sources for capital projects makes the city's cumulative commitment to capital projects relatively small." What exactly is "relatively small?" Is that the best the voters have to go on? How many businesses would approve a final decision if the financials boiled down to "relatively small?" After the time, effort and money the developers and city staff have put into this project, I have a difficult time with a statement such as "relatively small" when considering the potential costs to the taxpayer within the city limits as an answer to such a long-term financial question.
As I read and study the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, I question whether it ever intended for such a large development to be annexed at one time. Is this large annexation really the answer to all our future housing concerns or an "illusion of grandeur" on the part of the developer and those who stand to profit from it that ultimately will cost the city a fortune? I honestly don't know the answer to that, but more definitive answers to the above questions will certainly help me make a more informed decision when I cast my ballot.
J Michael Turner