Our view: Slow down but don’t stop
August 14, 2014
The City Council has decided to take more time to move forward with its downtown funding plan
The council needs to zero in on a funding plan and move ahead on the project sooner rather than later
Last week, the Steamboat Springs City Council opted to slow down the process of establishing an urban renewal funding plan to support public improvements in the downtown business district. City staff presented the council with information on the possible use of tax increment financing to fund those improvements under an urban renewal authority, and the council determined they needed more information and more time to make a decision on the TIF.
And while we respect the council's desire to gather all the information they need before taking action, we believe it's important they continue to push forward on the project. It's OK to slow down the process to thoroughly research the TIF and its effects on other taxing entities, but we urge the council to avoid letting the project come to a complete halt.
The council's desire to take a closer look at the results of a blight study conducted in the downtown area is more than reasonable, and council members should have received that information days in advance of last Tuesday's meeting rather than hours before. A blight designation is necessary to establish a TIF, and the city also will need to determine how much future sales tax growth from new development it wants to dedicate to the public improvement project in downtown.
It's also important to note that a TIF only captures tax revenue from new development in the district, not from properties and businesses that already exist when the TIF is established.
In our view, it's important to keep the momentum of the downtown revitalization plan going with particular focus on the Yampa Street Promenade project. It's key to the city's economic growth, and we continue to believe increased investment in the downtown business district will spur economic activity and produce increased sales tax revenue that the city also needs to conduct its business.
We appreciate the temporary measures the city has implemented to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety along Yampa Street, and they've definitely made a difference, but we'd like to see permanent, more aesthetically pleasing improvements made along the street, which would require a solid funding source like a TIF.
It's a mistake for the city to assume development will happen without the public infrastructure and streetscape improvements that would be paid for through an urban renewal funding plan.
A similar process was used to fund base area improvements at the mountain, and although slowed by the recession, it appears that investment is beginning to pay dividends with the announcement in recent weeks of a few redevelopment plans at the base, including the Clock Tower project.
We think there's merit in the council acting as a URA and using a TIF to fund downtown public improvements, but if the city can find another way to get the job done, we urge them to investigate that avenue and move forward because the most merit lies in getting the project done now while momentum and energy for development is building.
The city is faced with a huge opportunity to drive economic growth, and we hope the City Council collects the information it needs and then moves ahead with the TIF or pursues another funding mechanism, maybe even tapping the city's general revenue fund to finance the project.
We remain convinced that the Yampa Street Promenade project is worth the investment and any improvements that can be made to encourage development there have the potential to contribute greatly to the vitality of this community.