Routt County, Steamboat Springs School District oppose downtown URA
September 1, 2014
Steamboat Springs — Stakeholders are telling the Steamboat Springs City Council that they aren’t in favor of a proposal to use voter-approved property taxes to fund a new urban renewal authority.
The objections to the proposal are detailed in a letter from the Routt County Board of Commissioners, the East Routt Library District Board of Trustees and the Steamboat Springs School District. The letter was hand-delivered to the Steamboat Springs City Council on Friday.
Discussion of the URA is on the agenda for Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
"We encourage the city to explore other avenues to raise these funds," the letter reads.
City staff members last week presented the School Board with their proposal to use tax increment financing to fund infrastructure including sidewalks, lighting and better pedestrian access in the downtown area.
Taxes would be diverted only from new developments and not affect the current baseline property taxes that the school, county and other taxing entities are receiving, but it would take away from taxes they otherwise would receive from those new developments.
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City planners think the infrastructure improvements will encourage more development downtown, thereby paying for themselves, but opponents to the plan are arguing that new development will happen with or without the URA.
"We frankly dispute the assumption that continued commercial and residential development in downtown Steamboat will not occur ‘if not for’ the construction of the proposed upgrades," the letter reads. "Current trends indicate substantially more will occur than projected by the City’s consultant even without the impetus of the proposed infrastructure improvements."
School Board President Roger Good said that simply put, the city is wanting to take money that voters approved for other uses, like schools, the county and libraries.
"I’m hoping the public understands what is going on, and the City Council will pursue any number of other mechanisms to fund this," Good said.
Good called the proposal "troublesome" and said he hoped the city would consider alternatives, though the city is able to pursue the TIF at its own discretion without approval from the county or the school district.
The School Board is unanimous in its opposition of the proposal and held a special emergency meeting Thursday to discuss adding its name to the letter, Good said.
County Commissioner Tim Corrigan said that although improvements do need to be made downtown, designating the area as “blighted” to do so isn’t realistic.
"There’s no question that the improvements need to be made, but I think it’s a bit of a stretch to consider downtown Steamboat Springs as a blighted area," Corrigan said.
Corrigan said he thinks the development of One Steamboat Place at the bottom of Steamboat Ski Area would have been built with or without the city’s URA there, but because it was established, the city is reaping those tax benefits.
He thinks that developments are in the works for the downtown area already and that the city’s predictions for what it will receive in diverted taxes throughout the next 25 years are grossly underestimated.
"Significant new development is going to take place regardless," Corrigan said.
Corrigan said if the city does decide to move forward with the TIF, it should consider capping its earnings at $2.4 million, which was what a consultant estimated it would receive from new developments, rather than allowing the TIF to go on for 25 years.
"If the city was going to move forward in spite of the letter and our objections, I would like to see the total capped," he said.
Tuesday’s City Council meeting will begin at 5 p.m. in Citizens Hall at Centennial Hall, 124 10th St., and will include a regular time for public comments.