Suitors line up for shot at city’s accommodations tax revenues | SteamboatToday.com

Suitors line up for shot at city’s accommodations tax revenues

When the city asked residents in 2013 how it should spend the 1 percent lodging tax charged to tourists on their nightly rentals, City Hall was flooded with ideas.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected from its original published version. The Steamboat Springs City Council will decide how the tax revenues will be spent, not the six-member committee that is vetting the proposals.

F.M. "Smokey" Vandergrift wants a piece of Steamboat Springs' accommodations tax to create a one-hour TV special on the history of Howelsen Hill and Steamboat Ski Area.

James Dorr wants the city to use a portion of the tax to fill a troublesome pothole near the exit of McDonald's on Anglers Drive.

The men are just two of nearly 40 suitors who have lined up with ideas for how the city should spend the $650,000 to $800,000 generated each year by a 1 percent accommodations tax charged to visitors on their nightly lodging rentals.

Last month, city officials asked residents to help them decide how to spend the tax.

From a request to add public restrooms at city parks to prevent tourists from "peeing in the trees" to revitalizing Yampa Street, the 38 formal ideas for the use of the tax are diverse.

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They range from modest ($5,0000 for the Young Professionals Network to bring in more speakers and improve marketing efforts) to expensive ($5 million to renovate and expand Old Town Hot Springs).

They range from abstract (open up a travel market to Latin America) to more concrete (expand the Yampa River Core Trail to the north and south).

Entrepreneurs, Realtors, recreation leaders, Steamboat's public school district and the city itself are among the applicants.

But it was a request from Jay Readinger and Mary Lou Gallup for pickleball courts that quickly caught Kenny Reisman's eye.

"I was surprised to see it because I don't know that much about it," the Steamboat Springs City Council member said. "That doesn't mean it's a bad proposal, I just didn't know of it. That, I think, really speaks to the excitement of this. There are people with all sorts of diverse interests from all backgrounds who want to make the community better."

Reisman serves on the six-member committee that ultimately will recommend to the City Council how the tax that has been used exclusively to retire Haymaker debt since 1995 should be spent. The tax will be freed up from the Haymaker use in 2014. The tax also helped pay for the first Strings Music Festival tent and the original Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs bubble.

Steamboat residents passed the tax in 1986. The tax questions read: "Shall the City Council of Steamboat Springs, in order to provide revenues to fund development of improvements and amenities in Steamboat Springs which will promote tourism and enhance the vitality of Steamboat Springs as a premier destination resort, and enhance the community identity, environmental desirability and economic health of Steamboat Springs, enact an ordinance levying a lodging tax of 1 percent on public accommodations of less than 30 days?"

The committee plans to meet Wednesday to comb over the applications, consolidate any redundant applications and weed out any proposals that don't adhere to the ballot language that created the tax in 1986.

That could mean three applications for a disc golf course and two for an ice rink at the base of Mount Werner immediately could shrink the list of applications to 35.

Many of the applicants are expected to be invited to participate in the next part of the process, which will entail a more formal "requests for proposal" period. The RFP is expected to be issued by the end of July, with a potential deadline of Aug. 31. The committee then will host public presentations from applicants whose RFP responses are "deemed most promising," according to the city's initial request for ideas document.

"Each person who put in an application strongly believes the fulfillment of that proposal will make this community better, and I think that's really cool," Reisman said.

He added that he is not "looking to create huge financial burdens for the city to shoulder down the road" as he helps decide how to spend the money.

One of the biggest players in the tax application pool is the city itself.

City officials submitted eight applications. The ideas range from establishing an attractive entryway on the west side of town to adding public restrooms to existing parks.

"Steamboat Springs has a wonderful series of parks and open space areas that provide high quality recreational opportunities to visitors and tourists alike," the city's application for public bathrooms starts. "Unfortunately, many of these first-class recreational amenities lack a basic restroom, which means that tourists are left to use smelly, uncomfortable port-a-potties, or to pee in the trees."

Deputy City Manager Deb Hinsvark said most of the city's proposals are important needs that currently aren't possible for the city to fund. She added she would like to see the tax support existing infrastructure, not add something new that could "age, break and wither."

"To be the gem we are today takes capital funds," she said. "Right now, we need to polish the gem."

Lodging tax proposals

Idea, proposer

■ One-hour TV special on history of Howelsen Hill, F.M. "Smokey" Vandergrift

■ Expansion of Bear River Park, city of Steamboat Springs

■ Expansion of Bear River Skate Park, Steamboat Skatepark Alliance

■ Renovation of Central Park Drive into "multimodal hub" with bike lanes and enhanced pedestrian crossings, city of Steamboat Springs

■ Invest in Bike Town USA Initiative, Bike Town USA

■ Community entryway in west Steamboat Springs, city of Steamboat Springs

■ Ice rink at base of Mount Werner, Mike Silverberg

■ Transformation of the Chief Plaza Theater into a cultural performing arts center, Friends of the Chief Foundation

■ Disc golf course, Christopher Garrison, Jason Ruemelin and Zac Hale

■ Enhancing community walkability and biking by adding enhanced pedestrian crossings, city of Steamboat Springs

■ Extend Yampa River Core Trail to the north, Scott Bideau

■ Extend Yampa River Core Trail to the South, Yampatika

■ Fieldhouse, Steamboat Springs School District

■ Turf field, Steamboat Springs School District

■ Replace old Steamboat Springs Transit buses and add GPS system, city of Steamboat Springs

■ Haymaker capital improvement projects, Haymaker Golf Course

■ Upgrade facilities in the Howelsen Hill sports complex, Howelsen Hill Sports Complex Partnership

■ Ice rink in Ski Time Square, Anne Barrington

■ International Mountain Bike Association Ride Center, Routt County Riders

■ Landscaping of U.S. Highway 40 medians, city of Steamboat Springs

■ Revitalization of Yampa Street, Mainstreet Steamboat Springs

■ Maintenance of athletic fields, Steamboat Springs Youth Soccer Association

■ Open new travel markets to Latin America, Sonia Franzel

■ Mountain bike ride center, Aryeh Copa

■ Purchase of five additional open space properties, city of Steamboat Springs

■ Perry Mansfield expansion project, Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp

■ Pickleball facility, Jay Readinger and Mary Lou Gallup

■ Public restrooms, city of Steamboat Springs

■ Relocate Emerald Park and Yampa River Botanic Park access points, Tom Leeson

■ Renovate and expand Old Town Hot Springs, Old Town Hot Springs

■ Repair potholes and improve intersections, James Dorr

■ Steamboat Art Museum improvements and maintenance, Steamboat Art Museum

■ Summer marketing program, Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association

■ Upgrades to Yampa River corridor, Friends of the Yampa

■ $5,000 grant to Young Professionals Network, Young Professionals Network

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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