Steamboat city council debates whether city is being fair when charging developers for traffic impacts | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat city council debates whether city is being fair when charging developers for traffic impacts

Traffic waits at the intersection of Elk River Road and U.S. Highway 40.

Faced with a demand for a sizable refund from a developer, the Steamboat Springs City Council plans to consider changing the way the city charges developers for the impacts their projects have on traffic and local roads.

At least two elected officials are questioning whether the city's process is fair and equitable to the development community.

But others appear unwilling to make any changes or possibly issue refunds to developers who think they paid too much toward infrastructure projects.

A central question in the debate is whether developers should be pitching in based on the overall cost of a future road project, including state and grant funding, or only the portion the city ends up actually having to pay for it.

City Attorney Dan Foote said he doesn't see any legal flaws with how the city is currently demanding money from developers to help pay for such things as intersection improvements near their projects.

The so-called exactions help offset the impact the additional traffic housing and commercial developments create.

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But Steamboat developer Michael Kortas, who developed the Captain Jack subdivision off 13th Street, thinks the exactions are actually impact fees that need to be spelled out and adopted by ordinance.

He's working with his lawyer to seek a refund from the city for an exaction he paid in 2015.

He thinks he overpaid the city by $18,355 for improvements to the Elk River Road intersection.

In Kortas’ case, he was assessed a fee based on an estimate that the Elk River Road intersection improvements would cost $3.5 million.

The city’s actual bill for the project totaled $877,000 after the Colorado Department of Transportation pitched in $3.6 million for the intersection improvements, which are currently under construction.

Kortas thinks he overpaid the city, because its actual bill was far less than $3.5 million. However, city officials think Kortas actually ended up getting a discount on the impact fee.

That’s because, with the CDOT and city costs added together, the total project clocked in at $4.5 million, about $1 million more than the estimate they used in 2015.

Public Works Director Jon Snyder said last month when the city estimates the cost of an infrastructure project for the purpose of assessing an exaction to a developer, it does not take into account how much revenue it might get from the state or any other government entity for the project.

Councilwoman Heather Sloop said Tuesday developers should be paying based on a transportation project's estimated cost to the city, not its overall cost including state funding.

Councilwoman Lisel Petis disagreed, saying the costs should be based on the entire estimated cost of a project.

One thing Sloop and Petis agreed on was that the city's current policy of charging developers for transportation improvements does need more clarity.

In addition to Sloop, Councilman Scott Ford also wanted the city to look into possible changes to the process.

The council is expected to take up the issue during an August work session.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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