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Born in Denver
On a philosophical level I have a strong objection to re-purposing property taxes citizens voted to be used for other purposes. I know that the argument is made that the improvements to the Downtown area represent an investment that results in greater taxes 25 years in the future that otherwise would not have happened.
Even if that were true what gives the City the right to re-direct property taxes intended for other purposes? This is why the proposed change in the URA regulations will at least give the elected bodies of those most impacted a say in how those funds are spent. Right now the City is making this property tax re-directing decision for them without their OK.
Although City can legally do this, it is heavy handed and it is not right! It certainly is not the neighborly thing to do.
(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not reflect those of my fellow council members.)
We need to ask ourselves the following within the context of the state statute - is the “Blight” so prevalent Downtown that it:
“…substantially impairs or arrests the sound growth of the municipality, retards the provision of housing accommodations, or constitutes an economic or social liability, and is a menace to the public health, safety, morals, or welfare...” [Colorado Revised Statute 31-25-103(2)]
Let’s take these one at a time:
The Deteriorating Condition Downtown Impairs or Arrest the Sound Growth of the Municipality. Really? Last year sales tax collections exceeded projections by over $2 million. Reserves are sufficient that $10 million was transferred to the Capital Improvement Budget for the construction of a new police station. The City finance department is projecting a 4% growth in sales tax collections in the coming year. Evidence points to the reality that the City is in pretty good shape financially.
The Deteriorating Condition Downtown Retards The Provision of Housing Accommodations. Really? If this is occurring why are the condo units in Howelsen Place, Alpen Glow and the Olympian selling? They might not be selling as fast as the developers of those properties would like but the probable reason for this is market conditions and not deterioration of downtown Steamboat Springs.
The Deteriorating Condition Downtown Constitutes An Economic or Social Liability. Really? Downtown Lincoln Ave and Yampa Street have never been more vibrant. Evidence for this is the highest retail and food/beverage sales the area has ever seen. Revitalize?! It has never been more vital!
The Deteriorating Condition Downtown Constitute A Menace To The Public Health, Safety, Morals, or Welfare. Really? The crime incident stats in the proposed Downtown District of the URA (DTURA) are as follows:
- 2008 = 243
- 2009 = 227
- 2010 = 182
- 2011 = 211
- 2012= 227
As a data geek it looks to me the conditions are in the same range year-over-year. I am actually surprised that these are as low as they are because of the concentration of establishments downtown that serve alcohol. A correlation between alcohol consumption and crime incidents exists. It would therefore be logical that City Council, acting as the Liquor Licensing Authority stop approving any new licenses in the area – and non-renew many of them going forward. (Only kidding – but logically consistent.)
Is the area deteriorating to the point that it meets the intent of the Colorado Statute? No way!! Let’s not kid ourselves. The finding of “Blight” is being done to fulfill the requirements of the creation of the DTURA and therefore allowing the use of TIF financing. Calling the area “Blighted” is an insult to the intelligence of our citizenry. Simply put, this is a contrived finding and I am not willing to play that game.
Here in lies a key structural challenge facing City Council. The 7 City Council members can best be described as a group of volunteer citizen legislators. All 7 of us have family/job/career/business responsibilities to varying degrees.
City Council has the oversight responsibility for an entity with a $50+ million annual budget. (Enterprise and General Funds combined.) This about the same size of Routt County’s budget. I would contend that the City has a greater or at least an equivalent number of “moving pieces” associated with its operation.
The three County Commissioners typically spend 2 full days a week (Monday/Tuesday) in in scheduled public meetings fulfilling their oversight responsibilities. Essentially as Commissioners their role is a full-time job. They cannot be characterize as volunteer citizen legislators.
What this means is that for City Council there is a great reliance on staff to explore options. There is nothing wrong with this – as long as City Council understands the difference between abdications vs. delegation. The oversight responsibilities Council is charged with, to the best of our abilities, is understanding the pro/cons of the different options available and represent the citizens. From my perspective occasionally the staff presents a narrow spectrum of options. Amongst the different CC members sometimes a narrowed approach is OK and sometimes it is not.
The challenge as described above is not new to this CC. Prior CCs held work sessions open to the public to help them address this challenge. Was that a perfect solution? NO! However, a work session provided the opportunity for CC in the full view of the public to deliberate amongst themselves, interested citizens and staff – without the formality associated with a regular City Council meeting. In a work session sometimes good ideas emerge that nobody thought of. Given the opportunity to deliberate a broader spectrum of options will be explored in a work session and likely better decisions made.
Prior CCs scheduled the 2nd Tuesday of each month as a work session to discuss a specific topic(s). Without questions work sessions can be “overkill”. If there was no pressing topic the citizenry, Council members and/or staff wanted discussed (deliberated) the meeting was cancelled. Paul when you were City Manager did you see value in work sessions?
(Although I am a current member of City Council my opinions are my own and may or may not be shared by my fellow City Council members.)
You may have missed your calling. You have mastered the “Art of Description”. This is no longer simply a column about biking it likely meets the definition of literature. You made description an active part of the story.
Who knows you may be the next William Faulkner. He was known for his ability to use elaborate and lengthy descriptions to paint a meticulous picture in the reader’s mind. You have done that.
Keep up the good work!
Hi Gene –
I appreciate your perspective and concern. I have also asked myself the same question, “What has happened to the Yampa?” I am puzzled as well. Folks that tell me they had a great (day/evening) on the river – whereas for me it is more of a disappointing hit and miss experience over the past several years. In part this is why they call it fishing and not catching.
The reality is that there is a host of challenges facing this fishery ranging from Whirling Disease, Northern Pike, lack of replacement stocking and recreational tubing.
During the summer months the Yampa River through town is best characterized as an amusement ride. Evidence of this is that Disney named one of their ride attractions at Blizzard Beach Water Park, Teamboat Springs. Where do you think they got the idea to do that?
Several years ago I was involved as a representative from Yampa Valley Fly Fishers in the development of the River Management Plan I think that was commissioned by the City and Colo. Division of Wildlife. From my perspective we screwed up by limiting commercial tubing operations to only below 5th Street – thinking this would take the pressure off above 5th. It was assumed that only a few local kids would tube the river above that point. Wow – were we wrong! The ticket for this river amusement ride is a $21 blow up tube from Walmart to Sports Authority and now even Walgreens.
The commercial tubing operations collect a user fee from every tuber. These funds are used for river clean-up, structure and habitat improvement. I think that there may be some merit to charging a small fee on the retail purchase of tubes. A dollar per tube fee could go a long way. Also I think allowing the commercial tubing operations access above 5th Street would be a viable option to explore. One of the uses of this fee on retail tubes could be to stock the river occasionally during the summer.
(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by other members of City Council.)
Hi Martha -
(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not reflect those of my fellow council members.)
As I told Scott Franz last night, I did not come away with any sense of urgency to do something major right now. We do not have a parking crisis. To put things in perspective the consultants took their measurements on the busiest weekend (most downtown parking intense) of the summer of 2014. To put that date into perspective 2014 is on track to exceed the go-go days of the summer of 2007 and 2008. This was a good weekend to do this study because it helped quantify the question of what does “packed parking downtown” look like.
How accurate is the data collected by the consultant? Likely as accurate as it needs to be at this stage of the discussion. I hope to learn more about the methodology used to count the available public/private spaces in the consultant’s report. This will allow us to reasonably replicate the methodology using local resources such as the Boy/Girl Scouts equipped with a map of downtown and armed with clip-boards. The utilization of specific spaces at any given point in time is a wee-bit more complex but again doable with local resources. Perhaps this is a CMC student project?
The survey the consultant conducted is essentially a “poll”. Although there may be some value to the responses, I do not feel too much credibility should be assigned to the percentages cited; at least not more credibility than is attributed to the readers’ polls done by the newspaper.
There are a number of options that can be employed before we start building parking structures and lining Lincoln/Yampa avenues with parking meters – no matter how smart those meters may or may not be or who owns them.
It is hard for me to understand why we have parking regulations – yet do not seem to enforce those regulations with a level of consistency necessary to change behavior of long term parking “users” parking in short term spaces. The geography of the downtown parking problem is relatively focused and the area where the long term vs. short term behavior problem exist is even more narrowly focused. Focusing our collective enforcement energy will likely yield the desired results. However, it must be done consistently over time.
I like what Chuck Anderson, Public Works Director is doing. He is experimenting with low impact / low cost alternatives to increasing parking. Changes in “striping”, orientation and leasing spaces in existing private parking lots is a smart low cost approach. I think we encourage Chuck to continue to experiment with the goal of squeezing every available parking space out of existing resources.
Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not reflect those of my fellow council members.)
The Colorado Department of Revenue publicly discloses the state sales tax collected on medical and retail marijuana sales at the county level. It is the Colo. Dept. Revenue practice to release aggregated data only when there are at least three taxpayers in a given category and none of them represents more than 80% of the total.
In State fiscal year 7/1/12 to 6/30/13 there was $3,332,131 in Medical Marijuana sales in Routt County. For the period 7/1/13 to 4/30/14 (10 months) there has been $2,705,305 in Medical Marijuana sales in Routt County.
All this means is that medical MJ sales in Routt County are known because there are more than 3 taxpayers however, retail is not. Currently there are only two. If a third retail establishment is opened somewhere in the county AND of the three establishments no single establishment accounts for 80% total sales – publically disclosed data will be available.
Hi Fred –
The blunt answer to your question is NO! I do not think folks understand how big of a NO this is.
The City Charter does not allow the citizenry the opportunity via the petition process to overturn a decision of the City Council on budgeted capital expenditures. Simply put, this community is on the trajectory to build a new police station out of the downtown area. Exactly where this new police station will be, its size and features are TBD.
With the 2014 budget, $10.7 million in reserve funds were transferred to the capital improvement budget. Of this $10.7 million about $8.4 million is for a new police station. In the current budget year $300K has been budgeted to be spent on planning. At the present time $8.7 million is earmarked in the capital improvement budget to construct a police station in 2015. (This $8.7 million consist of $8.1 million of local citizenry money and $600K of OPM.)
I do not want to say that the construction of a new police station in 2015 is a forgone conclusion but it is headed that way. The last “line” of opposition will occur during the 2015 budgeting process. There is nothing that prevents City Council from “defunding” the scheduled 2015 budget police station expenditures.
I think there is little hope of this happening. In addition, I think some council members will be faced with voting NO on the entire 2015 budget because $8.7 million for police station construction will be in the 2015 capital expenditure budget.
Is it St. Jude that is the patron saint of lost causes?
(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not reflect the opinions of my fellow council members.)
Good Morning Scott W. –
A point of clarification. At this point in time the City does not know IF the Workman family is willing to sell their property and more importantly IF so at what price. Obviously these are two very “BIG” Ifs that are highly intertwined with each other. The $610K is only the appraised value. Properties often sell for more or less than their appraised value. It will be interesting to see how this moves forward.
Last login: Thursday, August 28, 2014
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