Business improvement district seeks funding for increased services in downtown Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

Business improvement district seeks funding for increased services in downtown Steamboat

Downtown Steamboat Springs sits in the shadow of Mount Werner at dusk. (File photo courtesy Brendan Durrum)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It's difficult to make improvements without funding. For years, Steamboat Springs' downtown business improvement district has been an organization without a budget.

This November, for the third time, the BID is seeking businesses' approval on a ballot measure that would fund the BID.

On Sept. 18, the Steamboat City Council approved the BID's final operating plan, which outlines services and improvements the BID would seek to make downtown. The BID includes businesses, nonprofits and government offices on Yampa Street, Lincoln Avenue and parts of Oak Street from Third to 12th streets.

Under the plan, downtown is split into two zones. Businesses on Yampa Street and Lincoln Avenue and the side streets between are in the premium zone. If the BID funding were approved, these businesses would pay a special frontage assessment of $10.29 per linear foot and a mill levy of 2.22 mills.

Nonprofits in the area of Lincoln and Yampa would only pay the special assessment and could apply to waive or reduce what they pay on the special assessment.

All other businesses in the district are in the standard zone and would only pay the 2.22 mill levy. All other nonprofits in the district would not pay any additional taxes.

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After the first year of a funded BID, there is a possibility that businesses and organizations outside of the premium zone would be allowed to opt in to receive heightened services.

"Oak Street is part of the BID, and it's been part of the BID since 2006," said Lisa Popovich, executive director of Main Street Steamboat Springs. "You can't just exclude them. There's no way to exclude them from a mill levy, but you can exclude them from the special assessment. That's why it was done that way. It was done in an attempt to make it more fair."

The mill levy could be spent on any improvements in the district, including services, Popovich said, while the special assessment will only pay for services.

All businesses could receive marketing to advertise to businesses throughout downtown, advocacy on behalf of downtown businesses to city and state government and wayfinding and district identity signage, according to the operating plan.

Businesses in the premium zone would see snow removal, litter pickup and more frequent trash removals, power washed sidewalks and possible physical improvements such as additional lighting, bike racks and benches.

"These marketing efforts locked in as a permanent by these funding sources — it gives me the creeps," said Steve Lewis, who owns an engineering firm and leases commercial space in a building on Oak Street. He is afraid that attracting more people to the downtown corridor will exacerbate parking and crowd problems that already existing downtown.

Popovich anticipates that if the BID is funded, the first year will be a year of figuring out how best to provide services. Should the special assessment create a budget surplus or shortage, it could be adjusted, she said.

Popovich added that many of the services outlined for the premium zone, except for snow clearing, would also be implemented on Oak Street.

"They'll get some trash cans," she said. "They'll get trash removal. They'll get litter removal. They'll get sidewalk sweeping. They'll get flowers. They get all kinds of things. They just aren't going to get snow removal that first year."

Lewis said he'd rather have paid to receive snow clearing in place of additional marketing.

"The marketing, I feel like, is being shoved down my throat, because I don't need it at all," he said. "At least someone who is getting snow clearing they don't want, can't say 'I don't need snow clearing at all.' They do need it, so I argue, 'Why don't you take something we all actually need and provide that service?'"

Jennifer Williams, who co-owns two commercial buildings in the 400 block of Oak Street, is worried that funding the BID would increase her tenant's rent.

Popovich argues that it's worth it. She believes marketing could establish Oak Street as a center for wellness in Steamboat and attract additional customers. She said the increase in rent could be worth it if it drums up business.

She also said she expects the BID Board would be conservative and thoughtful in how they spend the BID money — they would be paying into it too.

"They're all business or property owners," she said. "It's their money, so they're being very cautious about what they do."

After 10 years, the City Council would consider renewing the BID or receiving petitions from business owners to dissolve the BID. Lewis is also bothered by the fact that voters wouldn't get a choice to vote to renew the BID at sunset.

The election process for the BID is complicated. Each building owner and business operating in the BID receives a vote. Businesses owned by companies or corporations must select a registered Colorado voter to represent them as an elector.

Nonprofits that lease a commercial building will also get a vote and select an elector. If a nonprofit is housed in a tax-exempt property, it will not be allowed an elector.

To select an elector, business staff must fill out a form designating the elector and submit it in person at Sharp, Steinke, Sherman & Engal Attorneys at Law at 401 S. Lincoln Avenue or by mailing it to Mainstream Steamboat, P.O. Box 774611, Steamboat Springs CO 80477.

For more information on the BID and voting in the BID election, visit steamboatspringsbid.com. Business owners can also contact Popovich at lisa@mainstreetsteamboat.com for more information and to obtain an estimate of how much they would pay into the BID based on their current assessed property values.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email ehasenbeck@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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