Downtown URA on hold
City Council wants more information on need for tax district
Steamboat Springs — More information is needed before moving forward with plans for a new tax district in downtown Steamboat Springs, city officials said Tuesday.
The Steamboat Springs City Council decided not to approve preliminary funding to implement the city’s urban renewal authority, or URA, in downtown Steamboat. A URA allows the city to use a fraction of tax revenue, generated by a specified neighborhood, to fund infrastructure improvements in that neighborhood. The city created its URA in December 2004. In January 2005, the city implemented the URA in an area around the base of Steamboat Ski Area.
Last month, representatives from Main Street Steamboat Springs asked the council to consider implementing the URA downtown, to spur development along Lincoln Avenue, Yampa Street and Oak Street.
But four of the six council members at Tuesday night’s meeting said they need more details about what improvements are needed downtown.
“I don’t want to take any steps forward until we know where we’re going and what we want to achieve,” council member Loui Antonucci said.
Before implementing the URA at the ski base, the City Council approved the Steamboat Springs Base Area Reinvestment Plan, which laid out specific improvements to be funded by property taxes in the area. Approval of that plan came after the city spent more than $95,000 for legal fees, staff fees and studies of needs at the base area.
A similar process would be necessary for a downtown URA, Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said.
“To get this even to a resolution stage, we probably need to spend about $30,000 in outside services,” DuBord said.
Council President Ken Brenner, President Pro-tem Susan Dellinger, and council members Antonucci and Paul Strong did not support moving forward – yet – with a downtown URA. Council member Steve Ivancie was absent.
Council members Towny Anderson and Kevin Kaminski supported the URA and said downtown Steamboat is in dire need of revitalization that upgrades, such as improved sidewalks and possibly a parking garage, could bring.
“I can’t emphasize enough that there is not redevelopment occurring in downtown right now,” Anderson said. “There have been plans (for development projects), and there are approvals, but there are also vacancies and going-out-of-business sales. I would strongly urge us to move forward with this.”
“Nothing is going on downtown,” Kaminski added. “It’s not pretty down there. If this is not the time to do (a URA), when is the time?”
Using downtown property taxes to fund a downtown URA would affect future tax revenues for numerous entities, including the Steamboat Springs School District, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, and the Routt County Board of Commissioners, which sent a letter to the City Council on Tuesday stating its opposition to a downtown URA.
“The (URA) will negatively impact the county’s ability in the future to fund basic services and infrastructure that benefit Main Street businesses and tourism,” read a letter signed by Doug Monger, chairman of the board of county commissioners.
Brenner directed Main Street staff to create a more detailed plan for downtown improvements.
“They’re absolutely right, we need to be more specific,” said Tracy Barnett, program manager for Main Street Steamboat Springs. “We’ll have to go back to the design committee and try to pull together the different ideas that we’ve had.”
– To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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