Howelsen Hill negotiations back on track
Steamboat Springs — Dozens of community members who packed the Steamboat Springs City Council chambers Tuesday night because they were concerned about the future of Howelsen Hill left the building reassured by what they heard from their elected officials.
After a bumpy and tense start, negotiations between the council and the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club over the future maintenance and operations of the city’s historic ski hill are back on track.
Both sides reported much progress on Tuesday after a productive meeting at the start of the week.
The city is now considering starting a preservation fund for Howelsen that would set aside a certain amount of money each year in the city’s budget to be used for catastrophic repairs.
The Winter Sports Club and the city are also discussing ways to set a cap on the city’s financial obligation for soil stabilization on the hill in the event of a major landslide.
“Realistically speaking, I think we’ve gone leaps and bounds,” Councilwoman Heather Sloop said in front of the standing room-only audience.
But late last week, the Winter Sports Club said the talks with the city were in a much different place and were generating concerns.
Following a negotiating meeting on Thursday, Winter Sports Club Executive Director Jim Boyne sent a letter to supporters urging them to attend the council meeting to show support.
He said the club and the city weren’t seeing eye to eye on some issues, including what the ski complex was comprised of.
The tone of the negotiations quickly changed Monday.
“Yesterday was a watershed day, and Thursday was a dark day in our discussions,” Boyne said.
Council members reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring Howelsen Hill remains a ski area for the next century and beyond.
“We all understand Howelsen Hill and the Winter Sports Club are an integral part of the fabric of our community, and it’s part of the community character we all love and cherish,” Councilman Jason Lacy said.
The city and the Winter Sports Club will continue their negotiating sessions with the ultimate goal of better defining their current joint use agreement.
Other council agenda highlights:
• The council discussed the prospect of asking voters to place a new tax on the sales of lift tickets at Steamboat Ski Area to fund transportation improvements in the city. A majority of the council made it clear they would not support going forward with such a proposal at this time.
Rob Perlman, the CEO of the ski area, told the council a lift ticket tax would be divisive.
“We’ll spend our time and resources to oppose this when we could spend our time on more productive things,” Perlman said.
Councilman Tony Connell, who floated the idea, was the only council member to say he was ready to pursue a lift ticket tax proposal.
• The council discussed the prospect of placing additional sales taxes on alcohol and marijuana sales.
The revenue from such a tax would be used to support substance abuse prevention and treatment efforts.
Most council members expressed support for looking into the idea further.
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