Our view: A bridge too far | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: A bridge too far

At issue

Follow your gut, City Council.

Our view

City Council’s lack of enthusiasm for a proposal that it spend $1.3 million on a vacant lot on Yampa Street is appropriate; at this time, the opportunity cost is too high.

One of City Council’s most significant accomplishments in 2016 was the creation of Workman Park at the confluence of Spring Creek and the Yampa River. We’re big fans of the park and how it complements the Farmer’s Market all summer long.

Our view

City Council’s lack of enthusiasm for a proposal that it spend $1.3 million on a vacant lot on Yampa Street is appropriate; at this time, the opportunity cost is too high.

But that doesn’t mean we need to turn around and commit to spending millions of dollars more on another pocket park, a third pedestrian bridge over the Yampa and a costly railroad underpass.

We’re open to the city continuing to explore the terms of a potential 10-foot easement across the vacant lot to ensure the possibility of one more point of access to the river in the future when there is a demonstrated need for it. But, right now, we can’t see the need for a third pedestrian bridge in addition to the existing bridges at Fifth and Ninth streets.

And that brings us to opportunity cost. The city has expressed hesitancy, to say the least, about the cost of providing domestic water infrastructure to proposed new residential neighborhoods in West Steamboat.

Is this the time to sink more millions into a park and a pedestrian bridge, or does the community have other priorities?

The proposal to sell the undeveloped lot for $1.3 million arrives when there are more urgent questions to be answered by local governments about community priorities.

We can anticipate the Steamboat Springs School District will come back to voters with revised plans to build/remodel school buildings. The recommendation last month by the Housing Steering Committee that a committee be formed to explore “alternative funding mechanisms” to fund community housing also demands attention.

But we think there’s still another reason to leave the vacant lot undeveloped: the significant investment the city is already making in improving the walkability of the rising commercial district on Yampa Street.

In summer 2015, when the city of Steamboat was pressing for the creation of an Urban Renewal Authority to enable the use of tax incremental financing to fund the Yampa Street improvements, the rationale was that the public sector improvements would stimulate private sector development.

We see the riverfront lot, which Realtor Jim Cook was touting to City Council for a park, as a valuable site where we can test the theory that the investment of public dollars on Yampa Street will attract more private dollars that would ultimately increase the vitality of the commercial district.

Why, in 2017, with progress finally being made on Yampa Street after 30 years of talk and little action, would we pass on the opportunity to create more reasons for people to congregate along the riverfront?

We would strongly encourage City Council to stick with its instincts and take a pass on acquiring the undeveloped lot on Yampa Street.

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