Our View: Downtown Steamboat’s moment is here | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Downtown Steamboat’s moment is here

The city of Steamboat Springs Planning Director Tyler Gibbs will brief Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday on a plan to fund long-neglected basic infrastructure in downtown. We think the fate of that plan could determine whether we remain competitive with other mountain resort towns, or fall behind.

The new plan, at the request of City Council, is a re-do of an effort last year to fund basic public sector improvements such as sidewalks, curbs and gutters in the growing commercial district on Yampa Street in order to fully leverage that economic momentum. With its close proximity to the river of the same name, Yampa Street has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years despite the fact that it lacks a pedestrian friendly environment — sidewalks are missing in many areas, access to the Yampa river itself is spotty and pedestrian lighting and signage are largely nonexistent.

This time around, Gibbs has returned with a plan to use tax incremental financing through an urban renewal authority to build improvements from Oak Street to West Lincoln Park and along the numbered side streets as well as on Yampa Street. The large majority of funds needed to carry out downtown improvements would come from the city's sales tax growth, not property taxes.

Some of the highlights include improved restrooms in West Lincoln Park, a refurbished Ninth Street parking lot, sidewalks and pedestrian lighting all the way from Third Street to 12th Street on Oak Street.

The city of Steamboat Springs does not have a municipal property tax, and other taxing entities from Routt County to the Steamboat Springs School District and the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District have registered opposition to the plan for fear the property tax increment claimed by the city would compromise their ability to fulfill their respective missions. We can only urge them to recognize that over time, Steamboat's foresight in pursuing the TIF will increase the property valuation of their respective tax bases.

To fail to take that leap of faith means risking economic stagnation.

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Literally generations of City Council members have anticipated improvements on Yampa Street during the past three decades, and the window of opportunity in 2015 is one of the best in a decade; The fact that our real estate market recently has begun a recovery means the URA would have the opportunity to lock in a base property valuation just above the bottom of the real estate cycle. That means the city could maximize the potential property tax increment that would fund sidewalks on Oak Street and all the other projects.

If we are ever to make the improvements that are so needed in downtown Steamboat Springs, the time is now.

At Issue: Whether the city should go forward with revised plans to capture downtown sales tax and property tax growth to fund public improvements.

Our View: The resort, construction and real estate sectors are key drivers for our economy, and we cannot fail to invest in long-delayed improvements needed to stimulate investment that will elevate the well-being of Routt County

Editorial board

Renee Campbell — newspaper representative

Noelle Leavitt Riley — newspaper representative

Sheli Steele — newspaper representative

Shannon Moore — community representative

Bob Mueller — community representative