Our view: More bang for URA’s bucks | SteamboatToday.com
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Our view: More bang for URA’s bucks

AT ISSUE

Downtown transformation calls for more than sidewalks and storm sewers.

OUR VIEW

It’s premature for the city to commit to limiting a new downtown URA to fewer than the allowed 25 years.

We commend Steamboat Springs City Council for taking a stand in favor of creating an urban renewal authority to leverage sales and property tax revenue streams to fund downtown improvements that hold the promise of growing the overall property tax base for all of the governmental entities in Routt County that rely on those taxes. We just wish the city council would dream a little bigger.

AT ISSUE

Downtown transformation calls for more than sidewalks and storm sewers.



OUR VIEW

It’s premature for the city to commit to limiting a new downtown URA to fewer than the allowed 25 years.



The original push for a URA to manage tax incremental financing (TIF) in Steamboat was conceived to make the city’s downtown commercial district more appealing to visitors and developers by realizing the full potential of Yampa Street along the river. Plans envisioned a small, public performance stage and even a second pedestrian bridge across the river, strengthening the pedestrian links between downtown and all the recreational and parking opportunities at Howelsen Hill.

We understand the political expediency of re-focusing the list of projects to be undertaken by the URA to include mostly practical things, such as sidewalks, curbs, storm water gutters and pedestrian lighting. However, we would urge the city not to give up on some of the more impactful downtown improvements that we were dreaming of not that long ago.

To bring that into focus, try to imagine the public improvements at Steamboat’s ski base area, funded by a URA, without Burgess Creek splashing over small waterfalls in summer. Picture the promenade in winter without gas-fired fire pits and snow-melted pavers. There was a time, in 2007, when the Urban Renewal Authority Advisory Committee at the mountain realized it would not be able to heat the promenade with a geothermal exchange system and almost gave in to the possibility of removing snow and ice the old-fashioned way.

Now that we have firsthand evidence of how transformative a heated promenade in Gondola Square has been, we would never think of giving up on that project. So, why would we leave some of the most imaginative and appealing improvements out of our downtown URA?

The council has indicated that although it has the ability to create a TIF that would last as long as 25 years, it is leaning toward shutting the TIF down as soon as a finite list of projects is completed.

But the council has also said it will try to find a way to hold other taxing entities, such as Routt County and the Steamboat Springs School District, harmless in establishing the downtown TIF. For that reason, we don’t understand why the city council feels it necessary to commit to curtailing the life span of the TIF in advance. We believe that 10 or 15 years into a downtown URA, everyone involved should have a clear picture of how the finances are working. Not until then should the city commit to cutting off the life of its TIF.

These downtown improvements have been incubating for three decades, and at long last, we have the opportunity to enrich the experience that downtown Steamboat offers for area residents and visitors alike.

If we’re going to dream, let’s dream big and make the most of this opportunity.


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