Steamboat City Council appears ready to advance downtown URA |

Steamboat City Council appears ready to advance downtown URA

The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night will discuss a three-year plan to improve the downtown corridor.
Scott Franz

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify School Board Member Scott Bideau’s comments regarding a potential lawsuit over a URA.

The Steamboat Springs City Council has moved another step closer to ordering a multi-million dollar makeover of downtown.

Most council members now appear ready to create a new urban renewal area and use tax increment financing to fund downtown improvements that include new public restrooms, utility undergrounding and sidewalks.

But before the council takes the vote that will determine whether the plan is put into action, there are several details to work out.

In the coming weeks, there will be more negotiations with other taxing entities and more public discussions.

And there are some community members who are so concerned by the potential financing of the plan that they are preparing to launch a petition aimed at stopping it.

On Tuesday night, the council voted, 5-1, to set a June 16 public hearing on the potential urban renewal plan.

The hearing is legally required before council can move forward with a URA.

After the hearing, the council will vote on whether to create the downtown urban renewal district and outline the scope of improvements.

If the URA is approved, the council would then have time to finalize how to pay for all the work.

Most council members are expressing support for the tax increment financing, a tool that takes a portion of sales and property tax increment that is attributable to new development in an urban renewal area and redirects that money to improvement projects.

The council still needs to decide how much sales and property tax increment will go toward the downtown projects.

It resolved to host a series of meetings with the Steamboat Springs School District and Routt County before the June 16 hearing to see if they can find some common ground on the use of tax increment financing.

Both the school district and the county continue to oppose the use of TIF to fund downtown improvements.

Officials from the taxing entities believe the tool can harm them financially. They also believe they will miss out on property tax increment from downtown redevelopment projects that are already in the pipeline.

Council member Scott Ford, who has opposed the use of tax increment financing and called it a “bag of snakes,” was the only council member to vote against setting the public hearing for the potential URA.

Council member Sonja Macys was absent for Tuesday’s meeting.

Council members who are supportive of the URA plan believe it will make Steamboat Springs a better community and produce a strong return on the investment .

On the other hand, members of the Steamboat Springs School Board have been especially critical of the plan, saying it could harm the district and make it more reliant on the state for funding.

The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District and the East Routt Library District have also expressed concern about tax increment financing.

School Board member Scott Bideau on Tuesday suggested that if the council moves forward with a URA in violation of any statutory requirements, he would consider joining a lawsuit against the city.

In addition, Steamboat resident Chuck McConnell said he believes the tax tool could harm the schools, and he said he was launching a petition to allow voters to consider amending the city charter to require citizen approval of a URA.

A majority of council members do not believe the use of a TIF would harm the schools.

Walter Magill cited city finance projections that showed the maximum tax impact to the school district would be $60,000 a year under the downtown investment plan. He said the figure was a 10th of a percent of the district’s budget.

“We’re not decimating the schools,” Magill said. “If we do this, we’re doing this with the idea it’s going to help the schools…To come down here and say the sky is falling for the schools because we’re contemplating a URA, that’s just not true.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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