Steamboat City Council keeps June 16 URA hearing on schedule despite new law
Steamboat Springs — The Steamboat Springs City Council plans to still hold a public hearing on the possible creation of a downtown urban renewal area later this month despite a brand new state law that could complicate the plan.
Council members Scott Ford and Sonja Macys wanted to postpone the June 16 hearing and possible URA vote to give the council more time to learn about the implications of significant urban renewal reforms that Governor John Hickenlooper signed into law on Friday.
The law will ultimately give counties, school districts and other taxing districts more of a say over how municipalities spend tax increment on urban renewal projects.
The new rules may not apply to Steamboat’s new urban renewal plan if it is created before the new law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2016, but city staff and urban renewal attorneys in the state still are working to figure out what the law means for existing and future URAs.
Macys predicted there will be challenges ahead.
“I think there is pretty widespread agreement that this (new law) is going to be challenging for municipalities both in creating new plan areas and continuing to work within existing plan areas,” Macys said. “I think the timing of our discussion on the 16th is premature.”
The majority of the council declined to postpone the public hearing, which is a legal requirement of forming a URA.
After the hearing, the council could 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 the work.
City Attorney Tony Lettunich said to postpone the hearing would require new notifications to be sent out to other taxing entities.
He said council could instead delay its decision on an urban renewal plan area if it wants to on June 16.
Lettunich added that the city’s urban renewal attorney will be on hand at the next council meeting to talk about the impacts of the legislation.
“There’s still a lot of uncertainty about what some of the language (in the new URA law) means,” Lettunich said.
After Jan. 1, 2016, any new urban renewal authority will be required to have representation on its board from an elected school board member, a board member of a special taxing district and a board member appointed by the county commissioners.
The bill also requires cities to negotiate with other taxing entities over the proportion of sales and property tax increment that is dedicated to urban renewal projects.
If an agreement can’t be reached, the municipality must enter mediation with the other entities.
The City Council is considering using tax increment financing to fund millions of dollars worth of infrastructure improvements downtown, ranging from sidewalks to pedestrian lighting.
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