Steamboat Springs City Council moves closer to forming downtown URA |

Steamboat Springs City Council moves closer to forming downtown URA

— The Steamboat Springs City Council Tuesday night advanced a plan to fund millions of dollars worth of downtown infrastructure improvements in the coming years with the help of an urban renewal authority and tax increment financing.

“This will make our community better,” Council member Kenny Reisman said of the proposed downtown improvement projects that range from pedestrian lighting to sidewalks.

Council President Bart Kounovsky said past councils have for decades passed on opportunities to invest in the downtown corridor, and the current council should be the one to pull the trigger.

“I don’t see any fluff in here,” he said of the proposed projects. “I don’t see any crazy kind of non-governmental services. We’re talking about under-grounding utilities, (adding) sidewalks and lighting and pedestrian safety. We’re talking about a true investment back into the downtown area.”

The council accepted a list of proposed projects worth $10.3 million with the caveat that the scope of the work could be refined in the coming months.

It also voted, 5-2, to select a URA and a TIF as the preferred funding mechanisms for a large bulk of the projects.

Council members Scott Ford and Sonja Macys opposed the motion, saying they wanted to further explore other possible funding mechanisms for the projects.

The council’s preferred financing tools would capture some future sales tax growth and possibly some future property tax growth from new development in the downtown corridor and use it to finance improvement projects. The idea is to spur private development and investment in the downtown corridor by improving the area’s basic infrastructure.

The use of a TIF has drawn opposition from some local taxing entities that believe the tax tool takes away revenue they would get in the future regardless of the initial investment in infrastructure.

The council is leaving the door open to the possibility of removing property tax revenue from the TIF — a move that would ensure the other taxing entities would not be impacted by its use.

The council will discuss the URA and TIF in more detail at a meeting next month and decide how to proceed. It also resolved to meet again with Routt County and the Steamboat Springs School Board before making the final decision on the tax tools.

In addition to sidewalks, the list of approved projects for downtown includes such things as additional public restrooms and burying utilities underground.

Not all of the funding would come from a TIF.

The city and the council have identified grant funding and the city’s capital improvement budget as other potential funding sources.

The council will also consider whether property owners should share in the cost of sidewalks installed on their property or whether those improvements should be covered completely by the TIF.

Council’s actions Tuesday night followed months of discussions about the potential URA in the downtown corridor.

The plan has garnered strong support from several downtown property owners and local business leaders.

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

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