Steamboat Springs City Council weighs in on proposal to buy Yampa Street lot for future bridge
Steamboat Springs — The Steamboat Springs City Council does not appear to be willing to buy another piece of property on Yampa Street that some community members have eyed as another riverside park with a new pedestrian bridge.
Council President Walter Magill said the city has higher priorities downtown.
“This investment isn’t the best investment of the city’s funds,” Magill said.
But some council members appear open to the possibility of at least purchasing a trail and bridge easement on the parcel under certain conditions.
And councilman Tony Connell floated the idea of using excess lodging tax dollars to invest in the property in the future and add more parking in the area.
The potential purchase of the property at the intersection of Seventh and Yampa streets for $1.3 million spurred a debate among council members about fiscal restraint.
“There are occasions, and this may be one of them, where we have to say ‘no’ to good things,” Councilman Scott Ford said as the council debated whether to spend money on the property. “We struggle already with the parks we already own.”
The council also learned it is estimated it would take a decade just to plan the new pedestrian bridge and tunnel below the railroad on the Howelsen Hill side of the river.
The lengthy time period is attributed to the need to negotiate with Union Pacific Railroad.
A new bridge is estimated to cost $2 million in today’s dollars, but the price would likely go up in future years.
Realtor Jim Cook told the council he was not trying to convince them to purchase the entire parcel.
At the council work session, he pitched the idea of the city taking advantage of a rare opportunity and securing the right to build a bridge in the future.
Other options he offered to the city at the property included acquiring a portion of the land for $298,000, acquiring a 10-foot-wide trail and bridge easement on the parcel for $100,000 or doing nothing and waiting until a private party purchases the parcel.
Under the final scenario, the city could still work to secure a trail easement when the property went through the planning process.
Cook said the current property owners who got the parcel for $1.4 million are “buried in it” and are looking for a way out.
Cook also said he thinks the best plan for the property is a four-lot subdivision.
“I think I could sell off the lots doing that,” he said. “I’ve got people lined up already.”
Proponents of a third bridge over the Yampa think it could open up more downtown parking near Howelsen Hill and encourage more people to park in bigger lots, such as the one at the rodeo grounds.
But bridge skeptics think there are already adequate river crossings at Fifth and Ninth streets.
Steamboat resident Bill Jameson was the only community member to offer public comment on the idea Tuesday night.
“No, or hell no to all of the above,” Jameson said. “I’m sorry, you have access to the rodeo grounds. It’s called Fifth Street. If people can’t walk from Fifth Street to the rodeo grounds, too bad. Sorry. You can’t afford this parcel. You can’t afford an easement on this parcel because you can’t afford to build the bridge and the underpass under it.”
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