URA OK’d | SteamboatToday.com


City Council approves, 4-3, creating urban renewal authority

Christine Metz

The Steamboat Springs City Council decided in a 4-3 vote to create an urban renewal authority, despite opposition from Routt County Commissioners and the Steamboat Springs School District.

The four council members voting in favor of the authority — Nancy Kramer, Loui Antonucci, Paul Strong and Kathy Connell — expressed the need for an authority to bring improvements to the base area and thought the concerns of the county and school district could be settled later in the process.

“We would be absolutely foolish and remiss if we didn’t move forward with the authority,” Kramer said at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

The urban renewal authority would raise money to do public improvements at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area. The money would take the increase in property tax created from new developments or redevelopment of that area. The added property taxes otherwise would go toward Routt County and Steamboat Springs School District.

Commissioners feared that the process to form the authority was moving too fast and should involve further discussion. Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said the county did not find fault with the creation of the authority but had worries about the plan to implement it, which is scheduled for approval Dec. 21.

Monger said the County Assessors Office indicated the authority would have until August before the next property evaluation, which would be used as the base level of the incremental tax. Proponents of the urban renewal authority had asked the council to approve the authority before the start of 2005 so the city could capture taxes on new development or redevelopment that occurred in 2004, which was estimated at about $100,000.

Monger said there was time to discuss what kind of projects the authority would take on and how much they would cost. He said the county commissioners wanted to see contributions from the city and the property owners whom the projects would benefit.

Monger also urged the city to come up with a policy to deal with community requests to form special districts to fund individual projects.

“You have everything to lose by adopting the plan prematurely,” Monger said.

The school district feared it could lose money if the state decides to change the way it finances schools. Any shortfall the authority would create in tax revenue for the school district would be compensated by the state through backfill money. But the state funding could change, District Director of Finance and Operations Dale Mellor said, leaving the school district to make up the difference.

School district officials asked that the city add a hold harmless agreement into the authority or that the city agree to backfill any shortfalls to the district in the form of sales taxes.

“I do agree the base area definitely needs aid, but as those of you who have taken first aid know, the first rule is do no harm. Keep that in mind. Do not harm the education of the children through this process,” School Board Vice President Tami Havener said.

Three council members — Ken Brenner, Susan Dellinger and Steve Ivancie — voted to approve the authority with the amendment that the council would not approve the plan Dec. 21 and would agree to form a committee with the other entities involved to work out the concerns. Brenner also wanted to wait until the Tax Policy Advisory Board completed its final recommendations for the city’s long-term taxing strategy.

The amendment failed by a 4-3 vote. Some of the four council members voting in favor of creating the authority said they might not move forward with the plan Dec. 21.

“I would be willing to postpone the decision at the (Dec. 21) meeting,” Strong said. “But this is critical for the economy. … I really believe this is an opportunity to make Steamboat a better place.”

Close to a dozen people spoke during public comment Tuesday night, some in favor of the improvements the district would make and others worried that the process was moving too fast.

Former City Council President Kevin Bennett reminded the council that the city had been an active participant in helping secure sales tax to benefit the school district and county. The school has a half-cent sales tax, and the county has a countywide 1 percent sales tax.

“It is time for them to come to the table, for them to say to the city, it is your turn, we are going to support you,” Bennett said.

Developer Whitney Ward said developers and property owners are waiting for the city’s action to decide whether they want to risk investing in property at the base of the ski area.

“They are trying to determine would they, should they take a risk to invest in a place like this,” Ward said. “The creation of an urban renewal authority would get people excited. Were a Renaissance about to occur in Steamboat Springs, they are willing to take a risk.”

— To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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