URA plan goes back to Steamboat City Council on Tuesday night | SteamboatToday.com

URA plan goes back to Steamboat City Council on Tuesday night

Scott Franz

— The city of Steamboat Springs will find out Tuesday night whether the Steamboat Springs City Council wants to move forward with a proposal to use tax increment financing to fund $12 million worth of downtown improvements in the coming years.

City staff is proposing to capture some future sales and property tax growth from new development in the downtown corridor and use it on improvement projects like new sidewalks and better lighting.

The council last discussed the potential TIF and urban renewal authority in September, and many council members were either opposed to the idea or needed more information before making a decision.

The council delayed further consideration of the plan until city staff could gather more information and answer several questions the council had.

Council’s discussion came as the Steamboat Springs School Board and Routt County were saying they were opposed to the plan, saying the use of a TIF would negatively impact them.

In recent days, several more community groups and taxing entities have been weighing in on the URA.

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The plan recently has earned the strong support from the board of directors for the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and Mainstreet Steamboat Springs.

“The need for complete sidewalks, lighting and other safety measures, including Butcherknife Creek flood mitigation, is more than apparent and a necessity to making our downtown more attractive and safe, both for locals and visitors,” Mainstreet Manager Tracy Barnett wrote to the council. “With construction and lending costs low, now is the time to get these projects done. These safety measures will also enhance the visitor experience.”

The board of directors for the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District recently expressed its opposition to the plan, saying the use of a TIF would cause the district to lose out on property tax revenue it thinks it would otherwise receive.

“Water projects have been becoming increasingly harder to permit and finance,” Board President John Redmond wrote. “If this community expects the District to continue to develop stored water for consumptive and non-consumptive uses in the Upper Yampa Basin and to protect the local economy against drought, it is imperative that the City Council carefully scrutinize and reject any proposal which threatens to erode the District’s property tax base and its ability to finance water projects.”

The Chamber and Mainstreet on Thursday got a preview of city staff’s updated pitch to the council.

“This is about making a great place even better,” Planning Director Tyler Gibbs said while he presented the URA plan to Mainstreet. “It’s about making downtown more attractive and safer.”

If a TIF was put in place, a baseline of property and sales tax in the downtown urban renewal area would be set, and a portion of any growth in those taxes would be dedicated to improvement projects for as many as 25 years.

Council members have expressed a desire to put a limit on the TIF so that it does not keep collecting any more money than is needed to accomplish a finite list of projects.

City staff thinks the use of a TIF would allow improvement projects to be funded quickly and make downtown more attractive to private developers.

The city already has used a URA and a TIF at the base of Steamboat Ski Area to construct such improvements as the promenade.

Some examples of the projects city staff thinks a TIF could construct downtown include the installation of a promenade on Yampa Street, sidewalks on Oak Street and public restrooms in places like West Lincoln Park.

According to the city, the downtown urban renewal authority would enter into an agreement with all of the local taxing districts and cap the total property tax increment that would be directed to the projects at $2.4 million.

The remaining $10.2 million would come from city sales tax increment and would not include sales taxes from the county or the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board.

The URA also would enter into an agreement with the Steamboat Springs School District to ensure that the portion of property tax increment from the district would not go into the TIF if the state decided not to backfill that revenue as it is legally obligated to do now.

“The schools are not impacted at all,” Gibbs told Mainstreet members. “We would not allow this to divert any money away from our schools.”

In addition to the URA, city staff also will talk to the council about other options the city has to fund downtown improvements in the coming years and their pros and cons.

The URA discussion is the first item the council is scheduled to tackle Tuesday night.

It will be followed by a discussion about affordable housing.

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

If you go

The Steamboat Springs City Council will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday in Citizens Hall on 10th Street. Public comment is accepted at the time of each agenda item. General public comment on items not on the agenda is accepted at 7 p.m. or at the end of the meeting, whichever comes first.