New special district proposed

A landowner with property adjacent to the Steamboat Springs Airport has proposed forming a special district to cover a $12 million infrastructure project.

Walter Scott, part of the Patricia Ann Scott Family Limited Partnership, proposed that the city create a Title 32 Special District for about 175 acres on the west side of Elk River Road and 50 acres on the east side of the road next to the Steamboat Springs Airport.

Scott has spent four years and attended more than 100 meetings looking at ways to bring water, sewers, roads and other utilities to the property. A special district was the clearest solution to develop his land, or any land in the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, he said.

"(A Title 32) Special District is really vital for the West of Steamboat plan," he said. "It is the foundation for it. The plan simply isn't going to work without utilities. We have studied different ways of financing the utilities and have studied different alternatives before getting into a Title 32."

Two Title 32 Special Districts already exist in the area: Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District and the Steamboat II Metropolitan District. City attorney Tony Lettunich described a Title 32 Special District as a quasi-governmental entity formed to get infrastructure built by providing a funding mechanism that can issue tax-exempt bonds. Without the tax-exempt bonds, developers have two options: to pay for infrastructure themselves with conventional loans that can cost 50 percent more or to have it done by the city through taxpayers' dollars.

One of the reasons the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan has languished in the four years since its adoption, Walter said, is because of the difficulty in getting infrastructure to the area. The partnership's land is in the city limits and targeted in the plan.

Doug Bradfield at Civil Design Consultants has worked with Scott on the project and said all the properties in the west of Steamboat plan have similar challenges in finding ways to bring infrastructure to any proposed development.

Bradfield said the plan recognized that infrastructure was going to be a challenged and identified ideas for bringing utilities to the area, one of which was forming a Title 32 Special District.

One of the biggest infrastructure expenses Scott faces is putting in a loop water system, which is required under city code. An easy solution for providing a looped system would be for one pipeline to go up the east side of Elk River Road and another to go up the west side of the road. Although that would be legal and meet the original intent of the code, Scott said it would only loop his property. Instead, he would like to create a looped system throughout the property to which other developments could link.

"It could indeed provide water to a portion of the (west of Steamboat) plan where there is no water available," Bradfield said. "It goes back to one of the challenges of infrastructure encompassed in the plan. Running pipe long distances drives the cost up. It really is a matter of economics."

In a Title 32 Special District, all developers tapping into the waterline would pay their share of the costs, regardless of when they connect. With varying timelines for how and when landowners want to develop their property west of Steamboat, that's a bonus for Scott.

"That is the real appeal of the Title 32," Scott said. "As it was explained to me, it is the fairest way to add other development on so the initial people won't bear the burden of the last group going in."

Scott said he has put the plans in the hands of the city and is waiting for a response.

"We can't do anything but present a concept to the city. They have to be the ones that embrace and develop a strategy to implement it," Scott said.

When Lettunich discussed Scott's proposal at last week's council meeting, he said a single developer or owner usually pays for its own infrastructure and suggested that the city not incur any expense in getting such a district approved. It was a sentiment the council supported.

"Mr. Lettunich is right on, in this council's view on this particular project," Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner said.

The city has experienced conflicts with the existing Mount Werner Water and Steamboat II districts. For more than a decade, the city has been trying to consolidate with Mount Werner Water, and voters turned down a ballot question last year that would have merged the two entities.

The city was in negotiations with Steamboat II for months and almost went to court over how much the district owed the city in tap fees and past water fees.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com.

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