Comment history

Scott Ford says...

URA Districts once established can last up to 25 years. This is typically longer than our children are at home. This is why forming one is a very serious matter. They are around for a very long time.
Once a URA district is formed it is very difficult to “unwind”. Funds generated by the TIF are dedicated to pay off the debt that was issued to make the plan area improvements. For example, the Mountain Base Area District of the URA was established a little over 10 years ago. Bonds were sold totaling about $20 million. The TIF funds from this district are being used to service the debt associated with the bonds. The current outstanding debt from the Mountain Base Area District of the URA is about $18.5 million. If all goes according to plan it will be paid off in 2029.

If the TIF is generating more dollars than needed to service the debt and reserves are adequate – surplus funds can be used for other "special" projects such as building of a replica barn to serve as a gateway entrance to the base area.

City Council has the ability to unwind the Mountain Base Area District of the URA by ordnance and redirect the “surplus” TIF funds from new projects to make accelerated payments on the debt. Doing this at the Mountain Base Area District of the URA may hasten the date when the debt is paid off to 2025.

*(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by my fellow council members.)*

On Chuck McConnell: Voters should decide

Posted 4 June 2015, 8:38 p.m. Suggest removal

Scott Ford says...

Although it was not discussed, included in the City Council packet was an economic impact analysis provided by Yampa Valley Data Partners. What surprised me in the analysis was that TC economic "footprint" was not as hefty as it is sometimes discussed.

Based on numbers Chamber Executive Vice President provided visiting TC teams spend about $8.5 million during the months of June - Aug. As this $8.5 million circulates through the local economy it produces on a direct and indirect basis about $400K in city sales tax. This represents about 8% of total city sales tax collection during these three months or about 1.5% of total annual tax collections.

City sales tax it is not the whole kit and caboodle. There needs to be a recognition that the impact of this type economic activity go beyond simply increased city sales tax collections.

What I found most interesting was that this economic activity supported about 85 jobs measured on an FTE (Full-Time- Equivalent) basis. Because of the concentration of these jobs in the arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, food services represent about 3% of total employment in these industry sectors. In addition, these jobs pay 40% below what the average wage is in Steamboat Springs.

Focusing only on city sales tax collections is a myopic viewpoint.

*(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by my fellow council members.)*

Scott Ford says...

Good Morning Steve –
Oak Street is not a Red Headed Step-child. Although I can appreciate that at times it feels that way in both word and action. A majority of the public infrastructure improvements downtown are on Yampa Street. These improvements range from the construction of public restrooms, undergrounding of utilities to improvements in the walkways owned by the city.

What is needed on Oak Street is curb and gutter and adequate sidewalks along Oak Street itself and the connecting streets to Lincoln Ave. The phased construction of curb and gutter is the City’s responsibility. Sidewalks are another matter. Oak Street right now is a hodgepodge of sidewalks types as well as missing sections. I would like to see complete, adequately safe and ADA accessible sidewalks on Oak Street and I am OK with the hodgepodge. There is a big cost difference between adequate and splendid.

On both Yampa and Oak Street I want to explore the option that the owners of properties that have missing sidewalks pay for the cost of building those sidewalks. It does not seem fair to me that if a property owner has paid for the cost of their sidewalks because of a redevelopment requirement that their neighbor gets sidewalks in front of their property built at no cost to them. There is a mechanism to assess the property owner for the costs of sidewalk construction and amortize it.

At this point in time I do not know enough about street lighting essentials/options to comment but I know it needs to be in the mix.

Throughout this protracted discussion about establishing a downtown district of the URA and use of a TIF I have struggled that the actual “stuff” (public infrastructure) and how the “stuff” is to be paid for have been inseparable. The financing mechanism has received far more attention than the discussion about the “stuff”. I believe that the common ground for all interested parties is the public infrastructure improvements. My hope is that now with the governor signing the new URA regulations making TIFs much more difficult the attention/discussion can shift to the actual “stuff”, prioritization and when to get it done.

*(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by my fellow council members.)*

Scott Ford says...

Hi Ken –
There is a possibility that City Council could vote to form the district prior to 1/1/2016. However, I believe this action would be shortsighted. In conversations I have had with the City Manager over the past 2 weeks about the possibility the Governor signing this law she has indicated that one of the direct consequences is that it will make it essentially impossible to secure bank (bond) funding for URA projects using Tax Increment Financing.

I believe that the Governor signing HB1348 provides an opportunity to step back from the tunnel vision that has been associated with the proposed Downtown District of the URA. I think common ground can be found surrounding doing some of the public infrastructure improvements downtown – specifically on Yampa Street.

Up until the Governor signing this bill – how to pay for these improvements has been URA/TIF or nothing. That is not the case nor has it ever been but “tunnel vision” has resulted in seeing only one option. I look at this as an opportunity to be sure other options are explored and vetted. It is my heartfelt hope that we begin as a City Council with the help of the City Manager to “pause” and take the time to explore these options.
(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by my fellow council members.)

Scott Ford says...

This is a great idea! The City Charter gives a lot of responsibilities to City Council. As Lisa’s article highlights there is a lot to learn and I am still learning 18 months in.
What a great group to share their perspectives. Loui Antonucci, Paula Cooper Black, Cari Hermacinski and Jon Quinn were very helpful to me when I first considered running for City Council.
*(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by my fellow members.)*

On From the editor: Step up and serve

Posted 25 May 2015, 1:39 p.m. Suggest removal

Scott Ford says...

Eric –
Last month I had a conversation with Tim Gagen the town manager of Breckenridge. He shared some specifics questions they asked of visitors to Breckenridge. Their visitor survey is conducted by RRC Associates. This is same firm both the Steamboat Ski area and Chamber use.

RRC asked some specific questions about marijuana. When asked the out of state visitors were well aware that Marijuana was available through retail outlets in the town and that those stores were open to the general public. Yes – 93%. Did marijuana availability to the general public influence your decision to come to Colorado for a vacation? No-95%. The availability of Marijuana was not even close as a primary motivator. During your stay in Breckenridge did you visit a retail marijuana store? No-97%.

Although I am not too sure we have asked any of these types of questions of visitors to Steamboat Springs I am sure our results would be similar.

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by my fellow members.)

Scott Ford says...

This editorial makes a contrast between liquor licenses in Steamboat Springs to the number of retail MJ licenses. This is not an “apples to apples” comparison. There are 119 liquor licenses in Steamboat. The vast majority of the liquor licenses in Steamboat are for restaurants that serve alcoholic beverages to be consumed on their premises. A better comparison would have been to retail liquor licenses.

As of 5/4/2015 there were 10 retail liquor stores in Steamboat. This represents 8.4% of total liquor licenses. Statewide there are 13,347 liquor licenses of which 1,591 are retail liquor stores or 11.9%.

In 2014 the City of Steamboat received $290K in city sales tax from the 3 retail MJ establishments. During the same period $753K in city sales tax was received from the 10 retail liquor stores. Essentially over $1 million in sales taxes were collected from retail establishments that sell mind-altering substances in various forms.

From my perspective the MJ retail trade industry sector in Steamboat is evolving. This evolvement is viewed as too fast for some and too slow for others. It will look different in 5 to 10 years from now than it looks today. Evidence of this is the number of new and tweaks made to the state laws governing the cultivation/wholesale and retail that occurred last legislative session. There are not the same scope of changes occurring with retail liquor stores regulations.

There has not even been a full calendar year with the 3 MJ retailers operating. I am comfortable with a “slow-go” approach that allows the possibility of learning from our local experience as well as the experience of other communities. If the tuition associated with this “slow-go” learning is having only 3 MJ retail licenses (an acknowledge limitation on “Free-Enterprise” for the present day), this seems like the prudent approach. However, it will not likely always be this way.

Without question in my mind there will be more than 3 retail MJ establishments in Steamboat’s future. Where MJ retailers will be allowed to do business will also change. We are going to discuss the location restrictions at the July 7th Council meeting.

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by my fellow council members.)

Scott Ford says...

Hi Scott B -
In reviewing the April 2, 2013 City Council Packet – Agenda Item #15 it indicates that for a project like this the Community Development Code (CDC) requires 1.5 parking spaces per unit. So 42 units would mean 63 parking spaces (42x1.5 = 63). Since the project is located next to transit - the developer was allowed to reduce the number of required parking spaces by 10% to 57 spaces. (63-10% = 57).

If we assume that the 9 two bedroom units will have at least 2 vehicles and each of the 33 units had one vehicle that would mean 51 parking spaces [(9x2) +33= 51]. However, I think it is reasonable to expect that 1/3 of the one-bedroom units would be occupied by 2 people (couples) that also each have vehicles. If this happens parking for the residents let alone guest is going to be a challenge. This likely parking shortage is going to have some spill over impact to other properties located nearby and this is where the “rub” will come.

The density bonus given to SkyView Apartments as a result of its proximity to transit adds another element to the discussion about bus service beyond cost efficiencies alone. In this context the bus system becomes an essential service because it has been woven into the Community Area Plan (CAP) that encourages in-fill and higher densities where appropriate. If bus service is not reliable this element of the CAP falls apart and contributes to chronic long lasting parking problems.

(*Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by other members.)*

Scott Ford says...

The proposed downtown infrastructure improvements and the much discussed downtown district of the URA are two different things. However, over and over again they are discussed as if they are one in the same.

I am all for doing some infrastructure improvements downtown. Specifically undergrounding the utilities, providing public restrooms, street lighting and improving sidewalks on city owned property.

The current list of proposed downtown infrastructure improvements has a price tag of $10.3 million. A lot of this money is for sidewalks along Oak Street and the side streets connecting to Lincoln Ave. This list of infrastructure improvements is likely going to be paired down. On Oak Street and the connecting streets I think having curbs and functioning safe sidewalks is a good idea. However, there is a big price difference between functionally safe sidewalks and really splendid sidewalks.

Of the $10.3 million, dedicated funding sources for about $3 million has been identified. A substantial share of the cost of sidewalks can be addressed via property owner sidewalk assessments who would bare the majority of the cost. (This would be the cost for a functionally safe sidewalk not a splendid sidewalk.) I would not be surprised that the cost of public infrastructure that currently does not have a dedicated funding source could be in the $4 to $5 million range if we took a very sharp pencil to the list.

How to pay for this $4 to $5 million? One way is establishing a Downtown District of the URA and use tax increment financing applied to both sales and property taxes. This is A way to finance these projects, however, it is not the ONLY way. There are a host of other ways that have yet to be fully discussed and the pro/cons well understood. It is possible to have financing options that do not involve property taxes.

I would like to stop having this discussion framed that it is URA or Nothing.

*(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by my fellow council members.)*

Scott Ford says...

What is a “diverse” economy? A definition I have used for a number of years when I did work for Yampa Valley Data Partners was that an economy is diverse if the top three private industry sectors are the source of 50% or less of the jobs and 50% or less of labor source personal income. This approach avoids looking only at one industry sector and assuming it is the most important.

Looking at the greater Steamboat Springs area the top three industry sectors for jobs:
Arts, entertainment, and recreation, and accommodation and food services account for about 23% of the jobs; Educational services, and health care and social assistance at 18% and Professional, scientific, and management, and administrative and waste management services at 11%. (Total 52%)

The top three industry sectors for labor source personal income:
Construction at 17%; accommodation and food services at 15%; Educational services, and health care and social assistance at 13% (Total 45%). Professional, scientific, and management, and administrative and waste management services also at 13%

The numbers above are from 2013. Over the 15+ years that I have paid attention to this stuff – the percentages in both categories have been moving toward a more diverse economy.

I would not consider Steamboat Springs a tourism economy. The industry sectors associated with tourism does have a significant employment footprint in the local economy, however, these jobs have lower wages.

*(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by my fellow council members.)*