The town of Silverthorne is once again taking steps towards developing a walkable, pedestrian-friendly town center. Town council and consulting experts have been reviewing previous plans and studies and have scheduled an open house on Feb. 6 for interested parties to attend, view a presentation and ask questions.
The desire to create a downtown center is not a new one for Silverthorne. The Silverthorne Urban Renewal Authority was created in 1996 with the purpose of improving and revitalizing areas of the town that needed it through economic development efforts. This point of focus included the idea of a downtown core.
"Since then, we've gone through a lot of different processes," said Ryan Hyland, Silverthorne assistant town manager.
The concept was revisited in the 2008 comprehensive plan, when changes were made to allow taller buildings and on-street parking, among other things. The goal was to create a new and improved blueprint for the town's commercial areas.
In 2011 the town brought in Downtown Colorado, Inc. and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to further discuss the plans, gather information and make an assessment. A community survey showed that the public felt strongly about concentrating on economic development and the development of a downtown core.
One of the changes made from the original 1996 urban renewal plan is the size of the area concerned. The original plan included the entirety of the commercial districts within the town, while the new plan shrunk the town core boundaries. The town core now stretches from the north side of Interstate 70 to Sixth Street. It includes the Blue and Green villages of The Outlets at Silverthorne, as well as the commercial property on the east bank of the Blue River and along Adams Avenue.
Silverthorne Town Councilwoman Ann-Marie Sandquist believes that one reason the downtown area has been so long in the planning stage, without actually getting off the ground, is that the previous size of the town core was too big.
"Too big a chunk got bitten off," she said. "We're trying to be focused; we're trying not to bite off more than we can chew."
Another reason for delays was funding. Projects like the one proposed cost money and the question was where that would come from. According to Sandquist, the town had previously been waiting for private money to come in and start the development, but that didn't happen.
"As we have talked about this and gone through the process, we realize that it does have to be a public/private partnership to do that," Sandquist said.
One of the tools the town is using is called tax increment financing (TIF). This is not a new tax but rather a new source of tax revenue. A tax baseline is established, then an analysis is done on what additional taxes may be generated when the improvement project is completed. The urban renewal authority can then use that amount for a portion of project costs and other publicly beneficial improvements.
A blight assessment must be done in order to use the TIF. A blighted area is property that is deteriorated, unhealthy or unsafe. The last blight assessment was done in 1996 and needs to be performed again in order to update the new plan.
The next step is the upcoming Feb. 6 meeting, where the public is invited to watch a formal presentation and ask questions about the project.
Hyland said that the open house is for "anyone who's interested in the potential future of a pedestrian-oriented downtown in Silverthorne; anyone who is a resident, business owners, property owners, maybe even people from outside Silverthorne who are interested in seeing another downtown area in the county."
The new plan goes to the planning commission's Feb. 19 meeting. If it is approved there, it will come before the town council at its Feb. 27 meeting. Both meetings are open to the public.
"I think it's really an exciting piece, an evolution of trying to get all the pieces in place to create that downtown," Hyland said.
Sandquist is optimistic about the work ahead.
"I feel like we have a pretty dynamic council right now that's really on board with it and interested in making it work, and we've been going through the process for a couple of years with our downtown core study and things like that. I'm excited," she said. "It's time to get that done. People have been clamoring for this for a long time."