The Silverthorne Town Council unanimously approved an urban renewal plan at its meeting Wednesday night. The initiative to build a vibrant town center, which has been in the works in various incarnations for 17 years, is moving forward.
"Our goal is to revitalize our downtown core, and to do that we have to identify a project, and that involves pulling together land owners, developers and retailers," said Silverthorne town manager Kevin Batchelder.
The Silverthorne Urban Renewal Authority was created in 1996 with the purpose of improving and revitalizing areas of the town through economic development efforts. While previously the plans focused on a large area of town, including the Summit Place shopping center, revisions to the plan have defined a downtown core area to be improved.
Included in the plan is a conditions survey, submitted to the council at Wednesday's meeting, which identifies various forms of blight within the proposed downtown core area. A blighted area is property that is deteriorated in a significant way, unhealthy or unsafe, or somehow faulty. Blight factors include deteriorating structures, defective or inadequate street layout, unsanitary or unsafe conditions and inadequate public improvements or utilities, among others.
"It's not a blight on the business," Councilwoman Ann-Marie Sandquist explained. "It could be a blight on the curb, it could be the fact that there's no sidewalks. It's not saying that the business is run down, but that the infrastructure around it should be improved as well."
Improvements to the area may include adding sidewalks and improving or adding lighting, up to even larger projects such as the reconstruction of a building or relocation of a sewer line.
Now that the urban renewal plan has been approved, plans for improvement projects can begin.
"We don't have a defined project at this point," Batchelder said. "We set up the financing tools that would be necessary for us to participate in a public/private project, but that project has not yet been identified at this time, but we've put the tools in place."
The primary tool is tax increment financing (TIF). This is not a new tax but rather a new source of tax revenue. A tax baseline is established before an improvement project begins. Next, an analysis is conducted to determine the amount of additional tax revenue that will be generated when the improvement project is complete. A portion of that additional amount can be used by the urban renewal authority to help fund the improvement project and can also be used for other publicly beneficial improvements.
In a letter from Silverthorne Urban Renewal Authority chair Dave Koop to the Lake Dillon Fire Rescue Board, it was stated that should the town utilize TIF in any of its projects, the fire district would continue to receive the same level of property tax revenues as it did before the improvements and redevelopment. This means that additional property tax revenues that come in as a result of the property development would go back to the urban renewal authority for project costs and other public improvements. At the town council meeting Wednesday, Lake Dillon Fire chief Dave Parmley voiced concern that added developments would require additional fire department resources without providing additional revenue.
"For the fire district, the impact can be significant depending upon what kind of development activity occurs in that urban renewal area," Parmley said in a later interview.
No project has been proposed yet and, according to the letter, the urban renewal authority intends to contact the fire district for discussion.
"We have not seen their full tax increment financing impact analysis report to be able to look at their projections and know what is being projected there long term," Parmley said.
"In any case, I think it's important that it be underscored that we want to continue and value our close cooperative and collaborative relationship that we have with the town of Silverthorne and I would anticipate that there will be some further communication on this in the weeks and months ahead," Parmley continued. "But we certainly do not dispute the fact that this is a viable option for the town to embark on and they may do what they like to do in terms of redevelopment in creating a downtown center and identity for the town."
While in the past, the town had hoped businesses coming into the downtown area would help with financing the improvements, it was soon decided that the town would need to take the first steps toward this goal.
"We realized that with all the infrastructure problems that were there, we need to do something to clean that up," Sandquist said. "What we're trying to do is get the structures in place so that they are in place when something comes in and we can say, hey this is what we have. ... If we can go ahead and build the sidewalks and the lighting and that kind of thing, it makes the area more attractive."
The town hopes that this will increase the draw for businesses in that area.
"We're really hoping that these tools will enable us to get something started for the revitalization of our downtown area," Batchelder said.