Repairing alleys a long process
August 17, 1999
Craig — Downtown property owners may not have a say in whether the city forms a special improvement district to replace four alleys in downtown Craig.
Of the 64 people who own property along the alleys, 13 of them are absentee property owners who rent their buildings to local business people. The only say those property owners will have in the formation of a special improvement district would be in written protest and then, more than 50 percent of property owners must protest the action.
Downtown business owners have explored the option of resurfacing four alleys east and west of Yampa Avenue between Fourth and Sixth streets. The surface of the alleys is in poor shape, making them difficult to maintain, city officials say. The problem is compounded because of the lack of drainage in the alleys which allows standing water to further erode the surfaces.
Unless the city decides to pay the estimated $87,000 project cost an unlikely option property owners must form a special improvement district to pay for the upgrades. In a special improvement district, property owners affected by the improvements those whose property touches the alleys pay for them.
But legally, those property owners who are not Craig residents have only one say in the matter. A protest.
In addition, governmental entities have no vote in the matter. That includes the Craig Rural Fire Protection District, the city and the county. There are several city-owned lots in the two-block area, the county-owned museum and social services building and the fire department. All own lots and will have little say in the formation of a special improvement district.
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There are two ways to form a special improvement district, the first is through a resolution passed by the City Council and the second is by a citizen petition. Only those property owners who are residents of Craig can sign a petition to form a special improvement district.
If a majority of residents favor forming a district and the project is approved by City Public Works Director Bill Early, a resolution must be passed by the City Council. Then the issue goes through a process of public hearings, during which time, those opposed to the project can protest. If more than 50 percent of property owners protest the action, no district can be formed. If a majority of resident property owners approve the project, then all property owners are assessed for the cost of improvements. Not paying, even if a property owner was opposed to the project, could result in a tax lien against the property.
Once it is decided a special improvement district will be formed, an election will be held if the city portion of the project cost is more than 25 percent. It is not yet known whether that 25 percent includes the city portion of upgrades for the lots it owns or whether the 25 percent is any additional money the city contributes.
“I think that issue is really subject to interpretation,” City Attorney Sherman Romney said. “We’ll have to look into that further.”
If that election is successful, the council will consider an ordinance creating a special improvement district. The City Council can limit that election by allowing only the affected property owners to vote.
If improvements are paid for through a bond, the city must hold a second, general election to meet requirements of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.
Construction can only begin after that second election.
City officials are currently working on a letter to business owners that will explain the issue and ask whether they support it. If a majority of property owners support the issue, it will be taken before the City Council for input.