Steamboat Springs With a snowstorm on the horizon, there was an extra sense of urgency Tuesday night to the Steamboat Springs City Council's discussion about how to save the Arnold Barn.
But its fate still hinges on the upcoming moves and decisions by the city’s elected officials, a property owner, a developer, a community group and a budget proposal from the city’s Urban Renewal Authority Advisory Committee to fund the barn's move to a new home.
Saving the barn is becoming a complex endeavor.
A big part of the urgency in the most recent discussion about the neglected barn’s future was City Attorney Dan Foote’s report of an engineer’s fresh inspection of the 88-year-old structure.
“He said when he went inside, he was surprised it was still standing,” Foote said. “The major concern is snow loading.”
The City Council on Tuesday night found itself in a tough position as it debated all of the options it currently has to try and preserve a barn that sits on land the city doesn’t own at the corner of the Meadows parking lot.
The landowner and developer at the barn site have denied they have any maintenance responsibilities for the structure.
But they recently floated a proposal to pitch in $10,000 of the $15,000 needed to stabilize the barn for the winter if the city makes a concession and agrees to move the structure off their property at taxpayers’ expense.
City Attorney Dan Foote told the council he felt the city had a strong legal case to force the land owner and developer to honor conditions of development agreements on the property and maintain the barn without taxpayers footing the bill.
Some council members appeared ready to pursue that legal action.
Council President Walter Magill said he thought the barn could last another winter and it might be best to take or threaten legal action.
Council members also pondered whether the city could withhold future building permits in the Wildhorse Meadows development over neglect of the barn.
"This is a really bad thing for a developer to do to a community," Councilman Tony Connell said. "Your word is your word."
But some in the audience worried that a drawn-out legal battle could take months, or years, and the barn wouldn’t last that long.
Councilwoman Robin Crossan at one point appeared ready to have the city invest in the barn’s emergency stabilization and consider the next steps and potential reimbursement when the barn wasn’t in danger of falling down anymore.
But other council members worried about the public bearing any of the cost.
“We are completely ignoring the fact that we are not holding this owner liable for what they are doing,” Councilwoman Heather Sloop said. “Why are we bearing the brunt of this financial risk?”
There are some other factors currently at play in the Arnold Barn saga.
A community group called Save Arnold Barn is about to be able to start accepting financial contributions toward the barn’s preservation.
The group is urging the property owner and developer to create goodwill in the community by stabilizing the barn.
And the city’s Urban Renewal Authority Advisory Committee, or URAAC, has a plan in the works to spend tax money from the URA to move the barn to the knoll near the Steamboat Grand and preserve it.
URAAC representative Jim Schneider told the council the city is close to having a win-win plan, and legal action should only be taken as a last resort.
After hearing the structural condition of the barn, the council decided to huddle with Foote in executive session to receive legal advice and offer him direction on potential negotiations with the property owner.
After the closed-door meeting, Magill said the council had directed Foote to negotiate with the property owner over the barn’s maintenance.
Foote said he couldn’t elaborate on the direction council gave him over the negotiations. But he said the city is focusing its efforts on buying some more time.
“We would like to get the temporary stabilization work done to buy us some time,” Foote said.
The community will have to wait a little longer to learn the barn’s fate.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10