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  • Dylan Anderson

Anxious Stagecoach property owners fill firehouse for first meeting with Discovery Land Company about private ski community

Public access, impacts on area property values and changes in community character topped concerns about Discovery’s Stagecoach Mountain Ranch project.

Discovery Land Company started rolling out its plan for a private ski and golf community called Stagecoach Mountain Ranch on Monday to a few hundred anxious and skeptical neighbors fearful about how this project could change the area they live and maybe even force them out.

The meeting started with an hourlong presentation from Discovery Partner Ed Divita, during which the firehouse was near silent — residents often craning their heads to get a better look. In the back of the room were row after row of people standing while others opened windows so they could hear the presentation from outside the building.

The silence was harder to come by as the meeting progressed, however. When a resident asked about what level of public access the golf course and ski area would have, the firehouse erupted with cheers.

“It would be a travesty if we saw that mountain go empty for 30, 40 years, only to be open for those who are rich enough and fortunate enough,” said Anthony Monaco, a resident of Stagecoach who said he has long looked up at the mountain and hoped one day it would be open to the public.

Monaco wasn’t pleased with the answer. Divita said the project is not viable as a public ski resort and that there are no plans for anything resembling broad public access to skiing and golf amenities for non-owners. He explained that Discovery is not like Alterra Mountain Company or Vail Resorts — both of which passed up the opportunity to develop Stagecoach as a public resort, he said.

“You’re worse,” interrupted a resident shouting from the back of the firehouse.

The loose plans presented to the Stagecoach Property Owners Association on Monday are still in flux and Discovery has not yet submitted a development application to Routt County. Developers said they are hesitant to publish maps or graphics of the project as things may still change in the coming weeks as they get feedback. The group expects to have a website for the project ready in the next week or so. Divita said they plan to submit a development application in August, after Routt County makes some amendments to the newly adopted unified development code.

While the cornerstones of the project are set — ski area, golf course, and roughly 700 homes costing between $2 and $20 million a piece — Divita said they are open to ideas and want to make changes to the project to address the needs of the community. Divita stressed community throughout the presentation, noting that the two-decade buildout of the project means they are not going anywhere.

Caption: Stagecoach residents filled the area's firehouse early on Monday for a meeting with Discovery Land Company, the developer of Stagecoach Mountain Ranch, seen here roughly 10 minutes before the meeting started. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)

But some in the room were not buying the community pitch being sold, arguing the development where larger lots will sell for between $5 and $15 million before a house is even built are nothing like the community that already exists in Stagecoach.

“I think there is a lot of tension and I think a lot of it comes from you saying our community, our this, our that,” a resident said during a question-and-answer portion of the meeting. “I think there needs to be a little more black and white. The private golf course, the private home sites.”

“It sounds like the big contradiction is you have exclusivity when you want to create community engagement,” another resident said.

“I see one community for the very rich… and then we see the community, these members here that have lived here for a very long time, that bought into SPOA because of all of the promise that it had. I see you making a completely separate community,” Moreno said. “I really see you separating yourself into the have and then those that have not.”

“I lived in Big Sky, Montana when the Yellowstone Club started gaining traction and I will tell you I got priced out very, very quickly,” another resident said, referencing another Discovery Land Company property. “I purposefully bought in Stagecoach hoping I would buy myself enough time to work hard and build something in this little piece of heaven. … I am afraid I will be priced out before that happens because the elite of the elite will be here in this valley. … There is no more community character in Big Sky, Montana.”

“I think we need to hear this, that is why we came,” Divita said after that last comment. “We are committed to helping make sure that Stagecoach stays Stagecoach.”

Divita discussed several “public benefits” of the project, including a 12-acre parcel for a community center, at least 140 units of affordable housing and a trail access through their property to a piece of landlocked Bureau of Land Management land in the area. Discovery has a deal with the Rossi Family to build an emergency access road out of the area over the mountain and connect with Highway 131. The project plans for a fire substation at the top of the mountain, entirely within the development.

Developers estimate Stagecoach Mountain Ranch will generate $33 million in property tax revenues at full buildout, exceeding the $28.7 million total that Routt County receives from the roughly $103 million in total collections in 2024 . Divita argued that funding supports local governments and schools.

Caption: Discovery Land Company Partner Ed Divita presents the initial plan for Stagecoach Mountain Ranch on Monday, July 8. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)

Divita said repeatedly that Discovery wants to do more than it needs to, mentioning a previous project in Hawaii where they increased setbacks to ease environmental concerns over silt. He said they are considering building more housing than the currently planned 140 units that would target the local workforce, potentially even outside of the Stagecoach Area.

But residents were skeptical there too, with some arguing dense workforce housing like what has been built in Steamboat doesn’t fit in Stagecoach. They also questioned how much impact 140 units would have when Stagecoach Mountain Ranch itself expects to have 600 full-time employees.

While some units would be set aside for Stagecoach Mountain Ranch Employees, Divita said they want this housing to support the local workforce as well, repeatedly mentioning the need for teacher housing in South Routt. He said units could even be managed by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, though Stagecoach is not within the housing authority’s current district boundaries.

Public access was clearly a top issue for residents in the room, and Divita said they would think about it. Still, he showed little interest in making the ski area available for current residents within the Stagecoach Property Owners Association. Divita said at the end of the meeting he liked the idea of a community ski day, akin to Howelsen Hill’s Ski Free Sunday, but wanted to explore that concept more.

Water quality was another concern for some residents, especially because of the planned golf course adjacent to the reservoir. But Divita tried to ease those worries by saying the golf course could actually help reduce nutrient levels in Stagecoach Reservoir by using outflows from the water treatment plant as irrigation. The dense grasses of the course will also better stabilize the banks and keep phosphorous-rich soil from eroding into the water, he added. A resident responded to say the sagebrush habitat currently there is irreplaceable.

Despite the clear tension in the room, Divita said after the meeting that he was glad to have the opportunity to hear from residents and get feedback on the project. He was still talking to residents after 9 p.m., three hours after the meeting started.

“I thought that it was very real and that’s what I expected,” Divita said. “People live here, it’s their home, they care. We care as well. And I would expect passion … I liked it because we know what people are feeling, we got real feedback, we’re going to be able to integrate some of this stuff in.”

Top Photo Caption: Discovery Land Company Partner Ed Divita presents some details about the plan for Stagecoach Mountain Ranch to the Stagecoach Property Owners Association. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)


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