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  • Dylan Anderson

Brown Ranch annexation agreement closer than ever, but it now has a hard deadline

Steamboat Council intends to review the agreement line-by-line next week; will consider a resolution approving the agreement on Sept. 19.

Steamboat Springs City Council and the Yampa Valley Housing Authority made several strides toward a finalized annexation agreement on Tuesday, though that agreement now needs to be finalized before the end of the month.

A series of discussions related to parks, unit delivery metrics and capital funding over three hours closed some of the key details that had been left unresolved. After some language changes are implemented in the coming week, council will review the full draft agreement line-by-line at its Sept. 12 workshop.

The agreement would then be considered by city council for approval by resolution on Sept. 19. This does not approve annexation, just the agreement. Annexation is expected to be considered for approval toward the end of October.

Sept. 19 is the last scheduled meeting of the month for Council. If the agreement isn’t approved by the end of the month, it would no longer align with ballot language for Brown Ranch funding that council approved on Tuesday. If a resolution approving the annexation agreement isn’t passed before the end of September, City Attorney Dan Foote said the city would pull the funding question from the ballot.

“That’s been the goal all along, get this done by (Sept. 19),” Council President Robin Crossan said.

The city’s capital funding gap for its share of infrastructure like the widening of U.S. 40, larger parks in Brown Ranch, a new public safety space and other public works projects now stands at just over $54 million, after council decided not to consider the cost to build out a regional park in this calculation on Tuesday.

The regional park alone was estimated to cost $54 million to build, and the two larger community parks are estimated to cost more than $53 million combined. This is based on an estimate of $1.35 million per acre, which Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby said was similar to the costs the city is seeing as it works on Bear River Park development.

Even without the regional park, City Finance Director Kim Weber estimates the city is short by about $35 million for its share of projects that need to happen as part of phase one of the Brown Ranch, which is essentially the first half of the project. Weber’s estimates show the city is short by almost the same amount again when it comes to phase two projects, leaving the capital gap at close to $70 million.

However, the city does not have any capital projects that would happen in phase three while it collects another $8 million in use and excise tax (paid as units are built) and allocates $7 million of its own STR revenues, which lowers the overall gap to the estimated $54 million gap. This doesn’t take into account any grant funding or help from other partners like the Colorado Department of Transportation on these projects.

While less daunting than the figures presented two weeks ago, the city still isn’t able to articulate specifically where the funding to fill that gap would come from. The plan would be that these projects would get incorporated into the city’s capital improvements plan and considered as funding allowed. If the city couldn’t fund its share of a crucial improvement by the time it was needed, the annexation agreement as drafted allows for construction to be stopped.

Still, Weber said she believed the way the city funds capital improvements would need to change, or projects currently on the list and that are part of Brown Ranch would need to be cut.

“Realistically, those infrastructure improvements might not get done if there is not enough funding there,” Weber said.

Council member Heather Sloop said these would need to be paid for with an eventual tax increase, echoing the opinion she shared in a column in the Steamboat Pilot & Today last week. (YVHA wrote a column in response to Sloop's in the newspaper this week.) Sloop has also connected the project to other potential tax increases that are not currently being discussed, like a bond for a new school. There are just two sentences about a school in the annexation agreement that say the size, location and timing would be a decision for YVHA and the Steamboat Springs School District to make, not the city.

Council member Gail Garey responded to say that future councils will have the ability to respond to the capital funding gap in the way they think is best and that there are other ways of levying new sales taxes or introducing a new property tax.

“There are other options out there in terms of how we fund some of these things,” Garey said. “This is a policy decision for future councils in terms of whether we look at vacancy taxes, do we look at some sort of broader real estate transfer assessment. There are things out there that this community can look at in terms of options, as opposed to the ones that have been put out there as taxes to our community.”

Council member Dakotah McGinlay floated the idea of asking voters to keep the Mountain Urban Renewal Authority in place and allow that funding to help with some of the city’s capital costs. If that could extend an additional 10 years and bring in another $20 million, then the numbers aren’t so scary, she said.

“Say that’s $20 million, and you subtract that from the $54 million, that’s a $34 million gap,” McGinlay said. “You divide that by 20 years, because we are looking at trying to fund this in 20 years, that’s $1.7 million a year. … I really want us to look at how can we make this possible, not why isn’t it possible.”

The capital gap will likely remain a topic of conversation throughout the project, as the annexation agreement as currently written would have the city and YVHA revisit funding and prioritization of these projects each year.


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