Candidates in crowded field for at-large Steamboat Council seat differ on Brown Ranch development
Two candidates showed support for the project while two others expressed their opposition.
Candidates in the crowded four-way field for the at-large seat on Steamboat Springs City Council showed different opinions on the development of Brown Ranch at an election forum on Wednesday night.
Hosted by Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors, Steamboat Chamber, Routt County Democrats and Routt County Republicans, the election forum showed the at-large seat on council may be the most competitive race this cycle, as two council seats have just one candidate. The District Three council seat has two candidates, Amy Dickson and Jeff Liter, but only Dickson showed up for Tuesday’s forum.
The four candidates vying for the two year, at-large seat on council are Robert Galorath, John Agosta, Steven Muntean and Daryl “Dog” Levin.
On a question of whether they support the Brown Ranch development, Galorath and Levin came out against the project, while Agosta and Muntean said they were supporters.
“I think it’s total madness,” said Levin, who has been a frequent critic of the Brown Ranch at council meetings in recent months. “They are asking over $250 million dollars from the city of STR funds to support something that has one ingress and one egress, and that is not changing.”
(Fact Check: There are, and have always been, multiple ingress and egress points in the Brown Ranch development plan. These points have not changed since the plan was first presented to the community in 2021. Over the past two years, the development plan has always shown connections to U.S. Highway 40, the under-development Overlook Neighborhood and Routt County Road 42 to the west. There may also be a future connection on the north side of the property.)
Galorath said he believed Steamboat doesn’t have a housing issue, but more a lodging issue. If there was more hotels, there would be less need for STRs and more housing for locals, he said.
“I don’t believe it is a housing issue that is impacting us as a town issue, it’s a lodging issue,” Galorath said. “They could build a couple large hotels and you could move the tourists out of the single-family homes and move the families in to the single-family homes. Move the tourists out of the condos and move in the young professionals and young couples.”
When he continued to address Brown Ranch, Galorath said he believed inflation could make Brown Ranch development more difficult to accomplish.
“We know how inflation is going, we know how much a bottle of chocolate syrup has gone from a buck and a half to three of four dollars,” Galorath said. “There is no way they are going to get it done for less than a half a billion dollars.”
(Fact check: Infrastructure projects needed on- and off-site at Brown Ranch are estimated to total about $482 million, with about 72% of all of these costs paid for by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, according to exhibit E of the annexation agreement. These costs do not include building roads within the development or the vertical construction of homes. An estimate shared by YVHA on Tuesday said Brown Ranch would spur more than $1.1 billion in construction spending over the 20-year buildout.)
Muntean took a different tone, saying the development needs to be part of Steamboat’s affordable housing future and the pace of development isn’t that far off from how YVHA has been developing currently.
“I think Brown Ranch is part of our affordable housing solution,” Muntean said. “Jason Peasley, he has put up 75 to 100 units (per year) for the last five or six years. In Brown Ranch, every year they will do about 100 units, which is about what they are doing today. I think we just have to go through and come up with a financial plan that is funded appropriately and use Brown Ranch as part of our affordable housing solution.”
(Fact Check: Based on a buildout of 2,264 units over 20 years, that equates to about 113 units per year. The annexation agreement includes several performance metrics that if not met could allow council to curb funding. YVHA needs to complete 420 units in the first 6 years (70 units per year) and 1,100 units in 12 years (About 92 units per year).)
Agosta made a similar argument, saying the pace of just over 100 units per year is not as big as some think.
“We have a plan and if you look into the details, they are there,” Agosta said. “How big is this? 112 units per year. That is not big.”
Agosta continued to talk about the money that Brown Ranch will bring to infrastructure projects like widening U.S. Highway and building a redundant water source from the Elk River. While there are gaps in for some of the city’s capital funding needs, those gaps are larger without Brown Ranch, Agosta said.
“We do have a sound financial plan,” Agosta said. “How much money is being spent on Highway 40 in our budget next year? Anybody know? Zero. How much money is improving our infrastructure for water for next year? … Zero.”
(Fact Check: The Brown Ranch Annexation agreement allocates costs of these projects to the city and YVHA based on how much the upgrade supports Brown Ranch development and how much supports the city as a whole. Four projects to widen U.S. 40 are estimated to cost about $64.3 million. YVHA is on the hook for about $15.8 million of this, money the city would not see if the project doesn’t happen.)
The four candidates for the at-large seat are vying for a two-year term on city council.
Top Photo Caption: Candidates for the at-large seat on Steamboat Springs City Council from left to right, Robert Galorath, John Agosta, Steven Muntean and Daryl "Dog" Levin. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)