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  • Dylan Anderson

City, YVHA could have lease on Forest Service property by September with plans for workforce housing

After more than two years of talk, a lease agreement for Hilltop property by September could allow for a 2025 groundbreaking.

As the Brown Ranch awaits a city-wide referendum to determine its fate, the Yampa Valley Housing Authority may have another infill development opportunity that has been in the making for more than two years.

The U.S. Forest Service owns an 8.5-acre parcel off of Hilltop Drive in Steamboat Springs and the concept of leasing that land to YVHA to build housing has been talked about since before the Brown Ranch was donated. After moving at a snail's pace for years, YVHA Executive Director Jason Peasley said last week momentum has picked up.

“It’s actually moving … for that type of an organization quite rapidly,” said YVHA Executive Director Jason Peasley on Thursday, Jan. 11. “I think we should be the leader and do this project. Whether Brown Ranch moves forward or not, based on the vote, we’ve got an infill opportunity at our fingers that is essentially free land.”

The 2018 farm bill allows the Forest Service to lease unused parcels that were purchased for administrative purposes but never developed and the city and county have a first right of refusal on that lease. Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan said Thursday the county wouldn’t pursue the lease.

In return, the Forest Service is looking for about 15 units in whatever is developed for permanent employees and a bunkhouse that could accommodate 10 seasonal workers. If the city would opt to pass on leasing the land, “the Forest Service will consider the option of offering it up for public bid for a lease,” according to a memo prepared by the Forest Service.

Steamboat City Council Member Dakotah McGinlay, who is Council’s appointed representative on the YVHA Board, said the goal is to have a lease agreement with the Forest Service in place by the end of September — “Otherwise we’re kind of at the leeway of federal funding and farm bill approval.”

“It’s going to require some coordination between the city and housing authority,” Peasley said. “Ideally, the city’s role will be relatively minimal.”

Roughly 100 units could be built on the land. How fast a potential development could break ground likely depends on the developer partner for the project.

“It depends on the risk appetite of our developer partner — how much they want to put into entitlements prior to that being real,” Peasley said. “If we’re able to start in October, we could get to a point where we are breaking ground in late spring, early summer (of 2025).”

If a deal comes together, this would be one of three infill projects YVHA is working on ahead of Brown Ranch development. Anglers 400 is nearing completion and in the process of leasing up, while YVHA’s Mid Valley project started initial site work this past summer.

Top Photo Caption: U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Joe Neguse visit the U.S. Forest Service's Hilltop property in July to discuss the potential for workforce housing. (City of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy)


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