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  • Dylan Anderson

Committee sets timeline to get Brown Ranch funding question on November ballot

The annexation ordinance itself will not be done in time to appear on the November ballot, but that doesn't mean it can't go to a public vote.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated following the publication of the agenda for Tuesday's Special City Council meeting.

The Brown Ranch Annexation Committee laid out a timeline on Wednesday to get a funding question on the November ballot that — if approved by voters — would allocate a percentage of annual short-term rental tax revenue for the life of the tax to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority to help fund Brown Ranch development.

If a deal floated on Wednesday holds up, the ballot measure would allocate 75% of STR tax revenues to Brown Ranch if approved by the electorate.

The quick timeline to get the measure to a vote kicks off on Tuesday, Aug. 1, when Steamboat Springs City Council will hold a meeting devoted solely to Brown Ranch Annexation, including presentations from the housing authority’s development partner, an hour of public comment starting at 7 p.m. and an executive session among council. Public comment will be limited to one hour, and council may opt to allow less than the typical three minutes to speak depending on how many commenters show up.

The funding question would then have a first reading at council on Aug. 22 and a second reading on Sept. 5. If approved on both dates, the question would be sent to the ballot just days before the Sept. 8 deadline to refer questions to voters.

“You wouldn’t be asking the voters to approve the annexation agreement itself, but you would be asking them to approve a multiple fiscal year agreement,” said City Attorney Dan Foote.

The housing authority says the 75% number pencils out to roughly $10 million a year, which is the number that Executive Director Jason Peasley told council they would need from the city to build Brown Ranch when the STR tax was being considered last year. This $10 million a year figure contributed to the tax being set at 9%.

The difference between 50% and 75% amounts to $70 million over the buildout of the Brown Ranch, according to city projections of how much revenue the STR tax would bring in.

The funding question has been shaped around a percentage rather than a flat $10 million a year rate in case revenues from the tax does not live up to projections in years to come. If the city pulls in less than expected, the housing authority would get 75% of that number, whether it is the $10 million they seek or not. Likewise, if the tax exceeds projections, the housing authority would get more than $10 million.

If approved, the increase to 75% of STR revenues significantly closes the capital funding gap the annexation committee has identified for infrastructure at Brown Ranch. An updated fiscal analysis Wednesday showed that when factoring in potential grant funding, phase one of the project (more than 1,100 units) is in the black. Still, grant funding is not a guarantee and the amount factored in could be a somewhat rosy estimate.

The fiscal analysis needs more work though, and the committee agreed to continue working on identifying what the true funding gap is and where the money to close it would come from.

While the funding question is on pace to be referred to voters, the ordinance to approve an annexation agreement and officially add the Brown Ranch to Steamboat’s city limits will take longer. Still, council’s negotiators made it clear on Wednesday that they intended to consider an annexation ordinance before the election and before new council members are seated. It will not be finalized in time for council to refer an annexation question to voters this November.

Once an agreement is finalized, the housing authority needs to submit an application to the Planning Department, which will start a roughly 10-week process to put together an annexation ordinance that would reference the annexation agreement. This ordinance then needs to be considered by the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission before it heads to council for votes on first and second readings. These readings would likely be considered in October.

Council President Robin Crossan and council member Joella West said Wednesday that it is important to consider an annexation ordinance before the election, as this council is who has been negotiating the agreement and they should be the ones to consider it.

Four council seats are up for election this fall, and three current council members will not remain on the board. Crossan and council member Heather Sloop are term-limited and member Ed Briones has announced he will not seek reelection. The fourth council seat on the ballot is currently held by council member Michael Buccino, who is running for another term.

While the annexation ordinance will not be done in time for it to land on November’s ballot, it could still be referred to Steamboat voters. Council members have not indicated either way whether they would opt to refer the question to a vote. Even if council approved the ordinance on its own, as it has the authority to do, the ordinance could still be petitioned to a public voter by members of the electorate.

If the annexation ordinance itself were to go to a vote — whether that is a council decision or one spurred via petition — a special election would likely take place sometime next spring.

Top Photo Caption: The Brown Ranch property. (Yampa Valley Housing Authority/Courtesy)


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