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  • Dylan Anderson

Company behind Montana’s Yellowstone Club coming to Colorado with similar development near Steamboat Springs

Document requesting water from Stagecoach Reservoir for a resident-only ski area and golf course shows the developer of Stagecoach Mountain Ranch is Arizona-based Discovery Land Company, LLC

Caption: Trails at the long-dormant Stagecoach Ski Area stick out through the pine forest 20 miles south of Steamboat Springs, as seen from the top of Steamboat Resort. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)


The company behind Montana’s exclusive Yellowstone Club will submit plans for its first development in Colorado near Steamboat Springs as soon as May, according to a document detailing the nearly 6,500-acre private ski and golf development called Stagecoach Mountain Ranch.


The developer, Discovery Land Company, LLC, is named in a draft letter submitted to the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District last week. That letter is seeking confirmation that the district has available water in Stagecoach Reservoir that could be used for snowmaking and irrigation of a golf course.


The draft letter says Discovery plans on submitting a development application including 697 homes and “extensive recreational amenities” to the Routt County Planning Department in May.


"Discovery Land Company, LLC is proposing a residential development on a portion of 6,412 acres, consisting of multiple properties located south of the Stagecoach Reservoir in Routt County," the draft letter reads. "Discovery intends to submit a Preliminary Subdivision Plan for the Stagecoach Development to Routt County in May 2024."



Stagecoach Mountain Ranch is primarily planned on land that was the short-lived Stagecoach Ski Area, which closed after its 1974 season. A reawakening of the long-dormant ski area — the trails of which are still etched into the pines visible from Steamboat Resort 20 miles to the north — has fueled rumors in the Yampa Valley for years.


Last year, property owner Chris Wittemyer submitted what he called “very early” plans for the development, detailing a private ski area with five new lifts and a golf course along the shores of Stagecoach Reservoir. Those documents were seeking feedback from relevant stakeholders that will eventually weigh in on the development application when it goes through the typical review process.


An official development application is expected sometime in May, which is after Routt County intends to finish updating code and zoning regulations following the recent county master plan update. Stagecoach is designated as a growth center in the new master plan, and Stagecoach Mountain Ranch is one of three significant developments being contemplated in the area, according to planning documents on file with Routt County.


While the documents submitted in 2023 came from developer Stagecoach Mountain Ventures, LLC, the draft letter indicates the next round of development documents submitted for the project will come from Discovery Land Company.


Discovery, founded in 1994 by investor Mike Meldman, owns or operates more than 30 exclusive properties across the globe catering to the ultra-wealthy, with communities like the Yellowstone Club near Big Sky, Montana, boasting members like Tom Brady and Bill Gates. Meldman is one of three founders of Casamigos tequila with George Clooney and Rande Gerber. In 2022, Meldman told Architectural Digest that the COVID-19 pandemic has "dramatically magnified demand" for the private communities Discovery offers.


One of the 864 spots at the Yellowstone Club doesn’t come cheap, with homes selling for as much as $25 million, initial membership dues coming in at $300,000 and annual fees nearing $40,000, according to a 2021 Business Insider report. Documents about Stagecoach Mountain Ranch do not detail potential home prices or other fees it may include.


The Yellowstone Club claims it is the only members-only ski and golf community in the world. If developed as currently contemplated, Stagecoach Mountain Ranch would seemingly become the second.


But whether the area can accommodate such an influx of development is already a concern for the Morrison Creek Water and Sanitation District, according to a letter from the district obtained by The Yampa Valley Bugle. The district would need to provide drinking water for a development of this size in the Stagecoach area.


Morrison Creek District General Manager Giovanny Romero sent the letter to the Routt County commissioners saying the district has “several water and wastewater infrastructure deficiencies” that need to be addressed before the build-out of three proposed developments, including Stagecoach Mountain Ranch.


In the letter, Romero emphasizes the district does not have the financial ability to pay for the needed upgrades.


“The District does not have the present financial capacity to fund the cost of completing the above-mentioned projects which are necessary to sustain the build-out of the new proposed developments,” Romero wrote. “These infrastructure costs will need to be paid collectively by the development project proponents prior to any of the projects connecting to the existing water distribution system of the District.”


Caption: This rendering submitted to Routt County in 2023 shows potential locations for five ski lifts at Stagecoach Mountain Ranch. (Routt County Planning Department/Courtesy)

 

Development application coming in May

Routt County Planning Director Kristy Winser said she had already been expecting a development application related to Stagecoach Mountain Ranch sometime in May, after the county completes updating its code.


Winser said the Planning Department started talking with the Stagecoach developers last year when they went through a very preliminary planning process. That process allowed developers to “get some preliminary comments that if they were to submit an application, what could they expect.”


“At this point, they are waiting for us to adopt a new code to submit an application,” Winser said. “No application has been submitted at this time.”


As for how fast the development could move through the approval process once there is an application, Winser said that depends on what is being proposed. Planning staff has not seen a final proposal at this point, Winser said.  


The narrative submitted to the Upper Yampa District is very similar to the plan laid out a year ago, with the only obvious difference being that it has 100 fewer units. In the updated narrative, about 100 units would be on large tract lots, 400 units would be on single-family lots and the other 200 units would be townhomes or condos.


Both plans say roughly 80% of the housing will be on the mountain property, which is 5,136 acres. The other 20% would be on a lakefront property that will include a golf course. This 376-acre property borders Stagecoach State Park on both the east and west sides. Overall, about 35% of the total 6,500 acres will be developed, with the other 65% being considered open space.


“[Stagecoach Mountain Ranch] will also continue to maintain agricultural operations on a large portion of the mountain property with equestrian and participation in ranching activities as part of recreational programming,” the March 14 narrative to the Upper Yampa District reads.


The narrative says that the ski mountain is currently operated under a Special Use Permit with Routt County, but that since that permit was approved the size of the mountain property has more than doubled.


The “very early” plans submitted in 2023 included five lifts and four lodges on Stagecoach Mountain, with some of the large tract lots being situated on the mountain itself. One lift on that diagram had been labeled “2024 Ski Lift.”


“A golf course and ski mountain are the two primary recreational features requiring significant infrastructure and investment,” the narrative reads. “The proposal is to provide for additional chairlifts, terrain, snowmaking and on-mountain facilities and activities.”


The newer narrative adds that the development of Stagecoach Mountain Ranch would add public amenities to the area as well, including a commercial center, recreational trails and upgrades to roads and infrastructure.


Caption: A diagram of the golf course at Stagecoach Mountain Ranch submitted to Routt County in 2023. (Routt County Planning Department/Courtesy)

 

Providing drinking water

In his letter to the Routt County commissioners, Romero says a third-party study done in 2023 identified three infrastructure projects needed in the northeast section of the district. These include a water storage tank, pressure-reducing station and booster station and are expected to cost around $2.5 million total.


“Such new tank and adjacent facilities would be required to be completed in order to provide potable water services to a potential proposed density of approximately 350 new homes located within the three developments in the northern boundaries of the District,” Romero wrote.


The upgrades would be needed before any development being contemplated could be hooked up to the district’s distribution system. To pay for these upgrades, Romero suggests the district and these developers enter into a cost-sharing agreement.


“The District’s willingness and support to commit to provide potable water and sanitary sewer collection services for the new developments is contingent on the developer applicants collectively paying for the needed infrastructure,” Romero writes.


Romero said debt financing is not an option palatable to the district board. If development stalls, it could create a very similar situation to the “near death-spiral” that the district experienced in the 1970s when then Stagecoach Ski Area owner, the Woodmoor Corporation, went bankrupt.


“The District cannot put its present customers and constituents into that delinquency hole again,” he writes.


As for raw water supply, Romero says the district does believe they have capacity within existing wells, though this is still being reviewed. While the Stagecoach Mountain Ranch property does have water rights associated with it, Romero notes that the district has not been offered any water holdings by developers.


Caption: Stagecoach Reservoir. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)


Water for snowmaking and golf course irrigation

The draft letter prepared for the Upper Yampa District says Discovery is seeking a water contract for as much as 1,000 acre/feet of water out of Stagecoach Reservoir, though it would only probably use a little more than half of that.


The letter estimates the need for 321 acre/feet of water and 200 acre/feet for irrigation of the golf course along the banks of Stagecoach Reservoir. Discovery needs this letter to be able to show Routt County it has access to the water needed for its proposed uses.


One complication with the request is that the only water delivery point in Stagecoach Reservoir is at the bottom of the dam. At its meeting on Wednesday, District Board President Webster Jones said that means a new water outlet would be needed.


“This requires a straw in the reservoir,” Jones said. “This is a user out of the reservoir, not below the reservoir.”


The Upper Yampa District Board directed staff to toss out the letter drafted by Discovery in favor of one that is much simpler, a suggestion led by board members Doug Monger and Nicole Seltzer.


“We have water available for sale and we are always looking for people to buy water at contract rates,” Monger said. “I don’t know that we need to go into the brain damage on this right now.”


The letter is simply an acknowledgment that the district has water available for sale and that they are open to pursuing a water contract with Discovery in the future for snowmaking and irrigation. It is not a commitment to supply water to Stagecoach Mountain Ranch. The letter also notes the district does not have available water for consumptive use.


Kyle Collins, a vice president of architecture and planning with Discovery, said putting a 24-month expiration date on the letter was within their planned development timing. When the board briefly discussed tabling the letter to its May meeting, Collins said they would like to have it sooner.


 “We would kind of like it prior to that, respectfully,” Collins said.


Read the project narrative submitted to the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District:


Stagecoach Mountain Ranch narrative to UYWCD
.pdf
Download PDF • 596KB

Read the letter from the Morrison Creek Water and Sanitation District:

Morrison Creek letter to Routt County for new developments in 2024
.pdf
Download PDF • 116KB

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