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  • Dylan Anderson

Delayed housing project could be shelved in favor of Steamboat’s other capital funding priorities

After struggling to find one, the city now has a contractor for the project.

Editor's note: This story has been updated after initial publication to include a clarification from the City of Steamboat Springs that while UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center has another housing opportunity, they are still interested in partnering with the city for the More Ranch project.


Steamboat Springs City Council is considering shelving a workforce housing project approved last year that would provide units for city staff as the city weighs which capital projects to fund next year.


The More Ranch Community Housing project is a partnership between the city and UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, but until recently the project has been stalled after attempts to find a contractor that would do the work for an acceptable bid proved fruitless.


Deputy City Manager Tom Leeson said the city does have a contractor now, but UCHealth has said they now have another opportunity to provide housing in addition to More Ranch. Following the initial publication of this story, the city reached out to clarify that UCHealth still wants to move forward as a partner with the city on the More Barn project.


“The hospital has indicated that they have another opportunity — an opportunity that was stated as too good to pass up,” Leeson said Tuesday. “They don’t know whether they’ll be able to proceed with More Ranch. They may be able to, they just haven’t had affirmation from corporate yet.”


The discussion among council came during a work session on Tuesday where city Finance Director Kim Weber presented staff’s recommendation for which capital projects to fund in 2024. That recommendation put the More Ranch project in the unfunded column, despite the project scoring the third highest among more than 150 potential projects, based on the city’s ranking methodology.


Weber said the reason the project went unfunded in the current recommendation was to ensure the city could maintain at least $1 million in the Capital Fund Reserves. More Ranch has a price tag of $6.5 million next year, should city council opt to fund it. Of that, $1 million is coming from a grant — funding that would go away if the project is not being pursued next year. The other $5.5 million comes from the capital fund.


The two options presented by Weber on Tuesday were to fund More Ranch next year by reducing the extent of work on Bear River Park, or eliminate the More Ranch funding for next year and use the roughly $2.8 million left for other unfunded projects in the capital improvements plan. Under the first of those scenarios, council could allocate money from the city's 1% accommodations tax toward Bear River Park. Reauthorization of the accommodations tax is on the ballot in November, but the city could use those funds on Bear River Park whether it passes or not.


“The vote doesn’t really matter because you have already said that Bear River Park is an appropriate use of those funds under the current ballot language,” Weber said.


The project was approved more than a year ago, but the city has struggled to find a contractor to do the work since. The lone bid in the initial round of bidding came in higher than expected from a builder the city deemed to have limited experience building multi-family housing. At the time, there was still hope the project could start construction this summer. That has since faded.


Council will decide how to prioritize More Ranch among other projects next month as the process to create a budget for next year will work to wrap up next month.


Council members largely resisted indicating which way they were leaning on what to do with More Ranch. Council member Michael Buccino noted that pulling the project out of next year’s money would allow other projects to be funded, but it also pushes the housing project out further. Addressing the lack of affordable housing in Steamboat has been the top issue for council since the last slate of council elections in 2021.


“Given that housing is a priority issue for council, I would really like to see us try to figure out how to make the More Ranch housing work,” said Council member Gail Garey.


City staff will bring a bevy of funding options for the project back to council when it is discussed during the budget approval process in October. While funding from the capital fund is one option, the city could also try to bond for the funding or potentially use revenues from the Short-Term Rental tax.


Top Photo Caption: A diagram of the More Ranch Community Housing project. (City of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy)

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