Housing Authority adds to Brown Ranch parks plan, but regional park still not included
About 46% of the development is devoted to parks and open space, and adding another 46-acre regional park could lead to the loss of 500 housing units.
The Yampa Valley Housing Authority has added to the parks plan at the Brown Ranch to increase acreage devoted to parks and space for a long-talked-about sports barn, though the updated plan does not include a 46-acre regional park the city has been asking for.
The updated plan includes 70 acres of parks and 125 acres of open space, which together equate to about 46% of the 420 acres that are being considered for annexation into Steamboat Springs.
“They’ve really pushed up all their numbers to what our goal from the 2017 (parks plan) is,” said Matt Barnard, projects manager with the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Department. “They are just short of our mini and neighborhood parkland requirements by three acres, but they are exceeding their community parkland category by three acres.”
The initial parks plan did not meet many of the metrics laid out in the city’s Parks, Recreation, Open Space, Trails and River Master Plan, which has higher requirements than what a development already within the city would be required to provide. The updated plan extends the size of the Brown Ranch’s two community parks and adds several smaller, “pocket parks.”
“An infill development does meet a different standard than when we’re talking about west-end development,” Barnard said. “An annexation does follow different rules.”
The updated plan does not include the requested 46-acre regional park outlined in the city’s parks plan. If the Brown Ranch were to add this park to the plan, it could result in a significant reduction in overall housing units. The Housing Authority Board has indicated that the loss of as many as 500 units from the Brown Ranch has too high of an opportunity cost and doesn’t align with the main goal of the project, which is to address Steamboat’s decades-long housing crisis.
One idea being discussed is to try to find land elsewhere to meet this regional park requirement, though the Housing Authority does not own land elsewhere currently and the costs to acquire it could be significant. The 536-acre Brown Ranch was purchased with a donation of $24 million in 2021. Based on that cost of land, acquiring acreage for a 46-acre park could cost more than $2 million, and vacant land valuations have likely grown over the last two years.
Still, Steamboat Spring City Council has indicated they want to work to find that acreage.
At the annexation meeting last week, Council President Robin Crossan said council had talked about the park’s plan in an executive session. In her comments, Crossan said they were willing to drop a request for a regional law enforcement facility but were not looking to budge on the regional park.
“We are not interested in giving up 46 acres, but we have some ideas on that on where it could go,” Crossan said. “We would like to work diligently with you to find the 46 acres somewhere in the plan.”
One potential is north of the Brown Ranch on land the city owns near the Steamboat Springs Airport, though that may not be ideal for park space and may not be allowed because of planes needing to land. Crossan said that council had discussed using that parcel.
“We understand that is a concern and a desire from the city,” said Housing Authority Executive Director Jason Peasley at the annexation meeting. “We are providing 70 acres of parks that meet the level of service standards identified in the (parks plan), which would be way more than you would see from any other infill development in the city.”
“From our position, we see the 46-acre park as a want and not a need,” Peasley added.
City and Housing Authority staff are still massaging the parks plan and it will be further discussed at the next annexation meeting on May 10. The Brown Ranch Annexation Town Hall scheduled for Thursday at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Steamboat Springs Community Center will seek to get community feedback on parks as well.