The question, if referred to the November election by Steamboat Springs City Council, would dedicate future STR revenues toward the Brown Ranch.
The Yampa Valley Housing Authority intends to push Steamboat Springs City Council to place a Brown Ranch funding question on the November ballot, a move, that if approved by voters, would commit a portion of short-term rental tax revenues to the Brown Ranch for as long as two decades.
Use of the STR tax has seen increased discussion at recent Brown Ranch Annexation Committee meetings, with the city having started out with the position of using 50% of the tax revenues for the Brown Ranch while the Housing Authority has suggested 75%. What the final percentage should be has only been minimally discussed in annexation meetings so far.
The request from the housing authority is for one of two potential questions. The first would be a bonding question, likely committing the city to debt service on a bond using revenues for the life of the tax (20 years). The alternative question would be a multi-year fiscal obligation, dedicating a certain amount of the tax for the Brown Ranch each year.
A potential measure has been talked about to place on the 2024 ballot previously, but the Housing Authority seeks to ask now. At the YVHA board meeting on Thursday, Executive Director Jason Peasley said the ballot measure would hope to protect the use of STR tax funding for the Brown Ranch from the political whims of the city council, as four council seats will be on the ballot in November.
“From our standpoint, the trouble is that we have no guarantee that the incoming council is going to be supportive of putting a bonding question out there,” Peasley said. “We could get, essentially our knees cut out from under us without that type of affirmative vote of the community.”
Whether Brown Ranch Annexation itself will land on the November ballot remains to be seen, as there is no clear majority on council either way. Peasley said Thursday the agreement may not be finalized in time for a November vote, echoing comments made by City Attorney Dan Foote in the previous annexation meeting. If not referred, voters could spur a vote as well (as they have done in the past with this same parcel).
The Housing Authority has indicated they do not believe annexation itself needs to be approved by voters. Still, if either proposed ballot measure is referred by council, it could effectively turn into a referendum on the 2,200-home affordable housing project that aims to meet 100% of the community's housing need over the next two decades.
Peasley brought up the concept of a ballot question at the last annexation meeting, saying that it was coming with the understanding the current council is unable to commit future councils to any spending. When discussing how much the Brown Ranch should be dedicated, Peasley called back to his $10 million a year statement made when council was drafting STR tax ballot language last year.
“The question was how much does Brown Ranch need and the answer was $10 million a year for 20 years,” Peasley said at the June 23 annexation meeting. “That’s sort of the baseline from our standpoint.”
Without a ballot question, Council can commit 2023 and 2024 STR revenues toward the Brown Ranch, which could potentially be as much as $28 million based on projections for tax revenue. Through May, the tax has raised $5 million, according to city sales tax reports.
City Finance Director Kim Weber said it would be possible to get a bonding question on the ballot still, though Foote was more skeptical though. He suggested it could happen in 2024 instead, with the city appropriating STR money in the meantime.
City Council President Robin Crossan said council has already discussed both possibilities (presumably in executive session), though they had not reached a consensus on either option. City Manager Gary Suiter asked Peasley to come to council with an official concept proposal for the ballot question.
If a funding question is referred, voters in Steamboat Springs could see a lengthy ballot in November. City Council will have a first reading next week on two other potential questions — one to reauthorize the current accommodations tax and another to increase pay for city council members. City staff has also asked that voters see a question that would extend the city’s audit deadline to match state standards.
Four city council seats are also on the ballot.
The next annexation committee meeting is set for 9 a.m. on Wednesday, July 12 in the Carver Conference Room in Centennial Hall. Meetings are open to the public and the committee takes public comment at 11:30 a.m.
Top Photo Caption: Neighborhood A of the Brown Ranch, pictured in this rendering, is the first that would be built at the Brown Ranch, with the first units coming on line at the end of 2026. (Yampa Valley Housing Authority/Courtesy)