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  • Dylan Anderson

Petitioners tight-lipped with signature count as YVHA readies for potential Brown Ranch referendum

To force a referendum on Brown Ranch annexation, the Let Steamboat Vote campaign needs to get 1,133 signatures by Nov. 17.

The Let Steamboat Vote campaign working to put Brown Ranch annexation to a vote is confident they will get the signatures they need by next Friday’s deadline, but they aren’t sharing how many signatures they have.


Michael McLarney said in a response to questions from The Yampa Valley Bugle that the committee is working to reach the remaining people who want to vote on the annexation plan, noting the group is planning multiple signature gathering events this weekend.


“No other comments on the status,” McLarney said via email.


Petitioners need to get enough signatures to equal 10% of registered electors in Steamboat Springs during the 2021 cycle, which amounts to 1,133 signatures. In their initial press release, the committee stated their goal was a minimum of 1,200 signatures. The deadline to get signatures is Nov. 17.


But some involved in the effort say their goal is even higher. Wendy Harvey said the goal is to get more signatures than Steamboat Springs City Council member Dakotah McGinlay got votes when she won a crowded District III race in 2021. McGinlay won with 2,037 votes.


“We’re not going to stop when we have enough, we’re going to get as many as we can,” said Harvey, whose husband Brian Harvey is a petition committee organizer. “We want a solution for affordable housing, but not this one.”


Petition committee member Jim Engelken said not only are they seeing strong support for signing the petition, but many people are asking to help circulate it.


“I’m feeling pretty good about it,” Engelken said. “There’s a lot of petitions out there, and assuming that they all come in with the signatures that the circulators are suggesting they’re getting, then yes, I’m pretty confident.”


Steamboat voters approved Ballot Measure 2I on Tuesday, which allocates 75% of Short-Term Rental tax revenues to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority for work at Brown Ranch for at least the next six years. The measure passed with votes breaking down to 55% ‘yes’ and 45% ‘no.’


Engelken said he didn’t know how much 2I reveals about Brown Ranch itself — “The language on the ballot was very favorable… support affordable housing at the Brown Ranch without a tax increase, and a lot of people did that. But as they hear more and more details of the actual development plan, there’s a whole lot more opposition,” he said.


The Yampa Valley Housing Authority isn’t viewing 2I as definitive either. Despite 2I’s passage, the Housing Authority is assuming petitioners will get the signatures they need and that there will be another Brown Ranch vote in the coming months.


“We’re working from the position that they likely might,” said Executive Director Jason Peasley to the Housing Authority Board on Thursday.


Peasley said they have already reached out to City Attorney Dan Foote for guidance on what they can and cannot do in terms of campaigning if there is a referendum. They have also created a communication plan to further engage the community about Brown Ranch whether there is a vote or not.


McGinlay, who is City Council’s representative on the Housing Authority Board, said she would like to see a clearer depiction of the phases of Brown Ranch be part of that communication, specifically including what types of housing, what incomes they are targeting and when they will come online for each phase.


“It’s great that 2I passed, but our petitioners are still out there and they are very active,” said YVHA board member Lou Tortora.


Tortora pointed to the attention petitioners have put on a donation from The Michaels Organization — YVHA’s Brown Ranch development partner — to the House Our Community campaign supporting 2I. Michaels, the nation’s largest privately held affordable housing developer based in New Jersey, made a $10,000 donation to the campaign, which was first reported in Tuesday’s Morning Bugle Newsletter. The campaign has reported about $26,000 total in contributions.


“This was not won by a check,” said YVHA Board member Catherine Carson. “This was won by grassroots volunteers.”


Harvey argued that the Let Steamboat Vote campaign is more grassroots: “We’re just people who live and work in this town.”


A small-scale issue committee called Steamboat Responsible Housing and Growth has filed paperwork with the city saying its purpose is to oppose Brown Ranch Annexation, with Wendy Harvey listed as the registered agent. As a small-scale issue committee, the group is not required to disclose donors until they reach $5,000 in activity.


House Our Community disclosed its donors in documents published by the city on Monday. Out of 30 donations to House Our Community, 24 were from Steamboat. Of the other six, two were from Denver, one from Yampa, and three were from out of state.


“If we have another campaign, this community is excited about Brown Ranch and affordable housing,” Carson said. “Let’s do it again in the spring.”

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