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  • Dylan Anderson

Steamboat Council drops demand for regional park at Brown Ranch

Council was vague in the reasoning for the change after discussing the regional park in an closed-door session.

Steamboat Springs City Council made a stark reversal on Tuesday, dropping their insistence that the Yampa Valley Housing Authority provide land for a regional park as part of Brown Ranch annexation after meeting in executive session.

Two council members, Dakotah McGinlay and Gail Garey, voted against meeting behind closed doors, but council members ultimately voted 5-2 to enter the session after being told they would want to hear the update council member Joella West had in relation to the regional park.

This led to speculation in Centennial Hall about what the news could be, but those in the gallery were left wondering when council exited the closed-door session to say the city had decided to no longer insist on a regional park at Brown Ranch without much explanation.

“We gathered to discuss an alternate solution to the regional park problem, and we have come to the conclusion that we are going to be able to develop an alternate solution so we are rescinding the requirement of 40 or 40 plus acres of a regional park to be dedicated in Brown Ranch,” West said, upon council’s return from executive session.

When approached after the meeting, West clarified that her comments shouldn’t be taken to mean that council has identified an alternative solution to provide a regional park, just that they would no longer be seeking that park as part of Brown Ranch annexation.

Council’s decision removes one of the most controversial aspects of the annexation agreement left unresolved, an issue that has seen steep disagreement between the city and the housing authority throughout the seven-month process to draft a deal to add Brown Ranch to the city. After balking at the request for months, the housing authority agreed to provide the parkland in exchange for the city asking voters to allocate 75% of revenues from the short-term rental tax to Brown Ranch.

Still, the parkland proposed drew the ire of local environmentalists noting it could have severe impacts on elk, mule deer, sage grouse, and other wildlife, and from the Routt County Commissioners, who would need to approve the park’s development plan, as the proposed location is beyond the urban growth boundary and is not being annexed. Commissioners noted the county’s master plan calls for passive park space, not a complex of developed sports fields.

While a significant step toward a finalized agreement, Tuesday’s decision does not close the book on parks.

Part of the city’s parks requirements include providing a special use facility, and the housing authority is partnering with a group that has long worked to build a sports barn locally to fulfill this request. The land for the sports barn, about 8.6 acres along Routt County Road 42 near Silver Spur, had initially been included in the neighborhood and mini parks category. But when it became the home of the sport barn, a plan that would include some outdoor fields as well, city staff said it was no longer meeting the needs neighborhood and mini parks are designed for.

The city’s position is that the 8.6 acres could count toward the regional park ask (a request that was later dropped, as stated above), but not toward the 33.6 acres of neighborhood and mini parks required. This leaves YVHA 8.6 acres short of city metrics for that type of park. The city has said these metrics are part of the Parks, Recreation, Open Space, Trails and River Master Plan, and are based on levels of service from 2017 used to craft that plan.

There was no discussion about how this disagreement would be resolved on Tuesday. The housing authority has previously said the parks plan would not change.

During the broader discussion, McGinlay noted that the city’s parks plan says that Steamboat generally provides twice the level of park amenities as most Colorado communities and three to four times the national average. McGinlay also pointed out that equity and equality — terms used by city staff to represent the current level of parks service — are not the same, a point that was brought up during public comment as well.

“Equity has to be built in,” said Jerry Hernandez, deputy director of Integrated Community during public comment. “There are barriers that exist that make parks not equitable; applications only being in English and the processes only being in one language. That all speaks to inequities that are part of a system, and that system in this case would be a park.”

Council has a plan to consider a resolution approving the annexation agreement on Sept. 5. They indicated Tuesday that the Brown Ranch Annexation Committee would meet again to continue ironing out the agreement, potentially as soon as later this week.


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