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  • Dylan Anderson

Steamboat Council wants a larger role in next round of Brown Ranch community outreach

The initial plan was crafted with robust outreach, but city and housing authority officials said Tuesday the next plan needs even broader input.


Steamboat Springs City Council wants to take a larger role in the next round of Brown Ranch community outreach by hiring a consultant to lead a new effort that hopes to understand what the community could accept in a new iteration of the Brown Ranch development plan.


In a work session on Tuesday, there was broad agreement between council, the Yampa Valley Housing Authority and opponents to the previous Brown Ranch plan that officials need to take time to listen to the community before crafting a new plan.


Council members said they favored bringing in a third party to lead outreach and suggest ways to get the best feedback from the community. Based on Tuesday’s discussion, this consultant would not create a new Brown Ranch development plan, rather they would stop at gathering community input.


“When it came to the actual outreach to the community, we failed… I thought I heard from the majority, but clearly, I heard from the minority,” said Council Member Michael Buccino. “We have this constituency that we need to hear from.”


The initial Brown Ranch plan was crafted with significant community outreach, with the housing authority noting that they reached roughly 4,000 people in and around Steamboat Springs through various means. On Tuesday, YVHA Board President Leah Wood said she felt that outreach did a good job at reaching people in need of housing, but maybe missed other members of the community.


“I think the housing authority did a great job of seeking feedback from people who were looking for specific types of housing and we talked a lot with the community we were trying to serve,” Wood said. “Where I think we fell short on our community engagement and listening efforts was ensuring that we engaged the voting electorate of Steamboat — people that are already securely housed.”


Council members showed urgency to get the process of the next iteration of Brown Ranch going but nobody wanted to rush it either. Council asked for an update on a potential request for a proposal for the consultant at its meeting next week. City staff are also going to ask a consultant who has already been hired to help the city and Routt County with an update of the West Steamboat Springs Area Plan if they would have the bandwidth to add Brown Ranch outreach to their scope of work.


This course forward didn’t get any objections from YVHA or members of the Citizens for a Better Plan group that opposed Brown Ranch Annexation. Council allowed members of that group — Jim Engelken and Michael McLarney — to sit alongside YVHA at Tuesday’s meeting after they requested a seat at the table during public comment at last week's meeting.


“I’m pleased what has been said so far,” said Engelken, a former city council member. “I personally agree with Council [member Steve] Muntean that the city should take a lead on this. … Getting people engaged and getting them educated, it’s a long difficult process and it’s very important.”


“There have been a lot of voices heard, that’s not necessarily the problem,” McLarney said. “We may have heard a lot of people, but did we implement the vision you are hearing and are you hearing the voices that didn’t show up to some of the meetings?”


(Technically, Engelken and McLarney were representing the Let Steamboat Vote committee that petitioned the annexation ordinance and spurred last month's vote and not the Citizens for a Better Plan issue committee that opposed annexation, though functionally those are largely the same people. City Attorney Dan Foote said inviting parties like YVHA or the petitioner's committee to the discussion was appropriate, but recommended against inviting issue committees like Citizens for a Better Plan or House Our Community.)


While invited to participate in Tuesday’s discussion with a physical seat at the table placed in Council’s chambers, exactly how involved the petitioner’s committee would be going forward was not decided.


“I think it is critical that we hear from the petitioner’s committee,” said Council member Dakotah McGinlay. “I see that as a positive thing tonight. I don’t know if I can commit to what that looks like going forward.”


YVHA Executive Director Jason Peasley stressed that they are focused on listening to the community at this point and presented a loose timeline that could have a new annexation agreement roughly this time next year, though he stressed that nothing was decided.


“We’re not committed to any hard deadlines here,” Peasley said. “This needs to take the appropriate time that it needs to take.”


Aspects of the outreach plan Peasley presented included two rounds of listening, one starting now and one after a new plan is developed. This outreach could include community surveys, targeted meetings with specific community organizations, focus groups and community discussions on tradeoffs, Peasley said.


“There will be some tradeoffs that come from making these different decisions, from looking at the project a different way,” Peasley said. “We’re going to go back out to the community, talk about some of those tradeoffs and listen to where the community feels we should be making those tradeoffs.”


Peasley said the main thing they have heard post-election is that the project as proposed was too big, but the question of how big it should be is still out there. Engelken made this point as well, stressing that they are not against affordable housing and neither are many of the people that voted against annexation.


“What is the tolerance of this community for the size of the Brown Ranch?” Engelken said. “In terms of speaking for the 58% who voted no, the vast majority of them agreed it was too big. What is that number that’s tolerable?”

“I would think that your consultant, your outreach your professionals that go out and try to make this thing move forward need to have that question first and foremost in their minds,” he continued.   

 

What happens with Ballot Measure 2I?

City Attorney Dan Foote said that ballot measure 2I passed in November doesn’t necessarily die with the annexation agreement, though it likely does. This is because the wording of that ballot question was not specific to this particular annexation agreement, but rather an annexation agreement in general.


Ballot measure 2I dedicated 75% of short-term rental tax revenues to YVHA for use at Brown Ranch. The ballot question referred to Section 9 of the annexation agreement, which outlined various unit delivery metrics that would dictate future funding levels. Foote said if a new annexation agreement included those same terms — 420 units in six years and 1100 units in 12 years — ballot measure 2I could stand. Still, that seems unlikely, he said.


“If any part of Section 9 is changed then I think that would invalidate 2I,” Foote said. “Well, I think it is theoretically possible to proceed with an annexation where 2I is valid, I think that is probably not realistic.”


What is happening with The Michaels Organization?

YVHA still has a memorandum of understanding with The Michaels Organization that says they intend to use them as a development partner for Brown Ranch, but does not have a master developer agreement or any other deals.


Peasley said YVHA has essentially put the decision to move forward with Michaels on hold to allow time to continue to listen to the community. Peasley noted that they did hear feedback in relation to Michaels from the community.


“We’re interested in hearing more, whether that is a concern specifically about that organization or development partners in general or our approach to development partners,” Peasley said. “They are just essentially sitting on the sidelines at the moment.”


Top photo caption: Steamboat Springs City Council Chambers were full on Tuesday as council discussed how they wanted to proceed with outreach for Brown Ranch. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)

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