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  • Dylan Anderson

Steamboat negotiators float potential breakthrough deal to secure land for regional park

The deal, which would offer the Yampa Valley Housing Authority its request for a ballot measure allocating 75% of short-term rental tax revenue for Brown Ranch in exchange for the parkland, has not been approved by the broader city council.

City of Steamboat Springs negotiators floated a potential breakthrough deal on Wednesday that would see the city receive land for a regional park on Yampa Valley Housing Authority-owned land in exchange for a funding question to voters that would allocate a larger share of short-term rental tax revenues to fund Brown Ranch development.


The suggested deal — which has not been approved or even considered by the rest of city council — would allow a funding question to allocate 75% of STR tax revenues to be sent to voters this fall. In exchange, the housing authority team would agree to grant the city 40-plus acres of land to build a new regional park at the Brown Ranch — an ask from the city that council members have described as non-negotiable.


This deal is still subject to approval by the rest of council, and the housing authority board. Council meets next week and the housing authority board is meeting on Thursday. There are still details about where the regional park will be, how it will be accessed and when it will be turned over to the city that need to be finalized as well.


If the deal goes through, it represents a significant compromise from both sides of the negotiating table, as the city has said they were only comfortable with allocating only 50% of STR revenues to Brown Ranch and the housing authority has insisted providing land for a regional park was a non-starter.


As the annexation committee broke for lunch on Wednesday, a side conversation between Steamboat City Manager Gary Suiter, council President Robin Crossan and council member Joella West led to the potential compromise.


“As (Crossan) said earlier, for council this is non-negotiable for them. Maybe it is negotiable if we put something substantial on the table,” Suiter said. “(Crossan and West) would be willing to take back to city council at an Aug. 1 meeting the proposal for 75% of the STR revenues.”


Suiter emphasized that the negotiating team did not have direction from council to strike such a deal, but that the idea was being floated to help move talks along.


Use of the short-term rental tax has been an issue largely saved for the end of annexation negotiations. As it has started to be broached in recent weeks, the city has expressed a desire to only allocate 50% of STR tax funds to the housing authority, while the housing authority has been pushing for 75%.


The housing authority says the 75% number pencils out to roughly $10 million a year, which is the number that Executive Director Jason Peasley told council they would need from the city to build Brown Ranch when the STR tax was being considered last year. This $10 million a year figure contributed to the tax being set at 9%.


The difference between 50% and 75% amounts to $70 million over the buildout of the Brown Ranch, according to city projections of how much revenue the STR tax would bring in.


The housing authority has pursued the funding question to ensure they will have dedicated funding from the STR tax to help build out Brown Ranch. Without such an agreement, that funding would be subject to the whims of city council in any given year.


As negotiations have progressed over the last six months, Council has been staunch in its request for land for a regional park and the housing authority has been equally staunch in its position to not give up the land, fearing it would lead to a loss of hundreds of housing units in the development plan.


In the initial offer on Wednesday, the city asked that the regional park be included on land within the urban growth boundary, meaning it would be on land that is part of the annexation agreement. A more than 100-acre portion of the Brown Ranch is beyond the urban growth boundary and is not being considered for annexation as part of this agreement.


But the housing authority’s position is that they could hand over land that is beyond that boundary. While this would consume land the Brown Ranch Steering Committee had identified to address additional housing need decades in the future, it wouldn’t consume land that is currently planned for housing units.


As the acreage is beyond the urban growth boundary, this would require any regional park to go through Routt County’s planning process, not the city’s. Figuring out how there will be road access to the park is another hurdle that needs to be cleared before a deal could be finalized. Based on Tuesday’s discussion, the housing authority would need to deliver road access and utilities to the parkland at some point during phase one of the project, though exactly when has not yet been decided.


Consideration of the deal will be explored by council at an Aug. 1 meeting that will be solely devoted to Brown Ranch Annexation. The annexation committee has scheduled another meeting on Aug. 8 to continue finalizing an annexation agreement.


Top Photo Caption: In this graphic, the red squares represent how much land a 40-acre regional park would consume at the Brown Ranch. (Yampa Valley Housing Authority/Courtesy)

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