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  • Dylan Anderson

There are parks at Brown Ranch. What do they look like and when may they be built?

Brown Ranch Annexation Agreement includes 63 acres of parkland, 125 acres of open space, eight miles of trails and the long-talked-about Steamboat Sports Barn.

The Gist: The Yampa Valley Housing Authority builds 23 acres of smaller parks, while the city of Steamboat Springs gets 40 acres to build two community parks. A separate deal brings an indoor sports barn.


The Brown Ranch annexation agreement includes nearly 63 acres of parkland, of which roughly 40 acres will be developed by the city of Steamboat Springs, and 23 acres will be developed by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.


In addition to this parkland, the project also includes 8.5 acres that will have an indoor sports barn and outdoor fields built in partnership with a local community group that has long been pushing for a sports barn. The plan also includes 125 acres of open space and eight miles of trails.


Exhibit C of the annexation agreement lays out roughly where these parks will be in the development, as well as the location of trails and open space. In total, about 190 acres of the 420 acres being considered for annexation will be parks or open space.


About 40 acres of the park space will be allocated to the city of Steamboat Springs for the construction of two large community parks. One of these parks would be 22.5 acres and the other just over 17 acres.


The city will construct these larger community parks, while the Yampa Valley Housing Authority builds smaller neighborhood and mini-parks as well as the various greenways planned. The annexation agreement requires YVHA to contribute $7.5 million to the city toward the construction of community parks.


These two community parks are the projects that are most discussed when reviewing the city’s capital infrastructure gap, which sits between $10 million and $42 million over the life of the project. Constructing these two parks is expected to cost a total of $53.5 million, an estimate based on costs Steamboat’s Parks Department is seeing for Bear River Park construction of $1.35 million per acre.


The smaller parks — neighborhood parks, mini parks and greenways — will be constructed by YVHA without any financial support from the city. These parks will be built as the development builds out in accordance with the city’s community development code.


The city and YVHA will also agree on a standard for what these parks will look like, which will be particularly important for the greenways. The Brown Ranch plan calls for half a dozen streets to be replaced with a YVHA has referred to as a “linear park.”


The annexation agreement does not dedicate any land to become a regional park, an ask the city dropped late in the annexation negotiation process. The city’s long-term parks plan, known as the PROSTR Plan, calls for any new annexation to deliver enough land for one 46-acre park. YVHA resisted that requirement, saying it would remove as many as 500 units from the project.


Ultimately Council backed off the requirement but did insist that YVHA deliver access and utilities to a nearly 190-acre parcel adjacent to the Brown Ranch the city has identified as potential land for a regional park. The city nearly purchased the parcel last year, but ultimately decided to wait.


In addition to the 125 acres of open space at the Brown Ranch, there is another 114 acres of land to the north that YVHA owns that will not be annexed into the city. This land will be considered open space for 20 years, and that 20-year timeline doesn’t start until there are 450 units built, or until trails through the open space are constructed, whichever is later.


After the 20 years is up, YVHA would have the right to build more housing on this land. Because this land is not being annexed in the current, it would likely need to go through its own annexation process in the future.

 

Does the Brown Ranch parks plan meet everything the city was asking for?

Parks were one of if not the most negotiated issues during the process to come up with a final annexation agreement, and represent a compromise between the city and the housing authority. In some cases, Brown Ranch delivers slightly more or less than what is called for in city plans.


For example, the PROSTR Plan calls for 36.7 acres of community parks and the Brown Ranch plan provides just under 40 acres.


But other aspects fall short of PROSTR plan metrics. For example, based on the anticipated population, the parks plan recommends nearly 1,200 acres of open space and 26 miles of trails, neither of which are really possible when the Brown Ranch itself is only 420 acres.


The plan also delivers fewer mini and neighborhood parks than called for in the PROSTR Plan. The city also didn’t want to accept greenways as mini and neighborhood parks at first, though ultimately agreed to do so. The annexation agreement calls for the city and YVHA to mutually agree on standards for greenways, parks and open space in a document called the Brown Ranch Parks Design and Construction Manual.


The PROSTR plan also calls for a regional park, a request that was eventually dropped by city council.

 

What happened to the regional park?

From the very beginning of annexation negotiations, the city of Steamboat Springs insisted on getting at least 46 acres to be used for a regional park. Through negotiations, YVHA resisted providing that land as they argued it had the opportunity cost of 500 units.


As negotiations got closer to an end, YVHA did present an option to place a regional park on land outside of the current Urban Grown Boundary that is part of Brown Ranch but is not being annexed into the city. This land would be subject to county regulations for development.


Routt County Commissioners expressed their disapproval of the city’s regional park request by delaying approval for a letter of intent on a grant for the Brown Ranch in early August, though they did provide it a week later. The commissioners also signaled that while a passive park space would be appropriate, a developed park with athletic fields may have trouble as it works toward development approval.


Later in August, the city dropped its ask for a regional park after an executive session presented an opportunity for the city to build land near Brown Ranch to use as a regional park. The annexation agreement was adjusted to require YVHA to deliver utilities and secondary access to this 187-acre parcel.


Then in September, City Council opted to delay a decision on purchasing the 187 acres of land, with some members questioning the $5.25 million purchase price.


Why isn’t the temporary open space part of Brown Ranch annexation?

The full Brown Ranch is more than 530 acres, but only 420 is within the Urban Growth Boundary around Steamboat Springs, a boundary that is identified in the Routt County Master Plan. Land that is part of the Brown Ranch, but is north of that Urban Growth Boundary is not being annexed.


Instead, the annexation agreement requires this space be considered open space for at least 20 years. After that time, YVHA could use the land to meet future housing needs in Steamboat Springs. The idea to keep the land for future housing was a recommendation of the Brown Ranch Steering Committee.


This 114 acres of land will be considered open space for 20 years, but that timeframe does not start right away. According to the annexation agreement, that clock starts when YVHA has built out the trial network in the open space or has delivered 450 housing units, whichever comes later.

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