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  • Dylan Anderson

Where did the Brown Ranch come from and what has been said about the anonymous donor?

YVHA is the sole owner of the Brown Ranch, even though the land was purchased with a $24 million anonymous donation.

This story is part a reporting series called "Brown Ranch: Explained." New stories in this series will be published on Fridays. To get the latest, subscribe to The Morning Bugle Newsletter. 


The Gist: Anonymous donor supplied $24 million for YVHA to purchase Brown Ranch


The Yampa Valley Housing Authority purchased the 536-acre Brown Ranch with an anonymous donation in August 2021, starting the third attempt to build a significant housing project on land directly adjacent to Steamboat Springs’ western city limits.


The donor — who remains anonymous — donated $24 million to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, which then used the money to purchase the property from owner Steamboat 700 LLC. The housing authority owns the Brown Ranch, not the anonymous donor.


“They care a lot about Steamboat,” YVHA Executive Director Jason Peasley told Steamboat Pilot & Today in October 2022, referring to the donor. “They spend a lot of time here, had the resources to make a difference and decided now’s the time.”


The donation was facilitated by the Yampa Valley Community Foundation and did not come with any strings attached, according to the housing authority. Peasley told the newspaper the terms were, “housing authority, do your thing.”


Following the purchase of the property, YVHA set up a 20-member steering committee to guide the design of the Brown Ranch. A year of outreach efforts got input from more than 4,000 people and the Brown Ranch Community Development Plan was first presented to the community in October 2022.


Why is it called Brown Ranch?

The property now known as Brown Ranch has had several names over the past two decades including Steamboat 700 and West Steamboat Neighborhoods. Each of these proposed projects went through a similar annexation process, but both eventually failed.


The name Brown Ranch comes from the owners of the property prior to those projects. According to the housing authority, the property was a family farm owned by various members of the Brown family since the early 1900s. The Browns grew timothy hay, alfalfa and small gains while raising horses and cattle on the 536-acre parcel.


In the mid-1990s the Brown family’s land was included in the West Steamboat Springs Area Plan as an area of future growth, specifically an area that could be used to provide affordable housing. The Browns pursued development of the land on their own in the early 2000s, but nothing was built. In 2007, Steve and Mary Brown sold the land to a group called Steamboat 700 LLC for $25 million.


After two failed annexation attempts on the land, YVHA made an offer to buy the land from Steamboat 700 for $23 million in July 2021. A month later, YVHA closed on a deal to buy the land for $24 million.


By the time YVHA had formed a steering committee comprised of 20 locals in September of 2021, the land was being referred to as Brown Ranch.


(Note: There is a different Brown Ranch along Routt County Road 129 toward Clark that has no connection to the YVHA-owned property west of Steamboat Springs.)

 

Where did the donation come from?

The anonymous donor first reached out to Peasley around the Fourth of July in 2021, according to reporting from Pilot & Today. The meeting was initially billed as a conversation about affordable housing.


In that meeting, Peasley learned that the donor was prepared to give YVHA enough money to buy the Steamboat 700 property, which was thought of as a “crown jewel” for potential housing but was also far outside of YVHA’s price range. The housing authority would not have had the means to purchase the property without the donation.


When YVHA made the initial offer on the Steamboat 700 land, then YVHA Board President Cole Hewitt said the donor wanted Steamboat to keep its character and hoped the land purchase would help. Hewitt said at the time that the negotiations for the purchase were between the donor and Steamboat 700, but that YVHA would own the land in the end.


Two months after YVHA closed on the Brown Ranch, the same anonymous donor returned with $6 million more that YVHA used to buy land along U.S. Highway 40 in Steamboat Springs, according to Pilot reporting. This land is being called Mid-Valley and will include a mix of more than 200 for-rent and for-sale units across multiple buildings. Mid-Valley broke ground in the fall of 2023.  


Top Photo Caption: A rendering of neighborhood A at the Brown Ranch. (Yampa Valley Housing Authority/Courtesy)




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