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  • Dylan Anderson

Why does the Brown Ranch annexation agreement allow for 2,264 housing units?

A housing demand study conducted in 2021 by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority estimated a need of 1,400 units to meet current workforce demands, 1,961 units by 2030, and 2,400 units by 2040.

The Gist: The 2,264 units come from a 2021 Housing Demand Study

The Brown Ranch Annexation Agreement Steamboat Springs voters will consider on March 26 allows for up to 2,264 housing units to be built on the approximately 420 acres of land.

That number comes from a 2021 housing demand study that the Yampa Valley Housing Authority conducted with consultant RCLCO for the Brown Ranch Community Development Plan. The study uses job estimates from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and a historical rate of 0.54 households per job in Routt County to estimate housing need.

When excluding what the study considers “high-end” housing serving people at 258% the area median income (nearly $200,000 a year for an individual) it finds Steamboat’s workforce had a need for 7,800 total housing units in 2022. The study then looks at Routt County Assessor’s data of the current housing supply to estimate how many are being utilized by the local workforce and how many may be second homes or STRs. After counting units currently utilized by the workforce, the study concludes a current need of an additional 1,400 housing units.

To calculate future housing need, RCLCO relied on future job projections and other assumptions. Those assumptions include that economic growth and development of new housing would remain similar to historical trends and that the percentage of homes used as second homes and STRs across the city would remain constant. The study takes into account YVHA housing projects that were already in the development pipeline and assumes a slowdown in the housing market from the highs seen during the pandemic to be more in line with historical trends.

The study concludes that Steamboat needs 1,961 units by 2030 and 2,400 units by 2040. RCLCO’s demand study then makes a recommendation for 2,262 units at Brown Ranch, slightly below that figure for demand based on a factor of “historical turnover.”

That recommendation is the full build-out number in the annexation agreement.

Out of the 2,262 total units total allowed at Brown Ranch, 66% of units are anticipated by the annexation agreement to be multi-family, 21% would be single-family attached units and the final 13% of units are single family homes. That breaks down to 1,486 multi-family units, 484 single-family attached units and 294 single family homes.

The annexation agreement notes that each of these numbers are based on current data and that the housing authority will be periodically updating that data and may want to adjust unit configurations or add units to the project.

“YVHA may seek to amend the Regulating Plan consistent with the Applicable City Ordinances, including seeking to add additional Units or square feet of non-residential uses based upon changes in demand,” the annexation agreement reads.

The annexation agreement requires YVHA to periodically update the demand study to “ensure housing needs are being appropriately addressed,” and to share those updates with City Council.


How many people will live at Brown Ranch?

Early in annexation negotiations, the city and housing authority settled on a population estimate of 2.7 people per household, which equates to 6,113 people living in the development at full build-out. This estimate was important to analyze the fiscal impacts of the project.

The number was chosen by Steamboat Springs City Council and agreed to by YVHA, which had initially suggested a lower 2.32 people per household number based on historical metrics in Steamboat Springs.

A fiscal analysis conducted by RCLCO found that 80% of the residents at the Brown Ranch do not currently live within the city of Steamboat Springs. That 80% of the population was estimated to come from a mix of workers relocating from other parts of Routt and Moffat Counties and new growth. The other 20% of residents was estimated to be people who are already in Steamboat and would move to the Brown Ranch.


How fast will units develop?

The Yampa Valley Housing Authority has said the pace of unit buildout at Brown Ranch will be around 100 units per year on average. The annexation agreement has some unit delivery metrics that also illustrate the potential pace of development.

The first of those metrics is 420 units within six years of the effective date of the annexation agreement. If YVHA misses this metric, the city council at the time would have the ability to lessen the amount of money YVHA receives from the Short-Term Rental tax by a measure of how many units were delivered. If only 90% of the 420 units were delivered, then council could allocate YVHA 90% of STR tax funding in future years.  

The second metric is 1,100 units within 12 years of the annexation agreement. If YVHA misses that metric, the city council at the time could stop the flow of STR tax dollars to the Brown Ranch Project all together.

These metrics are referenced in the 2I ballot question that Steamboat Voters approved in November.


Is there a limit on how fast Brown Ranch could develop?

There is no language in the Brown Ranch Annexation Agreement that directly limits the number of units that can be built in a year, though it does include a clause that allows City Council to stop issuing building permits for the project if infrastructure construction doesn’t keep pace.

This is in Section 10 of the Annexation Agreement and is a restatement of existing city code. This clause says the city may withhold development and building permits if “the City Council determines during the development review process that existing infrastructure is inadequate to absorb impacts of additional Brown Ranch development.”

The agreement specifically mentions that the city can stop development if it cannot fund its share of infrastructure.

“If the council at the time determines that the infrastructure, whether it’s parks or whether it’s the highways, is not suitable continuing to build, it is built into the annexation [agreement] that they can, at that time, not issue building permits,” said City Finance Director Kim Weber on Oct. 17, when council approved the agreement on second reading.


How will development progress at Brown Ranch?

The annexation agreement points to three phases of development at Brown Ranch, with the first phase being roughly half the total project in terms of units. According to Exhibit B of the annexation agreement — the preliminary phasing plan — the first phase will encompass 1,124 units. Phase Two is slated for 571 more units with Phase three completing the project with 569 units.

Development will start in the southeast corner of the property, nearest to the Overlook Subdivision and U.S. Highway 40. This has been dubbed Neighborhood A and is a higher density neighborhood, per the Brown Ranch Development Plan.

But the number of units in Phase One will also lead to development in the other three neighborhoods as well. All of Neighborhood B, part of Neighborhood C and a small section of Neighborhood D near the proposed sports barn are part of the initial phase.


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