Steamboat Council is still weighing whether an eventual annexation agreement will go to the voters. If they don’t send it to the ballot, voters could put it there anyway.
The first two attempts to annex land west of Steamboat Springs into the city have each gone to a public vote of the people.
When it was called Steamboat 700 in 2010, voters rejected annexation by more than 20 percentage points. With the name West Steamboat Neighborhoods in 2019, voters approved extending the city by an almost opposite margin, though developer Brynn Grey Partners failed to close the deal.
When meetings kicked off in January, members of the special Brown Ranch Annexation Committee said they hoped the third time would be the charm. A decision that is not in that committee’s hands is whether Steamboat Springs voters will get the ultimate say on whether to annex the Brown Ranch.
Ultimately, City Council will have the first opportunity to refer the question of annexation to a city-wide vote. With an annexation agreement still being drafted, whether council would refer the question is unclear, with two city council members feeling that step is unnecessary, two feeling it is needed and three yet to make up their minds.
If council opts to approve the agreement without a vote of the people, citizens can petition it onto the ballot anyway. This would require a petition signed by 10% of registered voters in the city at the time of the last city election in 2021.
As the annexation committee works to deliver a draft agreement to council later this summer — likely in July or August based on the recently extended timeline — whether the Brown Ranch will need to face a referendum is another key issue outstanding.
When approached by The Yampa Valley Bugle in recent weeks, council members Michael Buccino and Gail Garey said they did not feel council needed to refer the Brown Ranch to a public vote, while fellow council members Ed Briones and Heather Sloop had the opposite opinion. Still undecided are Council President Robin Crossan and members Joella West and Dakotah McGinlay.
Here’s where each council member stands
President Robin Crossan, undecided:
“We haven’t gotten enough community input. … We’re not getting the public to give us information one way or the other right now. Until we get a little bit more of that, I would have to wait.”
Joella West, undecided:
“We haven’t been this close to the reality of actually having an annexation agreement. We’ll see what the next couple of weeks brings in terms of what council thinks we should do. … If we choose to put it to a vote, the people will tell us what they want. If we don’t, that will be a test of whether the people trust us to have done what we think we we’re elected to do. … We haven’t had a full discussion about that at council.”
Dakotah McGinlay, undecided:
“Having Brown Ranch go to a vote seems like the fair thing to do in a lot of ways, but my heart and my soul is telling me that we don’t want to risk having it on a ballot. … The community has voted in the past and approved it, it was a much different project. But they also voted and approved the (short-term rental) tax. … So it seems like if it did go to a vote, there is a good likelihood that it would pass, but there’s risk to that and we know how much our community needs this. I’m just hoping for the best outcome, whether it goes to a vote or not.”
Michael Buccino, Council shouldn’t refer annexation to the ballot:
“No. I think (council) should vote for it because that is why we were voted in. Most of the people that are on the council right now got voted in with the ask that they wanted to do the Brown Ranch and all of us believe that this is the right thing for the community. I do not think the community needs to go to a vote, absolutely not.”
Gail Garey, Council shouldn’t refer annexation to the ballot:
“At this point, I feel the voters have spoken. … At this stage in the game, I’m not inclined to refer it to a vote. Certainly, Brown Ranch and affordable housing were primary issues during the last election cycle, so I feel as a council member that was elected, that our mandate was to address this issue and certainly the annexation of Brown Ranch was one of the ways we were going to address affordable housing.”
Ed Briones, Council should let voters decide:
“I think the citizens should decide whether or not. … The citizens voted in the STR tax to fund affordable housing, so why not complete the process? … If it came to a vote with the city council, I would send it to a vote of the people of the city. It’s up to the rest of city council to decide that too.”
Heather Sloop, Council should let voters decide:
“I feel that the money, the fiscal deficiency, between what is needed and what is going to be earned by grants or the city or the (STR) tax is too big of a nexus to not ask the people that live here if they support this in the long term and not just have seven people vote to have this go forward and then have another vote down the pike for a tax to the community. I think the community today needs to vote if they want to tax themselves for something this large.”
Top Photo Caption: The Brown Ranch would be the first significant annexation into the city of Steamboat Springs since 1989, when the Fairview Neighborhood and parts of West Steamboat were added to the city. (Brown Ranch Annexation Committee/Courtesy)