Future of West Steamboat Neighborhoods unclear as developers miss critical deadline
Annexation agreement, ordinance expired; city still has the power to annex the property.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Three years, hundreds of hours of negotiations and one contentious city election later, West Steamboat Neighborhoods is still not a certainty.
Over the course of three years, the city negotiated terms to annex and allow Brynn Grey Partners to develop 450 homes west of existing city limits as West Steamboat Neighborhoods.
One of the terms of that negotiation required that Brynn Grey purchase the property by Tuesday, Nov. 12. That didn’t happen.
The existing annexation agreement and annexation ordinance have expired. The ordinance was referred to the ballot and approved by city voters in June.
In an email to City Council President Jason Lacy, City Manager Gary Suiter and Steamboat Pilot & Today sent at 6:31 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, West Steamboat Neighborhoods Managing Partner Melissa Sherburne told the city a deed was signed transferring the annexed property from Steamboat 700 LLC to West Steamboat Neighborhoods, but that attorneys were working through final issues.
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“After almost four years working with us, you know how deeply we care about locals’ housing,” she wrote. “We have put our hearts and souls into creating the West Steamboat Neighborhoods vision, which we created together, for a true local’s neighborhood that aligns with Steamboat’s values and community character.”
“This just really puts all the work of about three years — between council, city staff, the developer, the community, all the community groups that got involved, the yes group, the group that mobilized against it — it really puts all that time and energy in jeopardy for possibly not getting to any kind of finish line,” Lacy said. “It’s really concerning to me, and I hope that they can do something to try to make this happen after over 20 years of community planning efforts to try to make this happen.”
A missed deadline
The annexation agreement required that West Steamboat Neighborhoods acquire the land by midnight Tuesday, Nov. 12.
“That means the annexation agreements has expired, and if we wanted to annex, we would have to re-execute and reapprove resolutions and ordinances,” said City Attorney Dan Foote.
Steamboat Springs City Council voted Feb. 5 to annex 191 acres of land west of current city limits between West Acres and Silver Spur north of U.S. Highway 40. Brynn Grey Partners is the developer of the project that proposed 450 housing units — one-third of them deed restricted — over the next 16 to 20 years. In addition to a new school, parks and open space, the project would have commercial, mixed-use and large-format retail areas, which were anticipated to include a day care center and grocery store. Brynn Grey previously developed workforce housing projects in Breckenridge and Frisco.
“I’m just extremely disappointed for the community after all the work that went into this to get us to this point where we thought we had the deal in place that the community supported,” Lacy said. “For this to fall apart, truly at the midnight hour — it’s really disappointing.”
Steamboat 700 LLC currently owns the 191-acre parcel Brynn Grey planned to build on. In 2010, city voters rejected annexing 700 acres to be developed into a development known as Steamboat 700, which would have included more than 1,800 housing units.
Residents referred West Steamboat Neighborhood’s approval to the ballot in a similar fashion this summer. Annexation won voter approval in June. Campaigns on both sides of the measure raised more than $17,000 for their efforts.
In August, City Council accepted an alternative access to the proposed development, which allowed Brynn Grey to meet an already extended deadline to get road access to the proposed development. This access was another condition of the annexation.
What happens now?
For now, the next steps are unclear. The annexation could go forward, but the city and the developer would essentially redo elements of the process that were years in the making.
On Wednesday, Foote said it is unclear what the city would have to revisit in negotiating with Brynn Grey, and the City Council has some discretion in what happens next.
Sherburne wrote in the email that Brynn Grey is continuing “civil engineering, preconstruction planning and pressing hard to get through the legal issue.”
“In addition, we have been consulting with city staff about the annexation contingency. We are optimistic; we will get this done,” Sherburne wrote.
“We’re all hoping there’s some good news that comes out of it,” said City Council President Pro-Tem Kathi Meyer. “If it can’t be resolved, I think for me, I’d like to know why, and I’d like to know the probability of whether or not the issues that are causing the delay in closing can be fixed.
“I know everybody’s worked very, very hard to make this happen, and it’s very disappointing,” Meyer added. “I’m hopeful that whatever the delay is, like I said, it can be fixed.”
Meyer said that if the developer asks to extend or renegotiate the annexation agreement, she’s not open to substantial changes to what’s already been approved.
“For me personally, there’s going to be a credibility issue. … I would need to make sure that the community gets what it thought it was getting,” Meyer said.
Lacy said it would be up to Brynn Grey to revive the proposal.
“We’ve kind of done everything we can to support this process and help us get to the finish line,” he said. “Really, the ball is in the West Steamboat Neighborhoods’ court to make something happen from here. We’ve performed. We’ve done what we can, and they’re going to have to really step up and make this happen if it’s even going to happen.”
The current situation surrounding the agreement is different from a denial of a development approval where a denial prohibits the property owner from resubmitting the same application. Negotiations between the two parties are ongoing, according to a news release from the city.
As of Wednesday afternoon, discussions about West Steamboat Neighborhoods were not on a City Council agenda.
Brynn Grey first approached the city about the project in 2016.
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