Housing Authority names 20 locals to steering committee for Brown Ranch development
Vanessa Avitia is just 13 years old, and she loves living in Steamboat Springs. But her parents have said if they are not able to buy a house in the next few years, they likely are not long for the Yampa Valley.
With this in mind, Vanessa, who interns at Integrated Community, applied to be on the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s Steering Committee, which will be tasked with planning the new development on 536 acres west of Steamboat Springs — now being called the Brown Ranch — purchased with a donation from an anonymous donor.
“I wanted to be on the steering committee, because I would be the most affected when this project would conclude,” Vanessa said. “Now that this project has started, there is hope that we can stay in Steamboat, and I think that is really what sparked my interest.”
She is one of 20 people who were named to the steering committee Thursday during the Housing Authority board of directors meeting. The field was narrowed down from about 90 high-quality applications.
“It is a big group, and it’s quite honestly a product of the fact that we had such a deep pool of applicants,” said Jason Peasley, executive director of the Housing Authority. “Everyone who is on there has this incredible set of skills and experiences, and we didn’t really want to sacrifice that.”
The Housing Authority is stressing that this project will be one that is done by locals for locals, and 100% of the housing that is built will be for Routt County residents.
Peasley said the steering committee will come up with various project objectives that the Housing Authority can constantly refer back to through the monthslong planning process
“When we are struggling for direction, let’s go back to these objectives,” Peasley said. “We’re building housing for locals, and it is going to be affordable and all those types of things that help focus our efforts so that we can get to an end product that is actionable … that after 12 months of working on this, the Housing Authority has a game plan to go out there and execute.”
The newly appointed steering committee members come from a variety of backgrounds — some have lived in the Yampa Valley since they took their first breath, and others have only been in the community for about a year. There are health care workers, a university professor and multiple people with experience in urban planning, land use and housing development.
The youngest is 13-year-old Vanessa Avitia, and the oldest is Roger Ashton, who is 69. Three of the 20 are from the local Latino community, and committee member income varies as well, though not all applicants reported their income on their application. Four of the 11 applicants shared that they make $75,000 or less per year.
“I was born and raised here, and I firmly believe in continuing the legacy of those community makers who came before me,” said Megan Moore-Kemp, energy solutions manager at Yampa Valley Electric Association, who was named to the committee Thursday. “I’m really excited to roll up my sleeves to continue what I see as a legacy and provide that future for others who live here.
“I don’t want to be the last one who made it work,” Moore-Kemp added.
She is also on the committee as a representative for the electric co-op, because the company is invested in the community and recognizes workforce housing issues that are affecting local businesses.
Andrew Beckler, a 34-year-old who owns local ski pole and paddle maker Grass Sticks, said he thinks Routt County is at a tipping point for housing, especially when it comes to small businesses.
“We’re growing, and I am seeing these hiring issues firsthand, and I, myself, am at the point where I want to look into owning property here, owning a home, and it’s not very possible in Steamboat,” Beckler said.
Gates Gooding, 38, who grew up in Steamboat, actually wrote his master’s thesis on the impacts of the then-Steamboat 700 development proposal and has worked on large-scale development projects.
“On one hand, we know that we have a housing crisis, and this is a great thing,” Gooding said. “But I think it can also be a scary thing, and I see part of that, as well, with so much growth, so many more units and so many more people that it will support moving into town.”
There is not someone in their 20s on the committee — a demographic that makes up a lot of the seasonal workers in town.
“I feel like we are seeing our 20- and 30-year-olds having to go to the Front Range or going to larger metropolitan areas versus finding stuff to keep them here,” said Patrick Staib, an associate professor in sustainability studies at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs. “I’d be cautious to say I could be a voice for (younger people, such as CMC students) but at least a conduit to their concerns.”
For Ed MacArthur, longtime local and owner of Native Excavating, the Brown Ranch project is a gift for Steamboat and has put a lot of responsibility on the committee.
“This money was put in place to create and develop affordable housing,” MacArthur said. “I think this should be something that the community keeps in its stock for a long time.”
Dr. Kristen Brown Wilson
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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