Housing Authority working to find balance between park space and housing at Brown Ranch | SteamboatToday.com

Housing Authority working to find balance between park space and housing at Brown Ranch

Some city requests are impossible while others could significantly reduce the number of units at the Brown Ranch

A rendering of park space at the Brown Ranch. The Yampa Valley Housing Authority is working to increase park acreage at the development, but is wary of doing so at the expense of housing units.
Yampa Valley Housing Authority/Courtesy

The Yampa Valley Housing Authority is working to increase the amount of park space included at the Brown Ranch, but the loss of units that would stem from some of the city’s asks may be too great.

When first presented last month, Steamboat Springs officials said the Brown Ranch plan was not providing the park acreage that is called for in various city plans, mainly the Parks, Recreation, Open Space, Trails and River Comprehensive Master Plan.

Some of those metrics, specifically how much open space the plan says the Brown Ranch should bring, are not possible for the Brown Ranch to meet. Based on projected population, the project would need to add more acres of open space than acres in the entire Brown Ranch.

The city parks plan also calls for a 46-acre regional park, an ask the housing authority says could lead to the loss of as many as 500 units if provided.

At its meeting last week, the housing authority board indicated it was willing to amend the development plan to include more park space, sports fields and maybe even the long talked about Steamboat Sports Barn, but providing affordable housing is the main priority of the Brown Ranch.

“The donor donated this land to help solve housing issues,” said housing authority board member Roger Ashton. “We’re the Yampa Valley Housing Authority. We’re not the Yampa Valley parks and recreation authority.”

“The No. 1 objective of our plan is the creation of units,” said board member Cole Hewitt. “The creation of units and the affordability of units is the only thing that we have to negotiate away.”

In the annexation meeting last week, the housing authority presented several options to increase the total park acreage at the Brown Ranch. Some of these plans added new parks, others extended the footprint of currently proposed parks and one explored the idea of adding almost a dozen small pocket parks within neighborhoods.

Another option would remove about four blocks of housing for a regional sports facility that would be along Routt County Road 42 on the west side of the Brown Ranch property. If this option were pursued, it would likely be in partnership with the local group that has been working to get an indoor sports facility somewhere in the city for years.

While this could remove a significant number of housing units, Sheila Henderson, who worked on the outreach to develop the Brown Ranch development plan, said an indoor facility was a top request among people who hope to live at the Brown Ranch. During the day, the facility could be used as a space for child care providers to go, Henderson added.

Get the top stories in your inbox every morning. Sign up here: steamboatpilot.com/newsletter

Housing lost to an indoor sports facility could be made up elsewhere in the development. The current plan includes so-called ghost blocks, which are not currently planned for development, but could be if needed. Density of some of the blocks could also be increased to replace housing lost to more parks space.

The housing authority board liked the idea of adding the pocket parks, which would be adjacent to greenways planned. The greenways, which total 11 acres, are described as linear parks that replace some of the streets in the Brown Ranch. These greenways would be about 50 feet wide, include some green spaces and would provide access to emergency vehicles.

The Brown Ranch incorporates greenways into the street network, replacing space for cars with pedestrian walkways and community green space.
Yampa Valley Housing Authority/Courtesy photo

While the housing authority board was willing to add more parks space, adding the 46-acre regional park was a “non-starter.”

When overlaid on to the current plan, a park that large would likely swallow an entire neighborhood of the development. If placed on C.R. 42 — the part of the Brown Ranch that makes the most sense for a destination park traffic-wise — it would remove all of neighborhood D. That would be a loss of a dozen blocks of housing or 480 to 510 units.

Housing authority Executive Director Jason Peasley estimated that would reduce the overall affordability of the Brown Ranch as well, potentially adding about $5,300 to the cost to construct each unit.

The red squares in this graphic are meant to illustrate how much land a regional park at the Brown Ranch would consume. If placed on the west side of the development, it could mean the loss of about 500 housing units.
Yampa Valley Housing Authority/Courtesy photo

Another spot talked about for the regional park would be on the north side of the Brown Ranch in the 114-acre section that is not within Steamboat’s urban growth boundary. Still, this spot isn’t ideal for two reasons.

First, as a regional park it would bring traffic from beyond the Brown Ranch through residential streets.

“From a planning standpoint, it’s probably not a great idea,” Peasley said. “I was reminded of how much effort the city’s gone through to sort of fix that issue on Trafalgar Lane because of all the impacts that Emerald Park had on that neighborhood.”

The second reason against putting the regional park there is that the Brown Ranch Steering Committee strongly recommended that land be preserved to address the need for housing decades into the future, after the Brown Ranch is completed. Until then, the area would serve as open space and include a soft-surface trail network, but wouldn’t be permanently designated as open space.

“It provides flexibility to the community in the future to address a housing need that could persist beyond the development of the Brown Ranch,” Peasley said. “The goal was, we own it, we’ve got it, we don’t have any land carrying costs, let’s hold on to that for the future needs of the community.”

Parks will be reviewed again as the annexation process continues, though it is not currently on the agenda for the Wednesday, April 26, meeting.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.