Building Community: How can you participate in planning Brown Ranch? |

Building Community: How can you participate in planning Brown Ranch?

Shelia Henderson
For the Steamboat Pilot & Today
The Yampa Valley Housing Authority closed on the Brown Ranch property west of Steamboat Springs on Aug. 11. The housing authority is hoping to use the 536-acre property as the site for locals’ housing.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Ever since the Yampa Valley Housing Authority received the anonymous gift of 536 acres on the west end of town, you can’t go anywhere without overhearing conversations about the Brown Ranch.

For most it brings hope. Business owners, day cares, nonprofits and teachers hope it will provide housing for valued employees who may be forced to leave town.

New and long-time residents who love their community are afraid they won’t be able to stay, as rentals become too expensive and even nonexistent. Young families and individuals hope there will be a house they can afford to call home — or even one they can purchase. For those living west of the library, there is the dream of a grocery store. And for some, it brings concerns.

For the past several months, the 20 Routt County residents who make up the Brown Ranch Steering Committee have been working hard.

They have created the vision and the principles to guide both the urgent need and the long-term development of the Brown Ranch. Concurrently, a team of YVHA staff, board and steering committee members sought out, interviewed and contracted with a team of more than 15 consultants.

This team will be led by Mithun, a national leader focusing on architecture, urban design and health equity. Other state and national consultants include Livable Cities, landscape architects uniting communities through social and public spaces; McDowell Engineering, transportation experts; LRE Water, water experts; Willaford Consultants, experts in housing solutions for mountain towns; and RCLCO, lead market analytics and project economics.

This dream team also includes many local experts — Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, Landmark Consultants, Inc., the city of Steamboat Springs, Lift Up of Routt County and other local organizations providing housing services. All these experts will bring experience, innovation, creativity and offer solutions for our community hopes and concerns — they work for you.

They’ll provide data and expertise to help the community make decisions. And they’ll use information and feedback from the community focus teams to help the community create the Brown Ranch Comprehensive Development Plan.

So now is the time for all residents and workers to bring their expertise, hopes and concerns to the Brown Ranch planning process.

On Jan. 27, YVHA will host a Brown Ranch Community Kick Off event outdoors at the Strings Music Pavilion. A formal presentation is scheduled for 2 p.m. and will be repeated at 6 p.m. Between the two presentations, we will have an informal meet and greet.

There will be food, beer, wine and beverages, and child care will be provided. The steering committee will share their work and introduce our consultants. They will also explain the work of each focus team — the community groups that will be tasked with taking a hard look at the needs and desires of our community while analyzing the opportunities, challenges and solutions.

The focus teams will begin the end of January and continue for several months. Their input will form the core of the Brown Ranch Comprehensive Development Plan.

We’re inviting all community members who want their voice to be heard to participate in this planning process. You can attend one meeting or really jump in and attend as many as you are able. We’ll be diving deeply into the following areas:

• Housing and nonresidential demand: co-chairs Andrew Beckler and Leah Wood. This group will analyze existing housing shortages and future needs for all income levels. The team will also be analyzing nonresidential needs to support the neighborhood (e.g., commercial, recreational, child care, nonprofit and other community priorities). The outcome will focus on providing a broad spectrum of housing solutions.

• Infrastructure: co-chairs Webster Jones and Mike Beyer. This team will analyze on- and off-site opportunities and limitations, including transportation, water, wastewater, storm water, dry utilities and sustainable energy along with phasing for the entire build-out of the community.

• Urban design: co-chairs Tim Wohlgenant and Michael Ann Marchand. This team will look at design concepts for each phase, including housing, commercial, open space and trails, streets and other key services.

• Natural and built sustainability: co-chairs Patrick Staib and Sarah Jones. This team will look at environmental sustainability, such as water consumption, energy production and building efficiency. It will follow best practices with the goal of remaining flexible to new technology.

• Long-term stewardship and project economics: co-chairs Kimball Crangle and Cole Hewitt. This team will analyze the best approach to funding each urban design concept to identify development funding gaps, provide creative solutions and ensure the community is self-sustaining. Strategies to maintain long-term affordability of housing will be included in the analysis.

Don’t forget to mark your calendars and join us Jan. 27 at the Strings Music Pavilion as we kick off the focus teams with a community presentation of the Brown Ranch.

The YVHA is working to ensure everyone can provide input during the Brown Ranch planning process. If you would like us to meet with your group, whether it be a business, club, neighborhood or organization, please let us know. You can email us at And stay tuned as we roll out our websites. They will include platforms to provide input in English or in Spanish.

Sheila Henderson is Brown Ranch project manager. The Building Community column runs quarterly in Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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