Routt County Commissioners weigh $1 million ask for Brown Ranch |

Routt County Commissioners weigh $1 million ask for Brown Ranch

Detailed infrastructure planning for phase one of project expected to cost up to $4 million

Jason Peasley, executive director of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, talks with U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colorado, prior to a round table discussion about affordable housing issues on Wednesday, April 20, at the Brown Ranch west of Steamboat Springs. The ranch was purchased by the authority last August, and plans are to build 2,300 units there by 2040.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Officials at the Yampa Valley Housing Authority hope a $1 million contribution from Routt County will put the Brown Ranch property in position to compete for state housing dollars.

Routt County commissioners received a letter from housing authority Executive Director Jason Peasley last month requesting the funding. On Monday, Aug. 15, commissioners indicated they could have an answer for him before the end of the month.

“I don’t think there is any reason that we can’t have a decision in the next two weeks,” said Commissioner Tim Corrigan.

The money would be used for detailed planning of infrastructure for the Brown Ranch property’s first phase of development, which is expected to be on the southeast corner of the project, near the Overlook subdivision currently under construction.

Peasley estimated planning for Brown Ranch will cost $3 million to $4 million, so the county’s contribution — a figure commissioners didn’t decide on Monday — would be boosted by other funding sources.

Ideally, the design work could be bid out by the end of the year and take about a year to complete. On that timeline, actual groundwork on Brown Ranch could start in 2024, Peasley said.

There is a sense of urgency with this planning. While Gov. Jared Polis said last year that Brown Ranch would be an attractive project to get housing dollars Colorado received from the American Rescue Plan Act last year, the project could miss out if planning takes too long.

“This is all moving, anticipating us going out and acquiring funds from House Bill 22-1304, which is the big state (American Rescue Plan Act) money designed to support projects exactly like Brown Ranch,” Peasley said. “We’re gearing up so that we can have a shovel-ready project that would be ready to apply for those grants.”

Yampa Valley Housing Authority Board President Cole Hewitt, middle, and YVHA Executive Director Jason Peasley, right, listen to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who stopped by the former Steamboat 700 property, which is now owned by the Housing Authority, to talk housing in August 2021 as part of a tour of Northwest Colorado.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Peasley said another funding partner for this detailed planning is the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, which has invited the housing authority to apply for a $750,000 grant. Having the county on board with a contribution would strengthen that grant application, he said.

“The need to get things rolling is obviously both being pushed by the fact that we have so much housing demand,” Peasley said. “And then sort of pulled by the fact that all this money is coming down from the federal government to the states, and there’s timelines associated with that.”

The housing authority has been working on planning for Brown Ranch for about a year, conducting about 250 meetings that reached about a quarter of Steamboat Springs’ population, including targeted populations of young adults and non-English speakers.

Now the 20-member steering committee tasked with leading this effort is focusing on finalizing the larger development plan, which Peasley said will be shared in a public presentation on Oct. 6.

“This is the long-term solution for our housing issue,” Peasley said. “Now we’re at this point where we need to start looking at what the next steps are to take the vision and actually turn it into reality.”

Peasley underscored that through the year of outreach, they have identified Steamboat is currently short 1,400 housing units. Countywide, the shortage is closer to 1,700 units. In addition to a general insecurity felt by many about their housing in Steamboat, there are a significant number of households being forced to “double-up,” Peasley said.

“That is probably some of the worst of the worst situations as it relates to housing in Colorado,” he said, adding that they are working with the Colorado Futures Center to get a better data on how often that is occurring locally.

Peasley’s request for funding pointed to Routt County’s own $5 million disbursement from the American Rescue Plan as a potential source, though technically that money has already been spent.

Updated rules about how local governments could spend these pandemic relief dollars allowed up to $10 million to be used on pretty much any expense the local government typically would make.

Routt County did this, spending the money on day-to-day expenses, all the while noting that it would free up $5 million elsewhere to spend without being limited by federal requirements. Of that $5 million, Corrigan said he thought about $4.4 million was already spoken for, even if not officially allocated.

County Manager Jay Harrington said that includes about $3.5 million being saved to replace wastewater treatment plants in Phippsburg and Milner and a $500,000 contribution to Steamboat Springs’ effort to expand the Yampa River Core Trail to the west toward Brown Ranch.

Harrington said the county also expects a “modest request” from the town of Yampa for infrastructure needs. Peasley said he wasn’t “wedded” to $1 million, but that they need “a significant amount of resources.”

“It’s hard to fully wrap your head around the size and the scale and the significance of this project — this is literally bigger than the town of Hayden,” said Commissioner Beth Melton. “There’s just a lot of dollars associated with that and to say a million dollars, I don’t think it’s an unreasonable amount of money.”

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