Rumors rampant about Brown Ranch housing development as committee continues lengthy community outreach |

Rumors rampant about Brown Ranch housing development as committee continues lengthy community outreach

One of the first obstacles facing the Brown Ranch development west of Steamboat Springs is misinformation, according to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority Board of Directors.

Rumors surrounding the project — which will attempt to tackle the ongoing housing crisis — are rampant in the community, as suggested by several members of the housing board. And that will likely continue, they said, in the absence of details while more formal avenues of community outreach are being created, including a project website that will address questions or concerns over the project.

“We’re getting a lot of questions — are there going to be lots? How much will they be? Can I fill out an application?” said Sheila Henderson, Brown Ranch project manager, as she provided an update at the housing board’s regular meeting Thursday.

Brown Ranch, the 536-acre property purchased in August by the housing authority, is not a short-term project. Behind-the-scenes work happening now, which the general community doesn’t necessarily witness, will take time, according to the board. Meanwhile, there aren’t many project details to share, as those are still being worked on.

“Every conversation we’ve had has been robust and respectful,” said housing board member Roger Ashton, who sits on the steering committee that has been formed to help guide the project. “We’re moving as quickly as we can, but we won’t be building this winter.”

Jason Peasley, executive director of the housing authority, reiterated that it’s truly a community project.

“Rather than saying we know how to do this better than anyone else, we’re listening to the community and finding out what they want in their community so that we can go off and build,” he said. “It’s the appropriate way to undertake this given the amount of trust we have in the community. It needs to start with the community first.”

Steering committee members have been selected, and they will guide the project through its development and design. The next step will involve creating focus teams that will dig deep into the overarching components of the project, including infrastructure, project economics, housing demand, long-term stewardship and sustainability, and urban design. Henderson foresees the focus teams working on demand or long-term stewardship to attract the most interest.

Next month will largely be spent gathering more information, which will then be analyzed the following month. A community presentation is slated for January when the steering committee will present everything it’s been working on to that point and invite any and all community members to join the five focus teams. The focus teams will meet weekly February through April.

Following a summer break, September and November will be spent putting together all pertinent documentation on the project, and by the end of 2022, a report will be finalized that details what the Brown Ranch is going to be.

The steering committee, which meets weekly, is “an amazingly diverse group,” Henderson said. The process of developing priorities for the Brown Ranch project underscored the board’s wide representation of the community, she added.

“The Brown Ranch residents will live and connect in a vibrant, resilient, diverse and welcoming neighborhood that provides a wide variety of housing options and services designed by and for the Yampa Valley community,” reads the project’s vision statement.

A four-item list of priorities to guide the project has also been identified by the steering committee. The top priority is “to provide affordable and attainable housing options for the Routt County workforce in a timely and efficient manner that meets both the urgent and long-term need.” That’s followed by a priority to provide quality housing that is sustainable, yet flexible, modern, efficient, safe, healthy, environmentally responsible and in harmony with existing natural systems.

The third priority is for the Brown Ranch to be both physically and emotionally connected to the community, providing opportunity for social cohesion and successful vibrant and healthy lifestyles.

A fourth priority deals with the project’s development, in ensuring the community-driven process will be inclusive, fact-based, honest, cost efficient and collaborative with all relevant stakeholders.

To Henderson’s delight, many questions she’s received pertaining to the project have been in Spanish. A recent virtual meeting held by the Routt County Latinx Alliance attracted 38 community members to talk about their particular needs as they relate to housing. Another perspective, that of young adults, is also being sought to help inform the project. That will be accomplished, according to Henderson, by holding discussions at local businesses.

“The big picture that I think we want to get across to the community is that we’re building a community, hopefully doing it better than we already built Steamboat thus far, by starting out with the diversity of people, diversity of input and listening first,” Peasley said.

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