Steamboat council approves annexation agreement with Brynn Grey

Brynn Grey Partners would develop this area west of the under-construction Overlook Park subdivision into three neighborhoods west of Steamboat Springs, should city council approve annexing the land. (Photo by John Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs City Council approved a pre-annexation agreement with Brynn Grey Partners, the developers who hope to build three neighborhoods west of the current city limits.

The development would build 450 homes in three neighborhoods. If approved, Brynn Grey would build 10 homes in 2019, and 26 homes per year thereafter, according to a fact sheet provided by the developer.

Council approved the agreement 5 to 1 during Tuesday’s council meeting, with council member Heather Sloop opposed and council member Sonja Macys absent.

The agreement outlines the city’s and the developer’s responsibilities for providing services in the development. It does not annex the land into the city limits, which is completed by city ordinance.

Contention in public comment

During the public comment period, 10 people spoke in favor of the annexation, five people opposed it, and three people spoke but did not explicitly voice their support or opposition.

Among those in favor of the annexation was Steamboat resident Matt Karzen.

“I can’t count on my fingers and toes the number of hardworking and good families I know in this community, who have and will continue to commit themselves here, who view this straight up, literally, as the last hope, and who understand, frankly that if this doesn’t go through, Steamboat will become unrecognizable,” Karzen said.

He added that without accessible housing for working class people, Steamboat “won’t just look like an elite enclave available only to the very rich, but that’s what it will become.”

The annexation agreement has created some contention as some community members claim it does not conform with requirements set out in the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, which was first created in 1999 and revised in 2006.

Some members of the Community Alliance, a group that advocated against the Steamboat 700 annexation in 2010, have voiced concern that the Brynn Grey proposal does not meet a West of Steamboat plan criteria that requires the 20 percent of the units built in a development must be affordable for residents earning 80 percent of the county’s annual median income.

City attorney Dan Foote clarified that council must evaluate the annexation agreement against the criteria, but council can approve the annexation even if it does not meet the criteria.

David O’Neil, CEO of Brynn Grey, described the clause in the West of Steamboat plan as “an outdated housing formula that was invoked 20 years ago.”

“This really is a neighborhood for the people that live and work in Steamboat across a broad spectrum of the work force,” said Melissa Sherburne, Brynn Grey’s director of acquisitions. “When people are focusing on the under 80 percent (annual median income), it really ignores a huge, huge portion of the local workforce. Instead of providing a small percent of 80 percent homes pursuant to the (West of Steamboat plan), we’re providing a large number of homes across a variety of income levels, unit types, etcetera to really create a vibrant, diverse locals neighborhood.”

“When you look at this program, there’s a lot of things it doesn’t do,” Steamboat resident John Spezia said in public comment. “It doesn’t look at (the West of Steamboat plan) and follow that.”

Spezia added that he does not believe the deed restrictions in the agreement will fulfill the needs of the people they target. He also said the proposal would not meet entry-level needs, would create sprawl and traffic problems and is not a cost-neutral project.

“It’s fair,” said City Manager Gary Suiter. “They’re covering a proportionate cost. If we went beyond that, we’d be setting ourselves up for the taking.”

Public Works Director Jon Snyder said the city is not subsidizing the developers in water and sewer, as Brynn Grey and its residents will pay for the additional cost of service through monthly bills, tap fees and built infrastructure. The developer is also making a payment to the water-firming fund, which will allow the city to grow its water rights portfolio, Snyder said.

Snyder said relocating a lightly used bus stop to the new subdivision would not create additional costs to Steamboat Springs Transit, but if there is more than one stop there, it would come at additional cost to the city.

When a certain number of homes are constructed, Brynn Grey will fund the purchase of an additional snowplow, and real estate transfer tax revenue would pay for its operation. With each home built, the developer will also pay into the transportation-firming fund, which would be used to improve roads in the West Steamboat area.

“At the end of the day, when the transportation-firming fund is fully funded, they will have paid their proportionate share of all those costs,” Snyder said.

However, he anticipated there would be traffic congestion until the money arrives to complete roadwork.

“To the no-growthers out there, the people who want you to shut it down, I would make one observation about all of these people. They have all found adequate housing for themselves and their families,” resident Matt Eidt told council in public comment. “I don’t think that their intent is to nitpick on details of the pre-annexation agreement. I think they want to close the gates and say that there’s enough people in Steamboat, and I don’t think that’s well-intentioned, and I don’t think that’s realistic.”

What now?

Brynn Grey will file an annexation petition, which will undergo review in the city clerk’s office to ensure it includes all of the information required by law.

Council will then hold two hearings. During the first hearing, council will determine if the annexation petition contains all of the information required by law. If council determines the petition is complete, the council will set a date for a second public hearing to determine if the petition is eligible for annexation.

Around the same time, Brynn Grey staff will file documents with the city’s Planning and Community Development Department outlining the developer’s plans for construction in the area. In November, the planning commission will hold a public hearing on the zoning documents and regulating plan.

Brynn Grey plans to host two open houses to discuss the project, one in mid-October and another in early November.

“The first one especially will be totally focused on all aspects of the annexation agreement and all of the technical analysis that has gone into it as well as information about the neighborhoods themselves — so design, architecture, locals deed restriction — all of the stuff that people are interested in and want to know more about,” Sherburne said.

After all this, council will consider an annexation ordinance and an ordinance adopting the planning and zoning documents. The ordinances will undergo two readings. At this point, council can decide to approve the annexation ordinance or place the ordinance on the ballot for city residents to vote on.

Though the decision to send the annexation to voters is still likely months away, a majority of council members said they were interested in approving the annexation ordinance without a ballot measure.

“To me, it feels like it would be a little bit of an abdication of our leadership to force the public to vote on this,” Council President Jason Lacy said.

He explained that council had “spent an enormous amount of time” learning the ins and out of the annexation negotiations.

“That’s why we were elected, to make tough decisions like this,” Lacy said.

Should council approve the annexation ordinance, citizens would have the opportunity to put it to a vote by referendum.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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