Steamboat reveals plans to buy 187 acres adjacent to Brown Ranch

An old wooden flume crosses Slate Creek on the Brown Ranch property on Wednesday, June 21, 2023. Steamboat Springs city officials announced Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, that the city has been working on an agreement to buy 187 acres known as the Slate Creek Parcel that's adjacent to the Brown Ranch property.
Suzie Romig/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Announced by city officials Friday, Steamboat Springs is negotiating to buy 187 acres of land known as the Slate Creek Parcel next to Brown Ranch for $5.25 million.

According to the city, the purchase would allow for the construction of a 46-acre regional park near the planned Brown Ranch development, as well as preserve approximately 90 acres of the Slate Creek riparian corridor as open space.

In a news release announcing the potential purchase, city officials added that the remaining acreage would be set aside for future initiatives.

“Recreation has always been a top priority for the community as evident through high rankings in numerous community surveys over the past decade,” said Steamboat Springs City Council member Joella West, who worked on the deal.

“We know the value of land conservation goes well beyond mere dollars and cents,” she continued. “Smart, strategic land conservation strengthens communities, provides recreational resources, protects habitats and ensures access to water resources.”

The 187-acre parcel is northeast of the 534-acre Brown Ranch property, where a proposed workforce housing development could bring more than 2,000 new housing units online for qualified residents earning between 60% and 258% of the area median income.

According to the city, the owners of the Slate Creek property — Dan Foley and Eric Conner — are willing to sell it to the city at “a significantly reduced price” for $5.25 million.

In an email Dan Foote, the city attorney, said the contract for the Slate Creek property calls for an appraisal, and city officials will use the appraised value to determine the market price and the value of the donation.

“The ability for all families to recreate close to home and to create healthy opportunities for kids and adults to access parks without costs is something important to families,” Conner said in the news release. “We hope this innovative solution inspires other partners to come to the table for the benefit of maintaining high quality of life while providing affordable housing.”

Foley added that: “Access to the outdoors and a high quality of life are big parts of what make Steamboat special, and I am thrilled that this piece of land will be preserved as open space for generations to come.”

Brown Ranch was purchased by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority with a $24 million donation in 2021, and the city and housing authority have been working to hammer out an annexation agreement that would bring the Brown Ranch property into city limits.

Other negotiations have focused on financing for the large-scale attainable housing project, and voters are set to decide in November whether to allocate 75% of the revenue collected from the city’s 9% tax on stays at short-term rentals.

City Council could vote on approving the annexation agreement as early as Sept. 19. Then, assuming members of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority also approve the agreement, the city’s community development code would require two readings of an ordinance that, if passed, would officially annex Brown Ranch into city limits.

During negations over the annexation agreement, the 46-acre regional park has been one of the sticking points. In Friday’s news release, city officials touted how well-managed open space programs protect the community’s green infrastructure, as well as provide space for recreation, preserve important environmental and ecological functions and enhance the quality of life.

“We are strongly committed to ensuring all residents have the same access and enjoyment of parks, open space and recreational facilities regardless of where they reside,” Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby said in the release. “If not purchased and protected from development, this unique opportunity to preserve Slate Creek’s conservation values maybe lost forever.”

The purchase will require City Council’s approval, and two public hearings are tentatively scheduled for Sept. 19 and Oct. 10.

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