Steamboat Springs council to form special committee to negotiate Brown Ranch annexation agreement
Brown Ranch Annexation Committee would have public meetings and take public comment
Steamboat Springs City Council indicated on Tuesday, Dec. 13, that it favors negotiating an annexation agreement for Brown Ranch by creating a specialized committee and bringing in a third-party facilitator.
The Brown Ranch Annexation Committee would include two council members, two members of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority Board, City Manager Gary Suiter, YVHA Executive Director Jason Peasley and staff from both organizations as needed.
Based on details presented by city staff, that committee would meet biweekly in public and allow for public comment. Council would also have periodic updates at its meetings to keep council and the broader community up to date on the discussions.
While council may need to meet behind closed doors for some topics, members said they wanted as much of the negotiations as possible to be in the public eye.
“We have a sense of urgency to get this done, but in a calm manner,” said Council President Robin Crossan. “This is what we’re doing for our community for the future.”
City Planning Director Rebecca Bessey said staff would work to craft a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, with the housing authority that council would consider at its first meeting in January. That agreement would lay out timelines, topics to be discussed and details about how public comment will be handled.
The use of just two council members on the committee means the committee meetings are not considered council meetings. If three or more members are together in a meeting, it would need to be scheduled as a council meeting, and follow council rules.
Members discussed, but didn’t decide on whether other council members not on the committee would be able to speak during regular public comment of these meetings. That detail would be included in an MOU.
Crossan specified that it needed to clearly define how public comment would work so the community can stay informed and involved in the process.
Council did not decide which two members would serve on this committee on Tuesday, but indicated that would be discussed during its January retreat. Crossan asked members to really consider the potential time commitment and what they could bring in terms of expertise if they were to represent the city on the committee.
While city and state law describes various steps of an annexation, there is no defined process for how an agreement needs to be struck. Bessey laid out two options for council on Tuesday, with one being the committee and the other being council taking on these negotiations itself.
Council members agreed the first option had the potential to bog down council, distract from other priorities and potentially slow down how quickly an annexation agreement could be put together. While annexing the Brown Ranch as soon as possible is a priority, council member Heather Sloop cautioned that council’s preferred option could move slower than desired as well, and that isn’t entirely a bad thing.
“This is going to be a process no matter how it goes,” Sloop said. “The end game is something that is going to change our community forever. Expediting forever is something I cannot get behind ever, because it’s not supposed to be quick.”
The timeline presented to council strives to complete annexation while the current council is seated. The next council elections are in November.
The process has already started in a way, as the Yampa Valley Housing Authority has submitted an application for annexation of the Brown Ranch into the city limits.
On Jan. 3, council will consider a resolution that finds that application to be compliant with city standards and whether to approve the MOU with the housing authority.
If approved, that kicks off five months of negotiating that will extend until at least May, according to documents presented Tuesday. A neutral third-party facilitator would lead those discussions to ensure they remain focused.
Topics to be discussed in these meetings would include water, wastewater, stormwater, planning and zoning, streets and traffic, transit, parks and open space, fire and emergency services, operations and maintenance, fiscal impacts, sustainability and affordability.
Through those five months, council would receive periodic updates. Those updates could potentially happen at every meeting, with council getting both a preview and review of what the committee is doing.
By June, the timeline projects council would have a draft term sheet for the annexation agreement. Council will then review it over a four-month period, finalizing an agreement in September and considering an annexation ordinance in October.
Sloop emphasized that the process to put together the agreement needs to be available to the public so that the community can be supportive of the agreement and not just council.
“I would hate for us to get into a position where … we’re going down into a valley where people aren’t feeling heard and then we’re sitting here with a negative referendum outcome,” Sloop said. “We all here want an annexation.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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