Yampa Valley continues seeking details on Brown Ranch | SteamboatToday.com

Yampa Valley continues seeking details on Brown Ranch

The Brown Ranch is a 536-acre property to the west of Steamboat Springs purchased by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority with a $24 million anonymous donation.
Yampa Valley Housing Authority/Screenshot

The Brown Ranch Steering Committee has been meeting weekly since October, and in one of those meetings, they were struggling to combine two draft vision statements for the project.

After four long meetings on the subject, Sheila Henderson, community engagement lead on the Brown Ranch project, said, during a meeting last Thursday, Jan. 27, that they were still going back and forth trying to wordsmith a statement that would capture the hope and promise of the project.

“I look over, and Vanessa is in her notebook, and she’s writing,” Henderson said, referring to 14-year-old Vanessa Avitia, the youngest member of the steering committee. “She took both vision statements, combined them, added welcoming, and that’s what were working with.”

The Brown Ranch vision statement reads: “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.”

Nearly 500 community members attended presentations from the Yampa Valley Housing Authority last week, where Henderson and executive director Jason Peasley told folks about work already happening on the project and answered questions from the public.

The Brown Ranch is a 536-acre property west of Steamboat Springs that the housing authority purchased with an anonymous donation last August. Peasley said the donor was worried about the future of Ski Town, U.S.A.’s community.

“They, like many of you, sort of felt Steamboat’s character slipping away,” Peasley told the audience of the 6 p.m. session last Thursday. “They asked what the biggest thing we can do to make a difference, and the answer was put the community in charge of its housing future.”

When do shovels hit the ground?

Peasley said there is no date for when construction on any piece of the Brown Ranch project would begin, but he said it would be as soon as possible because the housing need is so dire.

“There are some projects that need to happen that would deliver some Core Trail, water line or additional capacity to this project that we can hopefully get started next year,” Peasley said.

Part of a proposal to extend the Yampa River Core Trail would include extending the city’s water infrastructure to the west toward Brown Ranch. Peasley said he is talking with other various utility providers to identify potential projects to deliver services that could start now.

When can I move in at Brown Ranch?

“We don’t know,” Peasley said. “We don’t know the scope of the first phase, we don’t even know where the first phase would be.”

Peasley said he hoped there would be more answers in July, when more time will have passed to create the development plan for the area that will be more than just housing. He emphasized other projects the housing authority is doing, like Sunlight Crossing, which is expected to start leasing later this year.

What will the mix of housing be? Will it be houses for sale, apartments for rent?

The Brown Ranch will feature a variety of housing options, but the mix has not been decided at this point, Peasley said. Technical consultants on the project are currently studying what the need for housing is in Steamboat and how this project could be designed to address it.

Peasley said once they have that information, conversations would shift to how much of the housing demand the project will address.

“Are we going to tackle all of it, 50% of it? Are we going to tackle 100% of it, plus some so we have room to grow for the future?” Peasley asked. “Those are fundamental questions we need to tackle as a team and as a community.”

He emphasized that all options are on the table at this point, from rental units in the same vein as previous housing authority projects to empty lots locals would be allowed to purchase and build on.

“We’re not going to exclude any possibility,” Peasley said. “That top line objective is affordability.”

Besides housing, what will be included at Brown Ranch?

Henderson said pretty much everyone they have talked to that lives west or north of Bud Werner Memorial Library desperately wants a grocery store, and space for one would be included. Non-residential space could include coffee shops, child care facility or a brewery.

“Really every use that supports the people that live there,” Peasley said.

What is the plan for water at Brown Ranch amid Yampa River over appropriation?

Peasley said water availability has been a top concern among residents since purchasing the property, as the Elk River to the north has been considered over-appropriated for years, and the Yampa River west of Steamboat received that designation last month.

Those classifications are not expected to be an issue though, as Peasley said he anticipates Brown Ranch would be connected to the larger Steamboat Springs water system. Peasley said they have hired a water engineering firm to begin to study the issue.

“The other side of that is we need to talk about demand for water,” Peasley said. “How do we lower our demand for water through various methods so that we can stretch that availability?”

Will the Brown Ranch community be incorporated with the current Steamboat Springs community or would it be like another town?

“A lot of that will be determined through this design process,” Peasley said. “There is an organizing principle that this will be connected physically and emotionally to the entire community. It won’t sit out there as an island.”

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