YVHA board approves first step toward annexation of Brown Ranch

Community presentation on Oct. 6 expected to reveal most detailed development plan yet

The Brown Ranch is a 536-acre property west of Steamboat Springs purchased by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority in August 2021.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Housing officials took the first step in the process to annex the Brown Ranch into the city limits of Steamboat Springs on Thursday, Sept. 22.

In a special meeting, the Yampa Valley Housing Authority Board approved sending a petition to city officials that would start the third attempt to extend the city limits westward since 2010.

“This is sort of the first step necessary for us to get the annexation process rolling, get the Brown Ranch into the city and start moving dirt and developing housing,” said Housing Authority Executive Director Jason Peasley.

Peasley said the actual petition wouldn’t be sent to the city until after a series of community presentations about the draft plan for Brown Ranch on Oct. 6. These presentations are being held at the Strings Music Pavilion and are expected to reveal the most detailed planning about the 2,300-unit development the community has seen so far.

The housing authority has been developing the plan for more than a year, after an anonymous donor allowed them to purchase the 536-acre property in August 2021. This planning has included broad community outreach that reached roughly a quarter of the population of Steamboat.

“This is the first of many steps,” Peasley said, referencing the annexation agreement process, which in the past, has taken years to complete.

George Eck III, a lawyer with Steamboat-based Elevation Law Group who is providing legal representation for the housing authority, said the meat of the details about annexation would come later, but the goal was to have an annexation agreement by August.

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Eck said there would be a hearing to assess whether the property is eligible for annexation, though it does currently meet requirements for annexation.

“This will get the process rolling, the real need is the city development code requirements,” Eck said. “The hope being that we come to an understanding with the city on that sometime before August of next year through a series of public meetings.”

Council has indicated they may put annexation on the November 2023 ballot, which isn’t required, but could be triggered by citizens anyway. Citizens have been asked about annexation of parts of this same property twice before, denying it in 2010 and approving it in 2019.

In 2010, council opted to place the question on the ballot and voters rejected annexation of the Steamboat 700 development 61% to 39%. The ballot measure failed in all of Steamboat voting precincts, with the largest rebuke coming from residents of Old Town, which said no 68% to 32%.

When annexation of the same land — then called West Steamboat Neighborhoods — was considered in 2019, voters petitioned annexation onto the ballot. That was approved in a vote that was almost exactly flipped from a decade earlier, with voters saying yes 60% to 40%.

The petition won’t consider annexation for all of the Brown Ranch because about 114 acres are not within the urban growth boundary defined by the county. Peasley said the Brown Ranch Steering committee determined early on in the planning process that the 2,300 units they plan to build would fit within the growth boundary.

“That could accommodate the entire demand for housing that we’re anticipating that includes the 1,400 units we need right now, and the growth of that (need) of over 800 units by 2040,” Peasley said.

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