Building Community: Separating myths from facts for the Brown Ranch project

Roger Ashton
For the Steamboat Pilot & Today

There’s been a fair amount of misinformation circulating about the Brown Ranch, and I’d like to separate some of the myths from the facts.

Myth: No more than 10-20% of the homes will be “affordable.”

Fact: The entire Brown Ranch development will be affordable housing for the community. The first guiding principle the Steering Committee agreed on was “the Brown Ranch will provide affordable and attainable housing options for the Routt County workforce …” Affordable means not spending more than 30% of one’s income on housing. Attainable means a variety of housing options priced to meet the needs and varying income levels of our local workforce. Our housing crisis affects everyone from dishwashers at your favorite restaurant to doctors at our hospital.

Myth: Brown Ranch has no plan and is asking for a blank check.

Fact: There’s a community development plan created by the community and for the community. Over the last year, more than 3,300 community members participated in more than 220 community meetings, providing information that is being incorporated into the final Brown Ranch Community Development Plan. The summary is available now and the entire 180-page document will be available for public review in the next few weeks.

The plan, which was guided by a team of local and national experts, envisions a healthy and vibrant community that will squarely address the challenge of providing affordable housing to the Steamboat workforce. In early December, the Urban Land Institute Advisory Services program will provide a panel of national experts to participate in a weeklong process of critically reviewing the plan and making implementation recommendations. Specifically, they will address how to build the necessary YVHA capacity, review the strategic framework outlined in the plan, suggest various funding ideas, and recommend an approach for working with private-sector partners.

Myth: There’s no plan for annexation.

Fact: The annexation process has started. On Oct. 18, YVHA submitted a formal petition to the Steamboat Springs City Council to annex the Brown Ranch property within the Urban Growth Boundary into the city of Steamboat Springs. The annexation petition begins the process of joint discussions between YVHA and the city on issues like water, sewer, transit, parks, trails and more. And all these issues have been addressed in the Brown Ranch Community Development Plan.

Myth: We should only fund shovel-ready and genuinely affordable housing projects.

Fact: YVHA is already doing that — and it’s not enough. Both the city and YVHA have numerous shovel-ready affordable/attainable housing projects in the pipeline that need additional funding. These include the joint city/UCHealth Barn Village housing units, the city’s seasonal transit dormitory, the YVHA Mid-Valley project, and the infrastructure upgrades needed at the Whitehaven mobile home park. With appropriate funding, all these could be complete before any homes are built at Brown Ranch.

Unfortunately, we have a current need for 1,400 homes. And these shovel-ready projects will provide only a small percentage of that current need. YVHA has inventoried all the appropriately zoned vacant land in the city of Steamboat Springs … and even if YVHA controlled all these properties, we could not provide the number of currently needed homes.

Myth: Brown Ranch makes the problem worse. The businesses and services will require more jobs — requiring more housing, creating more traffic and growing Steamboat out of control.

Fact: Brown Ranch is planned in several phases; we can build what we need now and adjust for what we might need in the future. The Brown Ranch will be a staggered development. It will meet the current crisis and leverage infrastructure costs. There will be multi-family apartments like other YVHA projects, single family townhomes and single family detached homes. There will be a mix of for-purchase and for-rent homes. Over time, there will be a school site, a food market, access to medical, a daycare center and other retail and nonprofit services. Traffic will be reduced because it will be a self-sufficient community.

The Building Community column was submitted by Roger Ashton on behalf of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, for which Ashton serves as a board member.

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