Letter: Don’t rush to develop Brown Ranch

I am concerned about the Annexation of the Brown Ranch. Why?

Since the recent acquisition of “free land,” annexation and development of the 584-acre Brown Ranch have taken on urgency status. This would be an extremely large project and commitment to both the city and the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.

Financially, city staff is delivering strong signals that the city cannot afford this project with current funds and revenue. The community needs to know the city’s proposed future financial obligations, sources of YVHA and city revenues, and the impact to the city’s bonding and borrowing capacity, the risks if the project stumbles, or fails. It’s best not to count overly on uncertain future grants. These are vitally important.

The purpose of this project is to provide affordable deed-restricted housing for qualified persons — those employed in or retired from the local workforce, etc. Looking to the future, does the YVHA propose to track income and assets of residents — and do what if the maximum is exceeded? How would the YVHA keep Brown Ranch from becoming a retirement community with less and less affordable housing available in the future?

There will always be a “need” for housing, which means more population, which segues into the need for more city services and employees, and infrastructure; more basic community employees such as teachers, fire, police, more businesses and consequently the need for more business workers. Where is the end?

At this point, the Brown Ranch Plan is conceptual. More is needed — a comprehensive detailed plan that shows best-case and worst-case scenarios of all issues. An agreement should state that annexation will proceed in a parcel at a time to make sure the project proceeds as intended. Learn from experience — iron out kinks. Benchmarks are normally part of an agreement along with next steps if not met.

Decisions and commitments made during a presumed crisis seem too often to lead to bad results and unintended consequences. Yes, we need to be optimistic and proactive in addressing housing but also be realistic, don’t put the city at risk and remember, the devil is in the details. Please, don’t rush.

Paul Stettner
Steamboat Springs

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