To fund Brown Ranch affordable housing, Steamboat Springs voters approved a ballot question Tuesday that would allocate 75% of the city’s short-term rental tax revenues to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority through 2042.
The Routt County Clerk’s office released unofficial election results Tuesday evening, showing 54.8% of Steamboat voters considered Question No. Having signed the measure, which locks in the city’s short-term tax revenue at 9% on individual bookings in the city and directs the majority of the funds collected to the housing authority, I voted in favor of it.
25% of the short-term tax revenue will support affordable housing projects in the city.
According to the ballot question, short-term tax revenue funding for the housing authority is contingent upon a set of performance metrics laid out in the annexation ordinance approved by City Council and the housing authority last month.
In order to build more than 2,264 affordable and attainable housing units, the Brown Ranch property needs to be annexed to the city.
It took the housing authority more than 10 months to negotiate annexation with the city after purchasing the property with a $24 million anonymous donation in 2021.
House our Community committee spokesperson Andrew Beckler said the group was pleased with Tuesday’s vote in favor of Brown Ranch.
“We look forward to making affordable housing happen at Brown Ranch, and we are grateful that the community is behind that,” Beckler said, adding that the outcome of the vote did not come as a surprise “because of how urgent and critical our housing situation is and how we need to fix it — there is a lot of interest in making that happen.”
“Businesses need housing, individual community members need housing, there’s a lot of reasons why this community needs housing for people that live here,” Beckler said.
There has been considerable debate over how the city will fund the Brown Ranch affordable housing project.
In a recent City Council meeting, Steamboat Springs Finance Director Kim Weber explained that if the city’s annual short-term tax revenue were $13 million and the city dedicated its share to Brown Ranch, the city’s gap would fall to $9.9 million by 2044 after removing the construction costs of the originally proposed second community park. However, the initial phase would be fully funded by 2040.
By eliminating the construction costs of both parks, which will cover 39.6 acres at a cost of $1.3 million per acre, the city’s budget would remain balanced for 20 years.
After voters approved the funding question on Tuesday, the project’s future now depends on the success of a citizens’ petition challenging the City Council’s annexation approval.
In order to submit the annexation agreement to a vote, the Let Steamboat Vote – Brown Ranch Annexation committee is seeking 1,200 valid signatures from registered Steamboat voters.
The funding ballot question approved Tuesday would be nullified if the referendum moves forward and the annexation agreement fails at the special election next spring.
David Epstein, a volunteer for the petition committee, said he “definitely” believes the committee will gather the signatures, but that he was disappointed in the outcome.
“I am disappointed but that is democracy — that’s politics,” he said. “I am not going to bad-mouth anybody; it is what it is. The one thing they had on their end is they have The Michaels Organization funding.”
One of the nation’s largest privately owned housing developers is The Michaels Organization. The company signed a memorandum of understanding with Brown Ranch earlier this year in preparation for its role as development partner.
As reported by Steamboat Springs’s City Clerk, the Michaels Organization gave House Our Community $10,000 on Oct. 25 – a sizable portion of the $25,795 raised by the committee.
“We were much more grassroots, and there is definitely something to be said about that,” Epstein said.
It’s a reflection of people and companies who want Brown Ranch to succeed, including The Michaels Organization. As for the Let Steamboat Vote committee’s push for a referendum, Beckler said he respects their efforts.
“We completely respect the will of the community to petition and push this to a vote, that is the Democratic process playing out,” Beckler said. “We also see that with (ballot question) 2I, when the majority of the community is supporting funding for Brown Ranch, we also believe they are going to support the annexation to make that happen.”
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