YVCF Board of Trustees Endorses Brown Ranch Annexation

This year marks the Yampa Valley Community Foundation’s 45th year since our founding in 1979.  For the course of our history, we have generally chosen not to endorse ballot measures, preferring instead to allow our actions speak for our values.  The Brown Ranch Annexation proposal compels us to take the unusual step of a public endorsement.  (For the record, nonprofit organizations are free to take sides on ballot measures, subject to normal spending limits on lobbying.)  Here is why we are advocating for a Yes vote on the Brown Ranch Annexation proposal.

First, we believe affordable housing is the most significant challenge impacting the Yampa Valley today.  The lack of safe, high quality, affordable housing results in a cascade of other issues that affect not only those directly experiencing housing insecurity, but negatively impacts the entire community.  Access to housing is a leading factor in determining a person’s physical and mental health.  When families have to spend more than 30% of their income on housing, we see the outcomes in the crowding of families into substandard living situations, higher rates of suicidal ideation, and increased demand at our food banks.

Families forced to move because they cannot afford decent housing results in a deficit in our critical workforce such as teachers, nurses, home health and hospice providers, first responders, childcare professionals, construction workers, small business and nonprofit employees, and many other “essential” workers.  And high housing costs do not just affect people at the lowest income levels.  Today, local employers are finding it next to impossible to hire and retain even relatively highly paid staff.  A March 4th Business Insider headline tells the Steamboat story: “A Colorado ski town can’t fill a job with a $167,000 salary because potential candidates can’t afford to live there”.  As an organization focused on preserving the qualities that make the Yampa Valley such a special place to live, work and play, we believe the lack of housing affordability is a key threat to those qualities.

Second, we have already invested significant time and resources into addressing the housing challenge.  We played a crucial role in identifying, cultivating, and stewarding the anonymous donor who made the game-changing donation to the Yampa Valley Community Foundation which we passed along to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority (YVHA) enabling their purchase of the Brown Ranch property.  (Contrary to what you may have heard, the donation came from a family who lives here, is personally committed to helping maintain the qualities we all love about the Yampa Valley, and stands to gain no monetary benefit of any kind from the project.)  We tirelessly advocate for affordable housing policies and actions throughout the Yampa Valley region.  For example, we opened and capitalized a revolving loan fund which recently made a $2.5 million loan to the Craig Housing Authority to enable construction of an affordable housing project in the City of Craig.  We know that our Yampa Valley region needs affordable housing NOW – we cannot afford to wait any longer. YVHA has spent 15 months developing the plan for Brown Ranch including over 250 meetings engaging more than 4,000 people and in collaboration with a wide range of community stakeholders.  If the annexation vote fails, we will be back to the drawing board with nothing to show for all that effort – and the exodus of young families and critical workers from our community will accelerate.

Third, many of the concerns we hear about the Brown Ranch plan have to do with growth.  But development of Brown Ranch will not drive growth.  Rather, it’s a thoughtful 20-year phased approach to the inevitability of growth, an approach that’s consistent with decades of planning for the west end of Steamboat.  The Yampa Valley region will grow, regardless of whether this project happens or not.  The question before voters is whether we prefer to grow in a planned and sustainable way that provides quality housing for local workers at guaranteed affordable prices, or whether we leave future population growth up to market forces, which will likely lead to sprawling development of large, high priced second homes only for the wealthiest people, and a shortage of essential workers upon whom our community relies.  It is a crucial choice.  We hope our unanimous endorsement of a Yes vote on the measure encourages voters to learn the facts about Brown Ranch and support the process moving forward.

Yampa Valley Community Foundation Board of Trustees

Kelly Landers, Chair

Rob Race, Vice-Chair

Nancy Mucklow, Secretary/Treasurer

Jim Bronner

Paula Cooper-Black

Catherine Blevins

Paul Ferguson

Maren Franciosi

Lori Livingston

Judy McGinnis

Kirstie McPherson

Gillian Morris

Harry Murray

Rob Perlman

Mark Stevens

Tim Wohlgenant, President/CEO

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