Romick and Associates positions for the future

Master planning thousands of acres

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— A boutique real estate firm in Steamboat Springs is quietly helping to shape the future of tens of thousands of acres in rural Routt County.

Romick and Associates is working separately with Peabody Energy (Twentymile Coal Company holdings in Routt County) and Wolf Mountain Ranch to master plan residential developments in a seldom visited portion of West Routt that sprawls to the west of Emerald Mountain and south of U.S. Highway 40.

Brent Romick said this week he'll be happy if 25 to 50 years from now the area is noteworthy for a relative handful of low-density residential developments that enhance rather than detract from the present landscape. His goal, he said, is to succeed in conserving grouse and elk habitat and improving stream quality in balance with the cow/calf operations that represent Routt County's agricultural heritage.

"I'm looking at development from the standpoint of land use practices and stewardship," Romick said. "There are a lot of great conservation buyers out there. We have so many tools in our toolbox today - we don't have to put bricks and mortar all across the valley."

Brent and Robin Romick are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their firm.

The properties in West Routt are on a large enough scale to attract grant monies for conservation, wildlife and open space preservation, he said.

Wolf Mountain Ranch encompasses 22,800 acres and Peabody Energy's holdings in West Routt, including its coal mines, total in the neighborhood of 40,000 acres.

Peabody has its own real estate division, but has begun working with Romick and Associates to created rural housing projects west of Steamboat Springs.

Tangible evidence is developing at Vista Ridge on Routt County Road 179, where 19 home sites are being created on 710 acres.

Romick worked with Wolf Mountain recently to create the Morgan Bottoms Ranch, which includes a conservation agreement along the Yampa River adjacent to the Nature Conservancy's Carpenter Ranch. Lottery grants from Great Outdoors Colorado and the cooperation of the Routt County Purchase of Development Rights Program helped to put the agreement in place on 486 acres of land.

Romick said both Wolf Mountain and Peabody offer opportunities to look at large tracts of land and consult with experts in the fields of biology, hydrology and range management to envision ranches and subdivisions that can be created without disrupting traditional land-use patterns, both by humans and wildlife.

At the same time Romick and Associates is taking steps to increase its depth in the traditional condominium and home markets closer to Steamboat. Bo and Sue Stempel have folded The Stempel Group into Romick and Associates.

Longtime Romick and Associates broker associate Joan Shenfield said the addition of the Stempels will help the brokerage meet the needs of clients who are seeking homes in Steamboat while building toward their long-term goals in the rural valleys surrounding the city.

"They'll really help us to diversify," she said.

Bo Stempel said he was attracted to the chance to work on a tightly knit team and Brent Romick's big picture view of the valley's future.

"We really do work as a team," Stempel said. "Sue and I will happily cover Joan's properties. You get one of us and you get four of us."

"That's the beauty of a boutique firm," Shenfield said. The company needs to balance its long-term practice in ranches and rural developments with in-town real estate.

"We have a lot of buyers who have the foresight to invest in dirt for the future," Shenfield said. "But they also want to buy something in town. We've got to be able to service both ends."

Bo Stempel built his own executive recruitment firm on the Front Range and ran it for 18 years. He said when he turned 50 years old, he realized it might be his last chance to switch careers. Sue Stempel helped to found a not-for-profit, the Limb Preservation Foundation. It raises money to fund limb reattachment operations for people who suffer severed injuries and lack health insurance. She served as its executive director.

Romick believes that with every year that goes by, the broader Steamboat real estate market will become more and more appealing among other mountain towns. The reason is the sheer size of the valley from Hahn's Peak in the north to State Bridge in the south, coupled with a decades-long track record of conserving the land.

"Routt County and people like Susan Otis (at the Yampa Valley Land Trust) are doing things the right way by preserving open space," Romick said. "This is the last real ski town with all of the amenities."

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