The announcement last week that the Brown property west of Steamboat Springs has sold is good news for the community.
The sale should trigger large-scale development of the kind of housing we think the community most needs - single-family homes that are attainable by a broad segment of our workforce.
Steve and Mary Brown sold their 540 acres to Steamboat 700 LLC, a development group with experience building planned communities in Las Vegas. Danny Mulcahy, who is the project manager for Steamboat 700, said the group is ready to comply with the guidelines set forth in the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan.
The West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan was created a decade ago and has been overhauled and modified since. The plan essentially is a management tool to handle anticipated growth in the most logical area for it to occur. It sets out the guidelines for where housing growth should occur and the plan for annexing new development into the city limits.
But little to nothing has happened in the plan area since the plan was adopted. Different people have different reasons for the lack of development. Some argued the plan's guidelines were too restrictive in terms of density and affordable housing requirements.
But the truth is, little could happen until the Browns sold their property, which makes up more than 85 percent of the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan. The closing of the deal to a buyer who says he is ready, willing and able to follow the plan could be the catalyst necessary to finally get housing built in the area.
What Steamboat needs is not so much affordable housing as it is attainable single-family homes, similar to what already exists in neighborhoods like Silver Spur, Heritage Park, Steamboat II and West End Village. As those neighborhoods have come online, their inventories have been absorbed rapidly. Combined, those neighborhoods represent about 500 homes on less than 200 acres.
That's why the Brown property is so important - you can develop several neighborhoods and build a lot of homes on 700 acres (in addition to the 540 acres it closed on last week, Steamboat 700 LLC has an exclusive option to buy 160 adjacent acres). Our guess is anywhere from 1,200 to 2,000 homes eventually will be built in the area. Retail businesses, schools and parks will follow the housing.
Mulcahy said he has no problem with the requirement that 20 percent of the housing be deed-restricted affordable housing. And we think such housing has a better chance for success on the west side of the city than, say, in the vicinity of the ski area.
There are no guarantees about any of this. Mulcahy is two years away from going vertical with housing. And much will hinge on the city annexation process - there's a difference between what the West of Steamboat plan calls for and what the City Council actually decides to do. And there is no guarantee that there is adequate demand for so much new housing without a negative impact on existing values.
Still, we remain confident the sale of the Brown property can and will be the catalyst for providing residents with something they sorely need - more housing options.