Steamboat Springs The Routt County Board of Commissioners will sit down with Steamboat Springs City Council tonight to talk about its vision for the future of the Yampa Valley Regional Airport near Hayden. But the controversial subject of gravel pits could be discussed as well.
New gravel pits in the "south valley" near Steamboat Springs are among four topics listed in the City Council agenda packet for discussion during a 6 p.m. work session with the county commissioners.
The City Council and Routt County Board of Commissioners will meet at 6 tonight in the Public Safety Building, 840 Yampa St.
The future of aviation in the county is intended to be the No. 1 topic of conversation, Commissioner Dan Ellison said. Also listed in the city packet are an update on the city excise tax ballot question and the issue of affordable housing in the county.
Commissioner Ben Beall said on Monday that he doesn't think it would be proper for the county's elected leaders to discuss pending gravel pit petitions outside of public hearings.
"I personally think it's inappropriate that we would discuss that with the city," Beall said. "There were about four council members at our last hearing that's where they should participate."
Councilman Ken Brenner said Monday he agrees with Beall, that public hearings are the right place for council members concerned about gravel pits to make their feelings known. But Brenner said City Council might ask the commissioners to accept a letter urging them to hold off on approval of new gravel pits in general until they can be reconsidered in the update of the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan. Brenner said the revision of the community plan is due to take place during the first half of 2001.
Beall emphasized that the city and county have a good relationship as it pertains to planning issues, and he doesn't want his stance to be misinterpreted as a controversial reaction.
But, he noted that the commissioners need to avoid taking part in "ex-parte communications" concerning matters pending before them. He was referring to a widely held rule that elected officials shouldn't have informal conversations with parties interested in issues currently working through the public hearing process.
Beall pointed out that under the Steamboat Springs Area Plan, which addresses land both inside and outside the city, the county has a process for sharing planning information with the city. The agreement that covers that sharing of information provides for county staff to forward development applications to city staff in cases where development would take place inside an "urban boundary" described in the community plan. The city Planning Commission is then asked to informally review the applications and return them with a reaction.
"The City Council is nowhere in that process," Beall said. "It's problematic. And these (gravel pit applications) aren't in the urban boundary."
Ellison said he expects the future of the airport to be the primary topic of conversation Tuesday night.
"We want to talk to the city about the airport, about our update of the 20-year master plan and the terminal plan," Ellison said. "We need to talk about how, as air traffic continues to grow, it continues to increase the cost to operate the airport."
Brenner agreed with Ellison that the meeting has been set up to explore the future of the airport.
He said he expects representatives of the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. to participate, explaining the challenges they currently face in bringing ski season jet flights to YVRA.
Beall said he also wants to talk about a tentative interest the county has in building more hangars for general aviation at YVRA.
Beall and Brenner agreed that the city and county have moved beyond the era when there was friction resulting from competition over commercial service at YVRA and Steamboat Springs Airport; the Steamboat airport is not served by an airline and new service isn't anticipated.
Beall said the county is contemplating a study to find out what it would take to meet an increasing demand for hangars to house larger private and corporate aircraft at YVRA. He added he doesn't believe that hangar development at YVRA for larger aircraft would conflict with plans to expand general aviation at the Steamboat airport.
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