Judging proposals

City, county discuss plans for new court facility

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— A new courthouse facility and controversy over helicopters in Routt County dominated Wednesday's joint meeting between the Routt County commissioners and Steamboat Springs City Council.

The City Council got a firsthand look at four site proposals for a new "justice facility" and appeared to favor one that put the new facility on Sixth Street across from the courthouse annex building.

The site proposal could include the closure of part of Sixth Street and create a courthouse "campus" as well as a courtyard that could be used as a gathering place for the public.

"I envision that courtyard space bringing the community together," said Kathy Connell, City Council president pro tem.

"It creates a corridor and place to be."

Connell also said closing a portion of Sixth Street in between a new justice facility and the annex building gives the buildings "more security."

Council members Arianthe Stettner and Ken Brenner also liked the site, as well as city planning staff who will have a big say in how the building is situated in downtown.

However, engineers for the city cautioned they would require a major traffic study for downtown to be done in case of any street closures.

Questions also arose over a parking structure that could have three floors.

Council member Jim Engelken was worried about a cement structure that would be too high and a eyesore to the neighborhood.

City Manager Paul Hughes said the idea of a three-story parking structure could be blamed on him and city staff because they were looking at the new structure as a way of providing much-needed parking in downtown.

The city's planning staff had suggested helping Routt County with the cost of a parking structure that could include small retail shops at street level. Counties in Colorado are required by state statute to pay for and maintain judicial facilities.

The idea of putting part of the parking structure underground was also suggested as a way of minimizing the visual impact.

Next week, the judicial facility committee (a group of officials and residents) will hold public meetings to explain why a new courthouse is so badly needed. The committee will ask taxpayers to approve a bond issue in November 2002 to fund the project.

The public will also have a chance to look at the four plans that show possible locations for the new building and any new parking.

Also at the meeting, the city and county agreed to work on possible guidelines that would prevent commercial helicopter flights from becoming to excessive in environmentally sensitive Routt County.

The president of the Routt County Planning Commission Troy Brookshire had expressed concern that helicopter tours could become a nuisance for Routt County's rural landowners.

"I also think we will have the potential for private landowners to choose helicopters to get to their property," Brookshire said. Currently there is no provisions in zoning and planning regulations guiding private helicopter pads.

Frequent helicopter flights would not only be a nuisance for rural people, but a disturbance to wildlife he said.

Council members and commissioners agreed that the two government entities should make a preemptive strike and try to limit how helicopters might be used in the county.

The airport director at Steamboat's Bob Adams Airport expressed concern that local government could overstep its bounds.

"It's possible we're opening ourselves up to federal conflict," said Airport Director Matt Grow.

However, Commissioner Doug Monger said commercial flyers have to agree to conditions in order to get permission to fly out of airports and that could be uses to regulate things like how high they should fly to prevent wildlife disturbance.

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