City approves gas station

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— The City Council approved a proposed Walton Creek gas station after consultants said the development was outside the influence zone of nearby public water supplies.

In a 4-2 decision, the council approved the development plan for the South Side Station at Walton Creek, a 4,460-square-foot commercial center with a gas station, convenience store, liquor store and car wash on Weiss Drive off U.S. Highway 40. But six months ago, the city first denied the application 4-3, then tabled it until a Wellhead Protection Ordinance was in place.

At the time of the denial, the council's main concern was the development's proximity to public infiltration galleries, a kind of horizontal well. The proposed gasoline underground storage tanks will sit 1,000 feet away from the Mount Werner Water District's infiltration gallery and 1,500 feet from the city's infiltration gallery.

But Tuesday night, Councilman Loui Antonucci said those concerns were addressed with a study done by McLaughlin Water, which showed the development was outside the infiltration galleries' zone of influence. Based on groundwater patterns, if a gas leak occurred, it would not be mixed into the water supply that went to the infiltration gallery within the next 10 years.

Antonucci voted against the development six months ago, but his vote Tuesday night was enough to swing the outcome.

"I have been swayed to change my vote tonight in favor of this," Antonucci said.

Councilman Paul Strong, who voted six months ago, was absent and Council President Kathy Connell and Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner kept their "no" votes.

Connell and Stettner both expressed concerns with approving a plan without a Wellhead Protection Ordinance in place. The city received the consultant's draft of the wellhead protection report on Dec. 10 and a final report Monday.

"I have a dilemma," Stettner said. "One of the things we talked about was reconsidering this when we have a Wellhead Protection Plan. Right now we only have a draft. I don't know what is appropriate. And I am more comfortable with (the development) than I ever expected to be."

Connell also said she wanted to see a plan in place first.

But that was a direction the applicants, Steve and Denise Peterson, were glad the council did not ultimately go. A Wellhead Protection Ordinance would mean the city would have to work out an agreement with Routt County and determine exactly where the zones of influence are, which might include parts of the Yampa River. And the Petersons would have had to wait before an ordinance was in place before getting their plan approved.

"I am greatly relieved that this had a positive outcome," Peterson said. "I think the important issue is that establishing a Wellhead Protection Ordinance is potentially going to take years."

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