Gas station survives debate

Planners OK plans for South Side Station at Walton Creek

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— For a few moments Thursday night, it appeared the Planning Commission might fail to take any action on a proposal for a new combination gas station on Steamboat's southern city limits. Ultimately, the commission voted 5-2 to recommend approval for Steve and Denise Peterson's plans for South Side Station at Walton Creek.

Before the project got a thumbs up, successive motions first to table the matter, then approve it and finally to deny, all failed for a lack of a seconding motion.

After an awkward silence, Commission Chairwoman Kathi Meyer moved to approve the project for a second time, Commission Scott Myller seconded, and the measure passed with Dana Stopher and Dick Curtis dissenting.

The project drew some public criticism before it got to the Planning Commission for potentially adding "one too many liquor stores to the community." However, the Planning Commission was more concerned with the potential threat a gasoline spill might pose to a municipal water well about 1,000 feet away.

The Petersons successfully developed the Wescoin light industrial building in Copper Ridge Business Park several years ago. They hope to build their new 4,460-foot commercial building on U.S. 40 at 955 Weiss Drive, just north of the U.S. Forest Service building. They must still obtain City Council approval and apply for a liquor license before they can operate a liquor store in their new building.

The proposed site of the new gas station is about 1,000 feet from a kind of horizontal water well known as an infiltration gallery. Operated by Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, the infiltration gallery collects groundwater through perforations in a large PVC pipe. The city operates a similar well a little farther away and on the opposite side of the Yampa River.

Matt Wager of Moonhill Design, representing the Petersons, said his clients are planning to go to great lengths to ensure the water supply will be safe.

"We're providing state-of-the-art underground equipment that will protect the environment," Wager said.

The Petersons are planning to install two underground monitoring wells designed to detect any contamination of groundwater. They will also install double-walled storage tanks and piping beneath the gas station.

Bob Stoddard of Mount Werner Water said he's satisfied the monitoring wells would give municipal water managers time to take steps to remediate any problem before it really became a threat to the wells.

"Our job is to protect water quality for the city," Stoddard said. "We take this quite seriously."

Stoddard said a study showed that groundwater in the area is moving from the direction of the proposed gas station site toward the horizontal well at a "relatively slow pace."

"The study showed it would take 17 years for any leakage to get to our well site," Stoddard said. "Seventeen years is a long time."

The monitoring wells would be positioned to detect a spreading leak before it came within 800 feet of the wells.

Curtis pointed out the Planning Commission has only one chance to "get it right" and advocated taking more time to gather information on the new commercial building.

"If we have to table and delay to make this a better project, I'm all for it," he said.

But Meyer persuaded a majority of the commissioners they had already been presented with all of the technical data they were likely to ever see on the matter.

"I think we have all the professional documentation we need," Meyer said. "Tabling doesn't give us any new information."

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