City OKs judicial facility

Voters will now be asked to fund project

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— The proposed Routt County Judicial Facility received the last round of approval before voters will be asked to support the new courthouse in November.

On Tuesday, the Steamboat Springs City Council gave unanimous approval for the development plan of the 51,900-square-foot judicial facility and 2 1/2-story parking structure.

One of the most discussed components of the plan is the 52,000-square-foot parking structure, which would provide 127 parking spaces.

Three residents expressed concerns with the cost, size and architecture of the parking structure.

Resident Mayling Hebert said she was pleased with the overall project but felt the cost for the parking structure was not worth the additional spaces. She suggested looking at the transportation study and separating the parking structure from the judicial facility for the vote.

But council members voted 5-0 to support the plan and most said the parking structure was needed. If passed by the voters, the parking structure would be open for public parking when the facility is closed.

Councilman Paul Strong said there was a need for more downtown parking, and the parking structure at Fifth and Oak streets could help solve that problem. And Councilman Bud Romberg said without a parking structure, people would be parking in residential areas.

"For everyone to support the project is a significant thing for the community for them to show that much support," said Ben Beall, a former county commissioner who heads the campaign supporting the judicial facility.

The comments made by the council were similar to the ones the city Planning Commission gave, Planning Director Wendie Schulenburg said. Like the Planning Commission, the council asked that the architecture for the parking structure be looked at carefully before the architectural approval phase of the planning process.

Tuesday's decision was the last step in the planning process before voters will be asked to approve a mill levy of no more than 1.3 mills that would support the cost of the $17.2 million facility.

If voters approve the tax, the county will come back to the city with the final development plan, which focuses primarily on architecture.

The state gave a mandate to the county to provide and maintain adequate facilities for the 14th Judicial District. The county was told the current courthouse, which was built in 1923, does not meet state standards.

The existing court facility, which houses a county judge and two district court judges in two courtrooms, is 11,200 square feet. The level of square footage the state requires for a county court with three judges, like Steamboat, is 33,200 square feet.

Plans are for the new judicial facility to house the court system and for the renovated historical courthouse to hold county offices.

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