County weighs land options

Time running short for commissioners to select judicial facility site

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— If the county decides next month to forego plans to build new courtrooms across from the Routt County Courthouse, it will need to acquire land in west Steamboat Springs pretty quickly.

In December, retired 14th Judicial District Richard Doucette ordered Routt County to find a way to finance and complete a new judicial facility by mid-2006.

That gives county officials precious little time to make decisions about the project's site, appearance and price tag.

The Board of County Commissioners feels a sense of urgency to identify a site and move forward with the project as quickly as possible, but it will give residents one last opportunity to weigh in on where courtrooms belong.

The board will decide between a downtown location and a site out by the Routt County Jail following an April 1 public hearing.

"We made it fairly clear that we value the input, but the final decision ... is going to have to be made by us," County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said earlier.

While the county is eyeing five acres adjacent to the Routt County Jail, it needs more information about the site.

Project coordinator Tim Winter said the county would need to wait until the snow melted to survey the property. Professional estimates indicate a large amount of wetlands in the back half of the parcel adjacent the jail.

The land slopes downward from U.S. Highway 40 toward the Yampa River, with the back half of the property making a rapid 10-foot drop.

County Attorney John Merrill is talking to the property owners to get permission for the county to inspect the property more closely.

Two other smaller plots of land west of Steamboat have caught the county's eye. Curve Development owns one plot, and the other plot belongs to the county but is being considered for future jail expansion.

"If we are committed to going to the west site in April, we're going to have to move quickly," Winter said.

The asking price for the 5-acre parcel by the jail is $995,000.

The county already owns a $1.5 million piece of land downtown.

The .64-acre plot of land sits in the heart of downtown Steamboat Springs.

It covers four lots along Oak Street between Fifth Street and Butcherknife Creek and between Oak Street and the alley.

Should the county decide to go west with the judicial facility project, its hold on land adjacent the courthouse isn't going anywhere.

County officials don't intend to put it on the market anytime soon.

It's in the county's best interest to hold on to the parcel for future expansion, County Manager Tom Sullivan said.

"I don't know that any private property owner would want to give up property that is right next to them," Sullivan said. "You own the property, and you control the use."

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