The city Planning Commis-sion unanimously approved a small portion of the 18-mile power line proposed by Xcel Energy.
But the decision did not come before discussions extended far beyond the quarter-mile stretch of the project passing through the city limits.
The Emerald Mountain Partnership and landowner Jim Stanko came before the Planning Commission asking that it approve the development plan with a list of conditions.
The conditions asked for regulations on the appraisal process for properties with power lines running through them and recommended ways to minimize the visual impact of the lines.
The Planning Commission said those conditions were outside the scope of its authority and could not be part of the approval. But the conditions could be included in the Planning Commission's referral to the county.
"I personally support the conditions, but the fact remains it's an acre-long piece within the city limits," Dick Curtis said. "We cannot address the Emerald Mountain Partnership."
The city portion of the new power line runs through three properties and is located behind the Fairview subdivision. The power line within the city would parallel an existing line, and three new towers would be built that could be 10 feet higher than the existing ones.
The project starts in the western part of the county, follows the path of an existing power line as it winds around the west and north end of Emerald Mountain, until reaching the substation on Steamboat's west side.
Sally Wither, secretary for the Emerald Mountain Partnership, listed conditions the group would like to see Xcel follow before putting in a new power line. Emerald Mountain is owned by the Colorado State Land Board and is under a stewardship trust with the partnership, which is working to preserve the land.
Wither said the group would have liked to have seen an alternative that would have avoided putting in a new line through Emerald Mountain by building a substation at the east end of town.
In order for the partnership to accept the plan, it wants to see an agreement between all property owners to determine how the land would be appraised. And the appraisal should include the devaluation the land would have because of the visual and health impact of the power lines, Wither said.
Landowner Jim Stanko also asked the Planning Commission to support the recommendation. His land west of Steamboat falls in the city's master plans and is designated to be kept as open space or agricultural land.
Stanko suggested that Xcel use some of the $10 million it has budgeted for the project to pay for the development rights of the properties affected by the power line, which would keep the land as open space. He asked that the Planning Commis-sion make the recommendation in its approval of the power line.
"It would preserve the open space west of Steamboat, and this is what you want to do," Stanko said.
Michael Diehl, who represented Xcel, said Thursday night the company has $1.1 million in the $10 million project to buy the land. That amount would cover the costs of the right-of-ways for the lines and the devaluation the power lines could cause for the properties. But he said it would not cover the purchase of development rights.
Xcel proposes to begin the power line at the Wolcott Tap Switching Station, which is near Twenty Mile Coal's Foidel Creek Mine near Routt County Road 33. That switching station is being moved two to three miles over from the existing one.
From there, the new power line will skirt along the outside of land designated to be mined and then meet up with and run parallel to Western Area Power Association lines for a few miles. Eventually, the line will run into Xcel's already existing line and follow that around Emerald Mountain to the Steamboat substation.
Xcel said it needs a second line to meet the growing demand in the Yampa Valley. The Yampa Valley Electric Assoc-iation, the local rural electrical cooperative that has a long-term contract with Xcel, serves 12,000 customers in Steamboat and the surrounding area through the Steamboat Spring's substation.
The substation has one high voltage source, a 230-kilovolt line coming into it. Another source, a 69-kilovolt line, comes from the Mount Harris substation for limited backup in case the existing 230-kilovolt line goes down. Xcel said the 69-kilovolt line no longer provides adequate backup for the growing Steamboat area.
By providing another line, that demand will be met, Xcel said.
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