Boards eye U.S. 40 bypass

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A U.S. Highway 40 bypass on Yampa Avenue and the location of gravel pits sparked the most heated discussions at the City Council and County Commissioner's joint meeting on the area plan.

The two boards met Wednesday night to review the rough draft of the Steamboat Springs Area Plan, which the council and commissioners have discussed with their planning commissions.

The two entities were asked to weigh in on the need to reserve a right of way between 13th Street and Yampa Avenue in case a bypass was needed around U.S. 40.

While commissioners and some council members said they believed reserving the option of a Yampa Avenue bypass was a smart decision, others felt it was in conflict with plans for a library expansion, the use of the river and the character of Yampa Avenue.

Councilwoman Kathy Connell said that with no other options for a U.S. 40 bypass, she believed it would be unwise to take the Yampa Avenue bypass off the table.

But Council President Paul Strong worried that if the city did reserve the area's right of way for a bypass, it would limit the library's attempt to expand. This year, the library purchased land for the expansion, and the first round of plans did not anticipate a road connecting Yampa Avenue to 13th Street.

Concerns also were raised about the effects a bypass would have on Little Toots Park, the river and plans to make Yampa Avenue more pedestrian friendly.

"Having a major roadway along the river, which is one of our best assets in town, is not the way to go," Strong said.

City Planner Tom Leeson said that even if more people became reliant on multimodal transit, congestion is forecast along U.S. 40 between 13th Street and Routt County Road 129. "Removing this as an option requires us to look at (things) we don't even want to consider now," Leeson said, "like widening the highway to six lanes."

Leeson said the library, which is in the conceptual phase of the expansion, has enough property to accommodate the city if a bypass becomes necessary.

County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak reminded the group that, like many items in the area plan, funding transportation is going to cost money.

A lot of solutions in this plan -- affordable housing, transportation, open space -- would need additional sources of funding. Stahoviak said that needs to be prioritized as the commission and council go through the plan.

She also talked about the need to designate areas where gravel pits and concrete plants should be located. She asked if that type of industrial use could be located within the city, where most of the product is being used.

"If these are the major areas that are using these resources, how far away do you put these plants?" Stahoviak asked.

Commissioner Doug Monger talked about the conflict of residents not wanting to have gravel pits in their back yard but also wanting to reduce truck traffic through downtown Steamboat.

The council and commissioners agreed to create a map to specify in what areas industrial uses and mineral extraction could occur.

The two boards also talked about wording in the plan to form a growth advisory group. The council and commissioners agreed the advisory group should look at growth-management tools as well as a suggested rate of growth. The plan states the advisory group should be a broad representation of the community and should have six months after the board's appointment to make a recommendation.

The council also talked about how to implement the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, whether the size of homes should be limited and how to coordinate the area plan with other government planning documents.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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