Friends of Justice Center to appeal to council

Group lobbying for downtown location

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— The group opposing the out-of-town location of the county justice center is asking the City Council to request the Army Corps of Engineers remand the project.

The Friends of the Justice Center Inc. plans to come before the council tonight to ask it to send a letter to the Corps of Engineers, to support language in the 1995 Steamboat Springs Community Area Plan to keep government offices downtown and to deny any action that would jeopardize that directive.

"We have an opportunity to reverse this fateful decision by the county commissioners. Our community is counting on your leadership and vision," the letter from the group to the city reads.

The Corps of Engineers is reviewing Routt County's plans to build a 51,000-square-foot justice center west of town, near the Routt County Jail. The Army Corps of Engineers has to grant the county a wetlands permit before it can build.

The Friends of the Justice Center drafted a sample letter that the council could send to the Corps of Engineers, stating a downtown site is a "practicable alternative" to the county's request, which would require a permit to fill 1.4 acres of wetlands on the west of town site.

The letter asks the Corps of Engineers to remand the application because the downtown site is a viable alternative. The letter also asks that the county not submit another application until the downtown site is reconsidered or the community agrees the downtown site has been fully explored or exhausted.

The drafted letter states that the council would "strongly urge the county commissioners to work with us to find a way to design and construct this land mark building on a site worthy of its 'flagship' value to our community."

Two councils have written letters to the commissioners supporting a downtown site. The council also submitted a public comment letter to the Corps of Engineers on Dec. 15.

Council President Paul Strong said the commissioners are the ones who have to make the final decision on the justice center location.

"We have no authority on the decision. We can ask them to table the decision, ask them to deny the decision, that is all we can do," he said.

On Thursday, the City Planning Commission is set to review the plans for the three-story justice center on Shield Drive. In his report to the planning commission, city planner Tom Leeson stated he was "unable to recommend approval of the Routt County Judicial Center."

The project is not compliant with the community plan, the surrounding uses, minimizing environmental impacts and other standards, Leeson noted in his report.

Unlike other applicants, Routt County can submit an application to the city and gather feedback but can still build even without the city's approval.

The council is scheduled to hear the plans for the justice center April 27.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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