Planning: No to zone change

Planning Commission recommends denying Mountain West's request

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The Routt County Planning Commission on Thursday told a landscaping business to clean up its site before requesting to expand.

The commission recommended denial of Mountain West Environments' zone change request and conceptual plan for a 9.53-acre site.

Mountain West is about 200 feet upstream from a public water storage area.

Commission members expressed concern about pesticides, herbicides and piles of debris at the site. All are within the Yampa River's 100-year flood way.

"Until you get those issues resolved, which are major issues, I can't support any of this project," Planning Commission Chairman Don Alperti told the applicant at Thursday's meeting.

Mountain West landowner Butch Dougherty asked the commission to change the property's zoning from agriculture/forestry to a planned unit development. He also sought a conceptual plan that would expand the landscaping business and add miscellaneous businesses, storage uses and two additional building sites.

Mountain West, which sits just outside the city's southeast limits off U.S. Highway 40, has been operating for more than a decade. Concerns about its impact on the water supply and the Yampa River surfaced in the last month, after city and county staff toured the site.

"I say to the county, why has this gone on this long," Planning Commission member Fred Nicholas asked.

In his report to the planning commission, Planner John Eastman brought up concerns about potential pollutants from gasoline storage, pesticide storage and vehicle maintenance on the site.

The site is within the contribution zone of the city and Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District's three infiltration galleries, which are like horizontal wells.

County Environmental Health Director Mike Zopf said tests have not detected water contamination, but he said the safety of the community's water supply was at risk.

"In my line of work, it is only a matter of time ... at every gas station, every industrial site, spills and leaks happen," Zopf said.

City and Mount Werner Water District officials listed steps the property owner could take to mitigate the problems. County Planner Diane Mitsch Bush asked that Dougherty follow the recommendations before resubmitting a plan.

The Planning Commission's denial goes to the Routt County commissioners at a Sept. 14 meeting. If the commissioners follow the recommendation, the landscaping business could be shut down, Eastman said.

The denial would mean one parcel is in an agriculture/forestry zone, which only allows for a residential unit and tree nursery, not the storage and design offices on the site. The other parcel is on land that is part of a planned unit development zone, but a plan has never been approved for the land.

If enforced, all activity would have to stop, Eastman said.

Instead of shutting down Mountain West, Eastman said, the county would like the business to clean up the area and then create a plan that would have the land annexed into the city.

Outside agencies also are looking into potential violations on the site, Eastman said. The Army Corps of Engineers is investigating whether more than an acre of wetlands has been disturbed without a permit, which is not allowed.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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