The Mount Werner Water District agreed Friday to annex a 37-acre parcel east of the city along U.S. Highway 40 into its boundaries for an infiltration gallery.
The water board did not agree to add a condition to its approval that would have the city annex the land into its boundaries, but it did acknowledge contracts between the two.
Five City Council members and City Attorney Tony Lettunich attended the meeting. Mount Werner Water Attorney Tom Sharp said the district bought the parcel to build an infiltration gallery, a kind of horizontal well, on fears that an existing infiltration gallery across the highway could be contaminated.
The gallery is in the influence area of a gas leak from the Shop 'n' Hop gas station. District President Don Valentine said recent city approved developments near the wells also raise pollution concerns.
Sharp said there are three reasons why the district wanted to buy and annex the land into its boundaries: to provide for a backup infiltration gallery, to preserve the wetlands in that area and to provide open space into the gateway of the city.
Lettunich asked whether the district would be willing to annex the land into the city, but the board said it was not ready to make that decision.
Lettunich said the city worried the district would expand its water and sewer services outside its boundaries.
"The top concern is some type of expansion of development to the south," Lettunich said. "I ask, is it really necessary to annex this? If you decide to annex, how about affirming an agreement not to expand services, or, if the city wants to annex, let them annex?"
The board said it had no desire to develop the land, expand services or annex it into the city.
The board acknowledged a 1994 agreement with the city under which the district must receive city approval to provide water and sewer services to any land that was not within its boundaries at that time.
Annexing the property into the city, Valentine said, would mean having the city decide whether it could be served. Before the water district bought the land, board members said, others had considered using the parcel for low-cost housing or a fish farm.
"We don't really trust having the city or the county to protect that the way we can protect it," Valentine said.
The board did say it was negotiating to sell 4.8 acres to the Steamboat Springs School District. The acreage sits next to the school district's Whistler Park property and is a potential site for an elementary school.
Valentine called into question two developments the city recently approved near the infiltration galleries -- River Place and Majestic Valley Townhomes -- and said the district would have opposed those developments.
"To see approval right there on top of a well field, we were not happy with it," Valentine said. "We would much rather not have it be there. We would have much rather bought it as open space and protected the wells."
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