Friends urge denial of wetland permit

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A group that wants to keep the county's courts downtown is urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to follow its preliminary decision and deny Routt County's request for a wetlands permit.

Routt County needs the permit to build its new justice center at a site adjacent to the county jail, just west of downtown Steamboat Springs.

The Friends of the Justice Center, a group formed to keep the justice center downtown, wrote in a Jan. 24 letter to the Army Corps that the county has not provided any new information, so the Army Corps should deny the permit as planned.

Also in the letter, the Friends of the Justice Center said the county's reasons for why the permit should be granted do not hold up. For instance, the group said that in its own calculations, the downtown site would not be much more expensive than the western site, that the county's 2002 plans to build a new downtown justice center provide enough room for expansion, and that a downtown site would provide good security.

In related news, the Main Street Steamboat Springs Board of Directors recently issued a position statement stating that the justice center should be built downtown.

"We are deeply concerned that the long-term impact to historic downtown Steamboat has not been adequately considered in the county's decision-making process," the statement reads.

There is "clear evidence," the statement reads, that when government buildings are removed from downtowns, the downtown area eventually declines.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said he had not read the Friends of the Justice Center's letter, but he expected the group would send such a letter to the Army Corps.

"It doesn't (change) our position," Monger said. "There will be no downtown justice center."

He said he appreciates the Main Street group's interest in the issue and said the county would make sure the downtown areas are viable without the courtrooms.

Tony Curtis, the Frisco Regulatory Office Chief for the Sacramento District of the Army Corps of Engineers, said the Army Corps could not issue a final decision until his files on the project are returned.

Those files are in the process of being copied to be sent to the county in compliance with its December request through the Freedom of Information Act for all records of correspondence about the justice center between the Army Corps and any third party, including the Friends of the Justice Center.

A final decision should be made within 20 to 30 days of when Curtis' files are returned, he said.


-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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