City recommends change | SteamboatToday.com

City recommends change

Planners to encourage county to move justice center location

Christine Metz

The city planning staff is recommending that the City Planning Commission not approve Routt County’s proposed justice center because of noncompliance with major policy issues.

Tonight, Routt County officials are scheduled to come before the City Planning Commission with plans for a three-story, 51,200-square-foot justice center near the Routt County Jail.

In his memo to staff, City Planner Tom Leeson noted the justice center is not in compliance with four areas of the development code:

n It is not appropriate for the industrial zone district and is surrounded by high-intensity industrial uses.

n It contradicts a Future Land Use Direction to maintain a vibrant and healthy downtown.

n It proposes to fill 1.43 acres of wetlands to build the justice center, which would not minimize environmental impacts.

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n It does not comply with the snow-storage requirement and is building outside the platted building envelope.

The noncompliance issues are with city policies, not the design standard or development code criteria that applicants, and the city can negotiation out an agreement, Leeson said.

“Many times, the applicant is able to mitigate (variances). This is inconsistent with the policy. There is nothing you can do to mitigate it. Either you are consistent or inconsistent,” Leeson said.

Even if the Planning Commission follows Leeson’s recommendation to not approve the plan, the county could go ahead with plans to build. Because the county is another local government, similar to a school district, the county is not required to follow the city’s land-use regulations.

The Army Corps of Engineers is the only entity that has the power to deny the county’s plan by denying the wetlands permit.

County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said the county is taking the development plans to the city for feedback.

“The county wants to work together. It wants to go through the city process,” Stahoviak said.

She noted that suggestions the city staff has made on traffic circulation and site plan layout have made the plan a better project.

Stahoviak compared it to the county’s relationship to Colorado State Parks, which does not have to follow the county’s planning guidelines.

“By the same token, if they are to go through the process, we try very hard to listen to what they want to do and not try to limit it. Cooperation has to happen,” Stahoviak said.

Before the county took a bond issue to the voters for the first proposed justice center in 2002, the City Planning Commission and City Council approved the plans for that justice center.

The first plan was for a 52,000-square-foot justice center and 52,000-square-foot parking garage on the southwest corner of Sixth and Oak streets.

On Tuesday, Friends of the Justice Center Inc., which opposes the west of town site, asked the City Council to write a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers stating a “practicable alternative” exists in a downtown site.

The council agreed and also voted to write a letter to county commissioners asking them to reopen discussion on a downtown location.

County Commissioner Doug Monger said the county had an extensive public process more than a year ago, and the decision will not change unless substantial new information is brought forward.

“What is the purpose?” Monger asked. “What are we going to talk about, unless the city says it has $4 million and is going to help? That is something we can talk about.”

— To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com