Catherine is no place for school’s bus barn
The downvalley school district’s board of directors was wise this week to re-examine the idea of building a 9,000-square-foot bus barn in the middle of nowhere.Now we hope the board reaches the logical conclusion that it should find an alternative to the Catherine Store neighborhood.The school district is eying a four-acre site northwest of the Catherine Store Road/Highway 82 intersection, across the highway from Catherine Store.Although that neighborhood is changing and promises to change more, a bus barn is inappropriate. The industrial use is at odds with the mostly residential uses in the area and the current agricultural feel. Homeowners in the area are understandably upset at the prospect of greater traffic from a fueling, maintenance and parking center.School board officials lamented that their facility will upset neighbors wherever it’s proposed. They have a point. Nevertheless, some locations are better than others. We’re not convinced the district has exhausted its options.Two potential sites come to mind. Right or wrong, the industrial and commercial uses along Catherine Store Road in the vicinity of the old Mid-Continent Resources coal-loading facility have expanded in recent years. Garfield County has zoned that area for uses like a bus barn. It seems like a site could be found in an area with a log-home construction operation, a sprawling self-storage facility and Mid-Continent’s remnants.Another site worth exploring is the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s facility in Carbondale. After building a large new maintenance facility in West Glenwood Springs a few years back, RFTA might be willing to part with its facility in Carbondale.In any case, there are much more appropriate places to locate a bus barn than the Catherine intersection.The school board holds all the cards. School districts are exempt from local planning and zoning regulations in Colorado. But the district isn’t exempt from responsibility. It cannot repeat what it did in Basalt in the mid-1990s by buying cheap land well outside the town’s boundaries, building a high school, then seeking annexation into the town.That unilateral decision helped create the ungodly hodge-podge that now plagues Basalt’s south side.Basalt, Garfield County and most other governments of the Roaring Fork Valley are quite capable of making lousy land-use decisions on their own. The school district doesn’t need to assist.
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