By Chris Mannara
The major design review sketch for the planned Archuleta County Courthouse was approved by the Pagosa Springs Planning Commission at a regular meeting on April 28, with the commission highlighting a few things it would like to see in the final plans.
The courthouse, planned for 125 Harman Park Drive, is adjacent and west to the detention facility that is currently under construction, Town Planning Director James Dickhoff explained during the meeting.
The proposed project will contain 17,115 square feet of heated space and is expected to be one story; the project is expected to have three courtrooms, Dickhoff noted.
Additionally, the project is expected to have 7,880 square feet for a probation department, 2,293 square feet for a county clerk area, 1,043 square feet for a holding area and secure corridor and 3,727 square feet for a commons room, circulation and restrooms, he described.
Construction is expected to start sometime in the summer of 2020, Dickhoff noted.
The courthouse is located within the mixed-use corridor district for zoning purposes, Dickhoff added later.
In regard to building height and yard setbacks, the courthouse building complies with both codes, Dickhoff explained.
However, within the site plan provided to the planning commission, there is not a detention pond area or identified snow storage areas, both of which will have to be provided at the final design review application stage, he explained further.
“The building is placed on the southern end of the site. There may be a benefit in moving the building closer to the street edge and providing building access and parking lots on the south side of the lot,” Dickhoff said.
However, Dickhoff noted that there is a need for a corridor connection between the detention facility and the courthouse, adding that he is comfortable with the current proposal.
For parking, the site has a proposed shared eastern driveway with the detention facility and a western driveway access to Harman Park Drive, Dickhoff explained.
With the proposed project size of 17,115 square feet, 57 parking spaces would be needed, Dickhoff explained further, adding that the site is actually proposing 74 spaces.
“Which would accommodate the future courtroom additions for parking needs,” he said. “The parking that they are proposing would actually comply with a full build-out, including those two future courtroom additions.”
Sidewalk connectivity has also been provided to the Harman Park Drive sidewalk; however, Dickhoff noted that internal sidewalk connectivity seems “lacking” from the central north and northeast parking areas.
“I would certainly recommend some consideration in providing some safer pedestrian access to the building versus directing those pedestrians through the parking lot,” he said.
Additionally, Dickhoff recommended that the final site plan incorporate some outdoor sitting areas for people.
Within the proposed site plan, Dickhoff noted that the final plans should have appropriate required screening and identifiable dumpster and trash storage areas.
The final site plan will also need to include specification sheets for exterior lighting, he added later.
Following more discussion, Brad Ash of Reynolds Ash and Associates explained that the size and future expansion of the courthouse was done through a state program that informs developers how big courtrooms need to be.
“The plan is to accommodate more shared space and part of that was in, kind of, what the courts could give at the time. I’m not speaking for any of those negotiations, just explaining the process,” he said. “That was kind of between the county, state and us just being the communicator between the two.”
According to Ash, by the time this project comes back for the final major design review, they will know if the facility will definitively be a one-, two- or three-courtroom facility.
“We will be modifying the plan accordingly, but at this stage ultimately, the county’s goal is three courtrooms, but it’s going to be based on the funds they have available,” Ash said. “By the time we come back to you here, pretty quickly we anticipate, then we’re going to be presenting you with a reduced scope.”
The motion to approve the sketch major design review application for the planned Archuleta County Courthouse was approved unanimously by the planning commission.