Drawing water

South Shore infrastructure to be studied

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— Officials at the water district in Stagecoach have taken a step towards expanding its water infrastructure by contracting an engineer to do a study in the South Shore subdivision.

Morrison Creek Metropolitan Water and Sanitation District Manager Steve Colby said the district's board of commissioners agreed to pay $2,500 to Civil Design Consultants, Inc. to determine the alternatives and the cost of expanding water and sewer lines to South Shore subdivision.

South Shore consists of 229 lots that hug the southeast corner of Stagecoach Reservoir, according to the county.

Members of the South Shore Homeowners Association approached the water district board on Thursday about the issue. The result was an agreement to pay for the study, which will determine the best way and cost to expand infrastructure to the subdivision. The study will be presented three months from now, Colby said.

Original owners of the 229 lots in South Shore, along with more than 1,000 lots in the Stagecoach community, were left without water and utility lines, and some without roads, when the developer of the area went bankrupt in the '70s. Not long after the water district went bankrupt, too.

This summer, Morrison Creek finished paying off its

bankruptcy debt.

The study on South Shore is the first action the district has taken towards infrastructure expansion since the debt was paid off.

"This is just preliminary," Colby said. "No one should jump to any conclusions."

The reality is that the cost of expanding the infrastructure won't be cheap.

In 1999, planning staff from Routt County paid Civil Design Consultants, Inc. to estimate the cost to expand water and sewer to South Shore. At that time the cost was pegged at about $4 million, or about $17,000 per lot, according to the Stagecoach Community Plan. But that was just an estimate, Colby said. When bidded out, the numbers could be different.

Colby said the new study also will look into the the effectiveness and costs of a Septic Tank Affluent Pump (STEP) system. The STEP system pumps waste out of a septic tank and into a pressurized line that leads to the wastewater plant.

There is a possibility that using the STEP system would be cheaper than connecting houses directly into sewer lines, but long-term costs could negate its initial financial benefits, Colby said.

The study will confirm those costs, he said.

STEP system or not, the owners of the 229 lots will have to split up the final bill for expansion among themselves, probably by forming a sub-area within the water district to administer an extra tax on themselves to pay for it, Colby said.

At least 51 percent of those property owners would have to support the extra tax in a vote, Routt County Assistant Planning Director Chad Phillips said.

He said he thought that could be difficult to do.

Heather Kline was one of the South Shore home owners who approached the board. She said the cost to expand infrastructure may be an issue for some property owners.

"Basically, everyone (who's been contacted) so far has been with it," she said. "But once they see the numbers, they might think again. Then we'll see a lot of people embracing it or selling their lot."

For the nine people who have a house with a septic tank on their South Shore property, like Kline, the extra tax will be less than paying for the tank to be emptied every month, she said.

The vacant property owners can expect to see their property's value increase with a possible infrastructure expansion, said Jane Stitt, Realtor for Town and Country Realty and a South Shore property owner.

Right now, there are three lots for sale in South Shore, averaging about a half-acre. Prices range from around $27,000 to $95,000. The latter price is for a waterfront property, Stitt said.

If water and sewer are extended, obviously property values will go up, she said.

Non-lakefront properties in Eagles Watch, a subdivision south of South Shore with water utilities, are going for around $60,000, she said.

Along with waiting for the results of the study, Kline and the homeowners group's next step is to contact all the property owners to see what their interests are. Many live out of state, which could make that job difficult, Kline said.

Incidentally, this is the second issue to recently come up that could impact property owners in South Shore and all of Stagecoach.

Brian Stahl of Breckenridge turned in an application in September to develop 400 acres of vacant land adjacent to South Shore to the west. The plan is to develop 500 dwellings, 60,000 feet of commercial space, a golf course and a marina, according to the subdivision application.

Stahl is making some changes on the application, which will be completed probably in July, according to the county.

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