Water issues are again rising in Steamboat Springs, where City Council members are considering a policy to require developers of annexed properties to bring water rights or resources to the table as a condition of annexation.

Photo by John F. Russell

Water issues are again rising in Steamboat Springs, where City Council members are considering a policy to require developers of annexed properties to bring water rights or resources to the table as a condition of annexation.

Council could ask developers to provide water rights

Developer warns excessive demands could thwart Steamboat 700

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Steamboat 700 by the numbers

Total size: 508 acres

Open space and parks: 147 acres

Development area: 361 acres

Start of infrastructure construction: 2010

Start of homebuilding: 2011

Build-out: 20 years

Housing units: 2,044*

Commercial uses: 340,000 square feet*

Community housing units: 511**

Real estate transfer fee: 1 percent***

* Under a large-format retail alternative land-use plan, the number of housing units would be reduced to 1,818 and one of three mixed-use "village centers" would be replaced with a 348,000-square-foot retail center with space for two large-format retailers and a grocery store.

** Number includes a mix of for-sale and rental housing options for households earning between 70 percent and 160 percent of the area median income.

*** Initial sales and community housing units excluded. The transfer fee would be dedicated to community enhancements and housing affordability, and a specified amount would be earmarked to provide a permanent funding source for the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.

Source: Steamboat 700

— Steamboat Springs residents would be left with only half of the water needed to serve current demands if downstream states made a call on the Colorado River Compact, officials told the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday.

The sobering revelation underscored council's consideration of adopting a water dedication policy that would require the developers of annexed properties to bring water rights, or resources to develop existing water rights, to the table as a condition of annexation. Council members directed their water attorney - Fritz Holleman, of Boulder firm Porzak, Browning & Bushong - to return with such an ordinance and participated in a fiery discussion with developers seeking annexation who warned the additional burden could scramble plans for planned communities aimed at addressing other needs such as affordable housing and transportation improvements.

Holleman also told council that Colorado Water Division Six, which includes the Yampa Valley, is the only division of the state's seven that has a water surplus and thus is being targeted by outside interests.

"I think you've got a great big bull's-eye on you from every other water user in the state," Holleman said.

While a recently adopted Steamboat Water Supply Master Plan concluded that "both the city and the (Mount Werner Water) district have a reliable long-term supply source : capable of meeting projected demands throughout the next 20 years," Public Works Director Philo Shelton said the master plan did not include risk assessments for scenarios such as a call on the Colorado River Compact because such issues are being evaluated at the state level.

Most of the city's and district's water rights are junior to the 1922 compact. In his recommendations for a water dedication policy ordinance, Holleman is recommending that the city indicate a strong preference for water rights senior to 1922.

Council members were unanimous in directing Holleman to return with a water dedication policy to consider for adoption. They were less unified about whether to apply the new policy to projects already seeking annexation such as Steamboat 700. Ultimately, council directed city staff to work with Steamboat 700 to pay some portion of the cost of the improvements needed to develop existing water rights to serve the property that is proposing about 2,000 homes on 508 acres west of city limits.

"This water rights discussion can have a serious and detrimental effect depending on what they request," Steamboat 700 Project Manager Danny Mulcahy said. "Steamboat 700 can do a lot for this community, but it can't do everything."

Also Tuesday, council approved two high-profile planning ordinances pertaining to secondary units and historic preservation. The historic preservation ordinance will replace current policies governing the historic preservation review process. The new policy - like the old - will mandate that some properties undergo a historic preservation review process, but compliance with the review board's recommendations will be voluntary.

The ordinance approved Tuesday, however, will subject fewer properties to the review because it will require it only for structures 50 years or older that also would be eligible for listing on a newly created city historic register. The previous policy required a review of all structures 50 years or older regardless of their historic value.

The secondary unit ordinance will close an enforcement loophole and require inspection for health and safety issues of secondary units, which are small, long-term rentals located on the same lots as principal dwelling units. In an effort to qualify more units for approval - and hopefully have their owners register them - council removed an occupancy provision requiring the owners of secondary units to live on site in the main residence.

Also, for eight months, the city and the Routt County Regional Building Department will eliminate or reduce fees to encourage owners to legalize unregistered units. The ordinance was driven by a man's death last year of smoke inhalation in an illegal converted garage apartment in Old Town that lacked smoke detectors.

Comments

flotilla 5 years, 10 months ago

"This water rights discussion can have a serious and detrimental effect depending on what they request," Steamboat 700 Project Manager Danny Mulcahy said. "Steamboat 700 can do a lot for this community, but it can't do everything."

So Danny, what CAN you do?

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