Ridgway: The town council is wrestling with the right mix of fees to accommodate future growth

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From The Telluride Watch (Peter Shelton):

The town currently requires that new development contribute either water rights or money in lieu of water rights, before it can be annexed into the town limits. The idea when the policy was adopted in 2000 (and amended in 2009), [Town Engineer Joanne Fagan] said, was to protect the town’s access to municipal water, even as population grows, and even in the event of a call on Ridgway’s water by more senior water users. One option was to use the up-front money to purchase Ridgway Reservoir water from Tri-County Water Conservancy District…

The two systems Fagan described for calculating how much a new development should pay were complicated by, among other things, the escalating value of water. The policy refers to purchases of reservoir water at “present values.” But present value in 2000 was about $350/acre foot, Fagan said, and is now at $850/acre foot. The cost to a potential developer has soared. “Council folks,” she asked, “is this what you think we should be doing? And is this impact what you had in mind?”

Mayor Pat Willits responded. “My recollection is that when we first started talking about this, back 10 years ago when River Park was financing, we didn’t anticipate this much of an impact [on the developer]…

Fagan then said that she and staff were working on a “Plan B.” “For somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million,” she said, the town could improve its storage of Beaver Creek water at Lake Otonawanda and avoid the purchase of Tri-County water. Lake Otonawanda is on Miller Mesa south of town. The town owns it but has no way to get water out of the lake into the town ditch. Fagan’s Plan B would properly plumb the lake and then “We could be in a position to fill it in the winter when the water would not be subject to a call” by ranchers and others who might override the town’s priority during irrigating season. Fagan said her rough calculations for payment in lieu of water rights using the “Lake O” plan came to about $66,000 per 10-acre development, or about $1,100 per unit, far less than $100,000 to $300,000 a developer would have to pay under the current plan. “We’re reviewing a draft plan now,” she told council. But, she said, “We don’t think this fits with the policy and might require amending the policy we have.”

More Uncompahgre River watershed coverage here and here.

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