The Grand Valley Drainage district fights back in court

Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via
Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The Grand Valley Drainage District has been able since 1983 to charge fees for services such as handling stormwater runoff, the district says in a Mesa County District Court filing.

The district responded to a lawsuit filed by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and Mesa County that asked the court to nullify the bills sent out to more than 40,000 property owners aimed at generating $2.5 million annually for stormwater improvements. The suit seeks a preliminary injunction that would stop the fee.

Mesa County owes $25,000 and the chamber $600, the drainage district said in its response that asks Judge David Bottger to uphold the fee and require the plaintiffs to pay the bills.

A hearing date is to be scheduled.

The district’s due date for payment is May 31. It is negotiating with the state to collect any unpaid fees.

The original lawsuit said the fees violated the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights section of the state constitution because it amounted to a tax that was imposed without a vote of the residents of the district.

The fees “are not a tax of any kind,” the district said in its response, but “service fees” needed to defray the cost of managing and controlling stormwater flowing off impervious surfaces.

The district’s existing mill levy brings in enough money to operate the networks of ditches and conduits needed to carry irrigation waters and seep toward the Colorado River.

The levy, however, “is not sufficient to address either the quality of water, or the increase in the quantity of water, generated by urban development and the impervious surfaces that are created as part of urbanization, such as roofs, sidewalks, driveways and parking lots,” the district said.

The district is charging residents within its 90-square-mile area north of the Colorado River $36 per year. Businesses, local governments, churches and other nonprofits are charged $36 per year for each 2,500-square-foot area of impervious surface they occupy.

The district also charges an impact fee on new development.

School District 51 is receiving a credit for its payments in recognition of teaching children about water and runoff.

7 thoughts on “The Grand Valley Drainage district fights back in court

  1. I cannot understand me paying $36.00 per year for water run off from my roof, when it drains into my lawn and is absorbed. It goes in the gutter and stay there till the sun absorb it. there is no place for the water to go, No drainage at all. you are just taking money from Seniors citizen that cannot afford such a fee!!!

  2. Fee? Its just another term for tax. All you have done is manipulated the system by calling it a fee so you can circumvent the tax code. Way to screw the people out of $36.00. If you would of asked I would have gladly supported your cause but to be so deceitful about the whole process is frankly disheartening. You people need to work at the federal level!

    • The labels “fee” and “tax” are determined by classification under TABOR (enterprise funds v. general funds). Some functions of government have to be outside the political realm like flood control and water supply. Otherwise you right wing hacks would starve them of funding until you have Flint water crisis or huge property damage from stormwater.

      Do yourself a favor and learn about the problems that Colorado Springs is having with stormwater. They created a stormwater utility under TABOR and the “rain tax” folks (like you) got the people to abolish it. The city is scrambling to fund stormwater projects now and other infrastructure is suffering. Take a trip back in time through the Coyote Gulch archives’ Stormwater category here.

      Thanks for commenting but please take your ill-informed political comments and cheap political points to another blog in the future.

      John Orr

    • Your stormwater bill is determined by the square footage of impervious area on your lot. There is an appeal process at the utility.

      For example, a few years ago I removed a driveway at my house in Denver. When I received my stormwater bill I asked the utility to review it. They sent out an employee to measure the impervious surface at my home to compare with the aerial photography they used originally. They asked me to point out the areas that were no longer contributing to the impervious area on my property and then they reduced my bill significantly.

      I’d advise you to request the aerials for your property for your review ahead of time. There is a chance that they made a mistake in your favor.

      Thanks for commenting.

      John Orr

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