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.