Grand Valley Drainage District gets a day in court, argues against fee injunction

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):

Mesa County, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and several companies will suffer no irreparable harm if a judge allows a stormwater fee to go forward, the Grand Valley Drainage District said.

If anything, the district said in court papers, it’s more likely that district residents will suffer if the fee is unnecessarily delayed.

If the district’s $3 per month stormwater charge is a valid fee, “It is not equitable to enjoin a public improvement project needed to control flooding,” the district said in its response to the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction halting the district from collecting the fee.

The district sent out bills to about 40,000 property owners this spring. The bills were due on Tuesday.

Mesa County, the chamber and several companies within the district have challenged the fee, contending that it is actually a tax that was levied unconstitutionally because it was never submitted to district residents for a vote.

The district also contends that the stormwater charge is a fee under 1983 legislation that allowed it to assess service fees for stormwater control.

The 1983 legislation also recognizes that the district can levy its own property tax.

District officials have said that the mill levy it receives is sufficient to manage irrigation runoff and seep, but that it needs additional funding to deal with stormwater.

The district plans to collect abut $2.5 million this year for improvements to facilities such as the Buthorn Drain, which directs water away from businesses and residents along much of 12th Street north of North Avenue and south of the Grand Valley Canal.

The Colorado Supreme Court already has ruled twice that charges for the maintenance, improvement and replacement of storm-drainage facilities are service fees, the district noted in its papers.

The county and other plaintiffs have challenged the fee, saying that stormwater is better handled by a valleywide drainage authority. The drainage district covers about 90 square miles while the 521 Drainage Authority encompasses about 900 square miles.

The district says in its filing that there is no need for a hearing on the preliminary injunction.

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