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), 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 calculations are hypothetical, Fagan said, since no new annexations have taken place since the policy was implemented. The town is currently in discussion with Linda and Bob Ingo about annexing property of theirs on the south side of town.)
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 answered for the staff: “We agree.”
Willits continued, “It may be based on good intentions. But it might not work in the real world.”
Councilor Ellen Hunt defended that original intent. “The concept was to offset growth and the possibility of a call. You have to look at it in a futuristic way. Water is just going to get more and more important.”
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.”
Councilor Eric Johnson said, “I like Plan B. We should give ourselves the option.”
Hunt agreed. “We should look at changing Part D of the annexation policy.”
Town Manager Jen Coates said, “We’ll get a draft in front of you for the February meeting.”
Hunt looked left and right along the table for concurrence. “It’s awfully quiet,” she said.
“It’s a lot to absorb,” Coates admitted.
Fagan addressed the entire group, “You can think about it and then chew holes in our draft next month.”
CHAMBER ASKS TO RENEW BED TAX AGREEMENT
Ridway’s town council was displeased last week with how the Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce had spent its share of the town’s 2009 lodging tax monies. RACC President Kari Wage appeared before council to ask for a renewal of the annual contract, which designates that half of the $2/bed/night LOT tax go to the Chamber for “tourism promotion and marketing.”
Mayor Pat Willits questioned how RACC, which has suffered membership and funding shortfalls, was spending the money. “LOT funds are not to go to these things,” Willits emphasized, referencing a RACC handout that listed accomplishments primarily having to do with keeping the Visitor Center doors open. While acknowledging the chamber’s problems and saying “these are all good things; we’re glad RACC is doing them, but to be clear, these lodging taxes are made available for very specific purposes” which don’t include operating expenses at the Visitor Center or re-establishing the RACC Business After Hours events.
RACC vice-president Brian Scranton defended the Chamber’s expenditures. “Even if we had 100 percent of the LOT, there’s not enough money to do much of anything.” (2009 LOT total revenue was around $18,000, according to Town Clerk Pam Kraft.) “We’re talking about promoting Ridgway outside the area. We don’t even have a video. Video was cool 15 years ago. That’s why we’ve applied for 501(c) 3 (non-profit) status in order to pursue grant opportunities.”
Councilmember Rick Weaver, who is the council liaison to RACC, said he “understands the chamber’s struggles.”
But, interrupted Willits, “This is an agreement. This is not a choice. The voters decided in April 2010 how this money is to be spent.”
Councilor Eric Johnson remembered that “In the past, the chamber spent LOT monies for advertising and the website.”
To which Wage replied, “But you can’t put the cart before the horse. If we don’t have a Visitor Center with running water!”
Wage agreed to get together with Kraft to review the specifics of bed-tax accounting and asked to be placed on the agenda for the February meeting.
TOWN CONTRIBUTES TO ENERGY-USE BASELINE STUDY
Ridgway is one of six entities in San Miguel and Ouray counties participating in a regional Energy Action Plan that will eventually help reduce energy use and carbon emissions. The first step is to determine how much and what kinds of energy are being used presently. None of the three communities on the Ouray County side, Ridgway, Ouray, or the county government, knows what this baseline is.
Town Manager Jen Coates asked the town council at its first meeting of 2011 to contribute $1,000 toward a grant that would fund a study to establish those baselines.
The New Community Coalition in Telluride has applied for a $12,000 grant to complete baseline studies in both counties. If each community will contribute $1,000, Coates said, then that $6,000 will be matched and the study can move forward. TNCC will be the grant administrator. “Can I ascertain a level of interest on council?” she asked.
“I think it’s a great opportunity,” said Councilor John Clark.
“Very worthwhile,” said Councilor Ellen Hunt.
Councilor Tim Patterson asked if Ridgway would be contributing equally with Mountain Village and Telluride.
Clark, who participated on the volunteer board that is drafting the Energy Action Plan, responded. “Interestingly, we’re kind of leading the way. San Miguel County entities didn’t know if they could come up with any money; they’re hurting so bad. We kind of shamed them into it.”
Motion. Second. Unanimous for finding the $1,000 to participate.
GOOD NEWS ON AUDIT MONIES
Town Manager Jen Coates told council last week that a $5,000 grant the town had applied for had turned into a $10,000 award. The application for a wastewater utility audit had turned into an award for double the amount.
This was very good news, Coates said, and added that Ridgway might share the grant with the City of Ouray. “Both municipalities have lagoon-type systems,” she said, and could conceivably get audits done at the same time.
TOWN TRIVIA BOWL TEAM FUNDED
For years the Ridgway town council has fielded a team to compete in the annual spelling-bee fundraiser for the Mount Sneffels Education Foundation. This year, Councilor Rick Weaver told his cohorts, the Feb. 8 dinner at the Ouray School multi-purpose room will feature instead a “Trivia Bowl.” And did the council wish to mount a team once again? And would council sponsor a team and fork over the $100, tax-deductible entry fee?
The answer was a generous yes to both questions. With Mayor Pro Tem John Clark again volunteering to represent downvalley trivia-meister against all comers.