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Wastewater questions surface during Foxtrot talks

Town advocates for connection to its wastewater treatment plant

by Olivia Lueckemeyer

While it seems no party objects to the actual development of the proposed Foxtrot subdivision a mile north of Crested Butte near Moon Ridge Lane, how wastewater will be treated appears to be a source of contention between the applicant and the town.

At a public hearing on April 22, town representatives asked the Gunnison County Planning Commission to require that the applicant connect to the town’s wastewater treatment system if the town’s sewer line comes within 400 feet of the proposed development, as outlined in a 1996 intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between the town, county and various wastewater treatment operators.

On behalf of the Town Council, mayor Glenn Michel appeared at the hearing to respectfully request that, under the terms of the 201 IGA, the applicant be required to submit an application to connect to the town’s wastewater treatment system. Under this agreement, all developments proposed within the town’s wastewater service area must apply for service.

“I want to be clear, the town is not protesting the actual proposed development,” Michel said. “Our intent is to protect the wastewater and the Slate River Valley from potential contamination, and to uphold the 201 agreement. The town is prepared to work with the applicant to find a mutually acceptable agreement.”

Located adjacent to the Moon Ridge subdivision, the proposed 13.23-acre Foxtrot subdivision would be made up of four single-family residential lots, each including an attached or detached garage. According to the application, Saddle Ridge Ranch Estates will supply water, and wastewater will be treated by AdvanTex onsite residential treatment systems.

The applicant’s attorney, David Leinsdorf, argued that a connection to the town’s treatment system is currently unfeasible, as the sewer line does not come within 400 feet of the proposed development. Leinsdorf instead advocates for individual AdvanTex systems, which have been approved by the state and are used at several locations throughout the Gunnison Valley.

“These systems today generate effluent that is comparable or equal to what the town’s central system will put into the Slate,” Leinsdorf explained.

“The old prejudice against individual sewage disposal systems have been changed with the advances of technology in the past few years.”

Project engineer Norman Whitehead also defended the quality of AdvanTex systems. In addition to providing advanced filtration technology, AdvanTex is monitored through a digital network to alert service providers of any problems with the system.

Still, some people at the hearing were concerned with the risks that might accompany allowing Foxtrot to utilize individual sewage disposal systems. Crested Butte resident Steve Glazer, who participated in the planning process that gave way to the 201 IGA back in ‘96, pointed to a potential liability to the town’s wastewater treatment plant if a cumulative impact were to increase nutrient levels in the Slate.

“The town might be forced to spend millions to upgrade their wastewater treatment plan to reduce nutrients that wouldn’t have happened if cumulative impacts were avoided by diverting wastewater into the town’s wastewater treatment plant,” Glazer said. “All that is in front of you is the application for these four units, but we can’t deny that there are more lots plotted for this development. We have to keep the big picture in mind as to the future.”

Assistant director of community development Neal Starkebaum labeled the possibility of expanding the subdivision as “pure speculation,” because while there are 29 acres outside of the land conversation covenant that the applicant still owns, “to say it will be developed is anybody’s guess.”

Resident John Hess also supports a move to connect to the town’s system, referring to the potential Cypress Foothills development.

“Tying into the town’s wastewater system seems to make a whole lot of sense,” Hess said. “The town already signed an agreement with developers of Cypress Foothills for land between this development and the town—it sounds like a sewer will be close by.”

However, doing so could mean destroying high quality wetlands that lie between the Foxtrot subdivision and Cypress Foothills property, Leinsdorf pointed out.

“In the future, somebody–the town, county or applicant–will have to balance what’s more important, because immediately between these two projects there are a lot of high quality wetlands,” Leinsdorf said.

Town planner Michael Yerman clarified that while the town is not requesting that the applicant directly connect to its system at this time, in the case that Cypress Foothills is developed and the town extends its sewer line, the applicant be required to connect.

“Given the agreement that has been executed with Cypress, there is a very high likelihood that this will occur,” Yerman said. “The town has requirements in our code that require applicants to come to the service provider and ask for a connection, which is not occurring. The town has a process of determining feasibility, so we request the applicant come to us and fill out an application so we can do our due diligence.”

Leinsdorf countered this, stating that town code provides that landowners outside of town may request wastewater treatment by means of an extension of the town’s system; however, the applicant had not requested connection, as it would be cost-prohibitive at this time. He was also hesitant to accept the town’s argument concerning the potential Cypress Foothills development, a project that has been elusive at best.

“We have to wait to see what happens with Cypress Foothills,” Leinsdorf said. “That line, if it goes smoothly, is still probably at least four years away and that’s if the economy doesn’t have a downturn and the project doesn’t run into the problems it has chronically experienced. It’s a long way off in our view.”

Public Works director Rodney Due defended the town’s stance, stating that over the past eight years, the conditions of the 201 IGA have been upheld and therefore must be applied to the Foxtrot application. Interim town manager Bill Crank said that since the subdivision lies within the town’s service provider area, the applicants must abide by the conditions of the agreement.

“Our request would be at the very least, if this is approved, it should be with the condition that a future connection be made, as required by the 201 IGA,” Crank said. “At some point, whether today or in the near future, the town is entitled to know what the county planning staff’s position is on the application and the relevance of the 201. We think it applies and should be upheld.”

Planning Commission member A.J. Cattles recommended that a condition be added to the final decision that would require the applicant to connect to the town’s sewer line should it come within 400 feet of the development.

Leinsdorf pointed to a provision within Foxtrot’s declaration of protective covenants that abides by this condition, but he did not feel the need to negotiate specific details of the agreement.

“We don’t mind the condition that requires connection if it’s within 400 feet and feasible, but we don’t know when and if a line will ever be there,” Leinsdorf said. “We think it is premature at this time and I’m not aware of any statute or anything in the county’s land use resolution that requires us to discuss or negotiate details at this time. It could be a big effort to negotiate this contract that contends on so many contingencies that may never occur.”

Planning Commission member Kent Fulton requested a copy of the 201 IGA, and stated that a decision on the matter was premature prior to a more extensive review of the document. Starkebaum recommended an extension of the public hearing, which will take place at 2 p.m. on Friday, May 20 at the Crested Butte Town Hall.

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