Crested Butte debates when to allow sewer lines outside of town

It’s about the environment

The debate on when, if ever, to extend Crested Butte water and sewer lines beyond town boundaries is heating up with the construction of a 3,900-square-foot house just north of town.



The Crested Butte Town Council and staff batted about different views at the Tuesday, August 3 meeting. Town public works director Rodney Due took the position of trying to keep out a proliferation of ISDSs (individual sewage disposal systems) around the town and nearby wetlands.
“I think it is necessary from an environmental impact standpoint to try and not have ISDSs near town,” Due said.
The staff made some changes to ideas presented on the subject at a May work session with the council. The staff eliminated a requirement that sewer lines would be extended to accessory dwellings only if a deed restriction were placed on the unit. They also deleted a request that “the extension of a sewer main outside Town boundaries will only occur if there are public benefits provided by the user such as, but not limited to, river access trails…”
Under an ordinance to be considered by the council, water lines would be extended outside of town only to utilities, governmental or quasi-governmental entities. Tap fees would be one and a half times the in-town rate and monthly fees would be twice the rate.
The ordinance would allow residences and accessory dwellings to tap into the sewer system of Crested Butte. The sewage tap fees would be one and a half times the in-town rate and the monthly fee would be twice the in-town rate.
“One thing that really concerns me is the big house going up just north of town,” said Due. “We don’t want an ISDS failing sometime in the future just above our treatment plant. We should make it easy to connect.”
“But it bothers me that we would reward them for being able to put up a house that doesn’t follow any of our guidelines,” said councilperson Jim Schmidt.
“We had no control over their size or design,” said Due. “Isn’t it better to help stop environmental degradation and we get the tap fees and monthly fees? We get something by controlling the water and ISDS in our area.”
“I hear you, but it feels like someone could take advantage of the town,” said Schmidt.
“What we really ought to be doing is having a conversation with the County and say that we’ll extend sewer lines, but we want some say in what’s being built,” suggested town planner John Hess. “We should see where that conversation goes, even though we’ve tried it before.”
“The County has an IGA [intergovernmental agreement] with the city of Gunnison about some of this,” said Mayor Leah Williams. “We can pursue that as well. I do think that sewer is a public health and safety issue and water is an amenity. If someone wants our water, we should charge dearly for it.”
Hess said water wouldn’t be extended to individuals, just public entities.
“I certainly don’t like the idea of more ISDSs in our watershed or in the wetlands,” said councilperson John Wirsing.
“The town’s policy has been to use water and sewer outside of town as leverage to get things that benefit town, and that’s fair,” said Schmidt.
“But then you won’t get any takers,” responded Wirsing.
“The prime example is the house just outside of town,” added Due. “I think we need to worry about the nearby environment.”
Currently, the house in question has plans for an ISDS but if the council approves the ordinance, the town would try to get a sewer line extended to the property.
“They have a county permit for an ISDS but we’d contact the property owners to see if they’d be interested in getting the sewer line extended,” said town manager Susan Parker. “It would increase their property value and help protect wetlands.”
The council will consider the ordinance at the August 16 meeting.

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