Officials ramp up Mt. CB sewer capacity issue with developers

Board stays with ‘growth has to pay its own way’ policy

By Mark Reaman 

A meeting between developers planning projects in Mt. Crested Butte and the Mt. Crested Butte Water and Sanitation District will be held this month to talk about the problem of inadequate sewer line capacity in town. The meeting between developers and district staff is intended to discuss how to “equitably address” the cost of increasing the capacity of the trunk line. District manager Mike Fabbre has said the board’s position is that “development must pay its own way,” so they are not inclined to give a green light to major developments in the district until the problem is addressed. “The issue must be addressed before new, major developments can connect to the district’s sewer system,” he said.

In a recent email to some Mt. CB developers, the district made clear that “As you are probably already aware, the wastewater collections interceptor line has been identified as having a capacity issue that will need to be addressed before your development project can move forward… the district will be conducting an in person meeting to discuss the details of the interceptor line and next steps in the process.”

Fabbre made clear that while the line at times approaches capacity, it is the return of big developments in town that is causing the issue. That is what will be brought up at the meeting. “The capacity of the interceptor line, the main line going up and down Gothic Road is the crux of the issue,” Fabbre said Tuesday. “Working with our engineers, HDR, the conversation will be looking at the capacity on the line. There is still some capacity but not a lot left. We have capacity to support some single-family homes coming into the system in the future. If not for the big projects, the capacity issue wouldn’t be a big concern right now.”

Citing eight larger developments on the horizon, including the Villages at Mt. Crested Butte, Prospect, Honey Rock Ridge, the Nordic Inn, Crested Butte Ridge, Bear Crossing, Hunter Ridge and 17 Marcellina, Fabbre said it was these types of developments that are raising concerns for the district. “The existing trunk line does not currently have the capacity to serve all of these large new developments,” he stated. 

“The approach right now is we aren’t saying there should be a moratorium with development but with what is being proposed, it is putting us over the top. The Villages project is probably front and center.”

Villages project manager Crockett Farnell of Black Dragon Development said his group understands the situation and is hoping for a positive progress update. “The Villages Project team is continuing to work with the district on design and permitting for work on our site with an anticipated start date for infrastructure of early spring 2025,” he said.

Fabbre said the district was trying to be responsive and trying to determine the best next steps and who will pay for those steps. “The board has been consistent and always said that development should pay its own way,” he emphasized. “The average customer doesn’t feel they should be responsible for expanding this pipe when the only reason the pipe has to be addressed is because of these big developments. Having this meeting is meant to figure out the details. Figure out how much work there will be. There are a lot of questions still being worked out and we are determining next steps in the process and what items may be completed in 2024 such as geotech and survey work.”

Working with HDR engineers, Fabbre said that firm has dealt with similar situations before. “They have a wealth of knowledge and have been through situations like ours where we are going through growing pains,” he said. 

No estimated cost of expanding the capacity has been nailed down. “We are working on details and there are a lot of contingencies and unknowns,” said Fabbre. “There is a lot of work to do to figure out costs. We have no comfortable estimate right now. We do know it is a significant growing pain for a very small district like ours. We understand they are in our district, and we are actively trying to solve some pretty complex issues that are being asked of us right now.”

When asked if the district would give the go-ahead with the Town of Mt. Crested Butte and provide the green light to major developments in the wings, Fabbre pointed to the condition of approval in the Villages PUD as an example. It provides that the town will not issue any construction, excavation, land disturbance or building permits for the project until the developer obtains the district’s final approval of the water and sewer plans and enters into a development improvement agreement with the district. Approval from the district will include an agreement regarding how the trunk line expansion costs will be allocated among new developers because “the reality is that capacity is not available in the pipe for the big projects.”

“We hear the urgency,” Fabbre continued. “But the level of what they are asking us to improve instantaneously is hard for the district given the situation. Ultimately, we want a successful outcome for everyone in the community.”

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