Pueblo West Metro district officials reopened the community for “responsible growth” Tuesday after the board voted unanimously to authorize a new method and cost for water tap sales.
The board also approved new water and sewer rates, marking the end of a year of studies from two consulting groups and criticism from the public in the face of booming growth in Pueblo West.
The district began taking up to five applications for water taps per builder starting Tuesday, ahead of a meeting of the Pueblo West Committee of Architecture, which approves or rejects building applications.
The district will sell 400 water taps for the remainder of the year on top of 98 taps that were sold prior to a temporary pause enacted Jan. 24.
Tap sales will be limited in 2023 and 2024
Next year, tap sales will be limited to 400 and only 100 taps will be sold in 2024 unless the district is able to add more water rights to its portfolio, said Doug Proal, board president. Proal said the board will reserve 150 water taps for sale at its discretion “for commercial properties.”
“There was a lot of concern a builder could lock in 100 taps, so that’s why we are limiting it to five applications per builder. There are 18 meetings left this year so, conceivably, a builder could reserve 90 taps by the end of the year,” Proal said.
The process will entail builders getting committee of architecture approval and obtaining a regional building permit within 30 days of that approval. Builders will then have 90 days from that day to lay a foundation before they pay for and receive the tap.
If the foundation is not built in 90 days, “we will rescind the committee of architecture approval,” Proal said. That will free up unused taps, which would “be put back out on the market,” said Harley Gifford, attorney for the district.
Proal said the district struggled with how to protect “the little guy.” The new process for water tap sales is “designed to keep builders from hoarding water taps and honors bigger builders, smaller builders and private owners.”
"We can now open our community back up for responsible growth," Proal said.
“I believe this is very fair,” said Matt Smith, board vice president. “The goal is to have builders pull a permit and follow through with building a house.”
Smith also suggested the board roll out a water conservation plan to incentivize the use of xeriscaping — landscaping that requires little or no irrigation — instead of planting lawns when new homes are built.
The board will consider further increases to tap fees in the near future to help entice homeowners to take out sod and replace it with xeriscaping, in an effort to supplement a similar state plan, Proal said.
New water and sewer connection fees will increase from $20,248 to $25,258, while water-only taps will cost $20,372, up sharply from about $12,360.
The fee increases are due mostly to a plant investment fee designed to help pay for upgrades to both the water and sewer plants, Proal said.
Last year, Pueblo West sold 538 water taps.
New water and sewer fees approved
The board also voted unanimously to approve new water and sewer fees. Most residential users will see just a new base charge, described as a “readiness to serve” fee, of $2.31 monthly for water and $5.71 monthly for sewer. Commercial users will see a higher increase.
“The usage fee is not going up for 98% of customers. Most of the increase will be borne by large users such as multi-family housing and commercial users,” said Jeffery DeHerrera, deputy director of utilities for the district.
“We have all been taking a beating the last few months,” said Jami Baker Orr, board member. “But this is the responsible approach.”
Litter is another area of concern
The district’s litter problem was raised at the meeting by residents Harry Singleton and Stephen Minnich.
"There is trash and litter along U.S. 50 and I have picked up trash on Purcell and on Linden, in the area where I live. I have noticed there are other people picking up trash in their areas also,” Singleton said.
Board member Judy Leonard said trash along the highway is the responsibility of the Colorado Department of Transportation. “They don't want citizens picking up trash along the highway,” she said.
Singleton also pointed out the district’s “unsightly” 11-mile-long, 50-year-old railroad tie fence along U.S. Highway 50, which he said sends the message “we don’t care.”
Board member Kim Swearingen said the district is aware of the railroad tie fence issue, but pointed out the district does not have enough manpower to repair the fence and tearing it down would involve mitigation because of the creosote on the railroad ties.
Singleton also brought up the condition of the district’s roads, the latest resident to complain about them. He offered to personally volunteer his time to help fix the worst areas if the district would supply him with equipment and materials.
This year, the district agreed to turn over road maintenance to Pueblo County but said the transition could take five years. On April 22, the metro district will host Pueblo County officials for a tour of the Pueblo West public works facility as a part of the preparation for that transition.
The board also recognized Samantha Dosen, communications and public relations manager, as the Employee for the Year for 2021.
More metro news: Pueblo West water, sewer rate increases won't be as high as expected
Chieftain reporter Tracy Harmon covers business news. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at twitter.com/tracywumps.
This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: Pueblo West reopens water tap sales to resume new home building