Temporary moratorium only applies to properties that have not already been approved [for sewer taps]
The Salida City Council (SCC) at their regular meeting on Tuesday, June 6, voted to approve Emergency Ordinance 2023-09, imposing a temporary moratorium on sewer taps for development in areas served by the Poncha Interceptor, the main sewer pipe running along Highway 50 connecting Poncha Springs to the Salida wastewater plant.
During the public hearing, City Attorney Nina Williams laid out the case for the moratorium: “It’s unfortunate that we have to do this, but the Poncha Springs Town Board has left us no choice.”
“Salida Water [and Wastewater] cannot accept more applications until the Interceptor line has been widened to 18 inches. The necessary upgrades are estimated to cost $14 million.” (Although since that figure was presented by Salida staff and engineering consultants to the Poncha Springs Town Board two years ago, it may have increased substantially in the meantime.)
“There’s a difference of philosophy here,” Williams continued: “Salida thinks that expensive development should pay its own way. Poncha Springs thinks that all current rate payers should foot the cost as well.” Poncha Springs maintains as well that under the terms of the current Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA), Salida has no right to impose such conditions. Last month, the Town of Poncha Springs, as well as two developers, filed a legal action against the City of Salida over the issue.
Attempts to resolve issue date to 2017
Williams traced the history of the City’s attempts, starting in 2017, to warn Poncha Springs that its unbridled rate of growth was threatening the Interceptor’s capacity, and that unless steps were taken to amend the IGA between the two municipalities for sewer services (to the effect that new development would be paying for the new infrastructure necessary), Salida would be forced to impose the moratorium.
“[The SCC] acting as Water and Wastewater Board have a responsibility to current ratepayers and those not benefitting from improvements, which only benefit development in Poncha Springs,” she concluded. “This temporary moratorium only applies to properties that have not already been approved [for sewer taps].”
“Anyone who already has a sewer permit can go ahead and build – also any lots that were already platted as of April 2010. In our last correspondence on April 6, we told Poncha Springs that we would have to go ahead with the moratorium if we didn’t hear back from them within thirty days: that’s why we believe we need to [pass the moratorium today].”
“An emergency ordinance needs a ¾ majority to pass and is effective immediately,” Williams concluded.
I know you guys have to do this and you don’t have a choice,” said Salty Riggs from the BETCH housing advocacy group during the public hearing, “but this is going to have a big impact on our housing crisis. I’m afraid that if Salida is the only place people can build, people are going to get priced out. I don’t care if you let Poncha win as long as we get more housing – but you guys know what you’re doing.”
“I wish Salty would go to the Town of Poncha Springs and talk to them,” said council member Jane Templeton, “because we’ve already been at this for years.”
“I’ve been privy to a lot of these discussions, and we’ve had smoke being blown at us for a long time,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Justin Critelli: “[Poncha Springs officials] scoffed at the notion of intense growth. I don’t like being lied to – especially when we’ve gone above and beyond to deal in good faith…Poncha Springs doesn’t want to put any onus on developers at all. Growth should pay its own way.”
“I agree with Justin,” said member Alisa Pappenfort. “I don’t want ratepayers in Salida to have to pay for this. We’ve had to be the bad guys and raise rates [to keep these enterprise funds healthy] – but I’m not going to put this on Salida ratepayers or old Poncha Springs rate payers.”
“There’s no affordable housing ordinances in Poncha Springs,” said member Dominique Naccarato. “If this were for affordable housing I would feel differently, but that’s not the case.” (Naccarato also sits on the Chaffee Housing Authority Board.)
Issues to be settled in court
“There’s so much in this IGA that needs to be renegotiated,” said member Mike Pollock: “I think Poncha Springs has been hanging their hats on certain wording. I am more willing than the majority of the council to meet them more than half way, but I realize that that’s a minority opinion. I’ve been in construction for a long time and development pays for its own infrastructure, not for the pipe a half mile down the road. This will get resolved; I guess it will be in court.”
“One of the things that frustrates and disappoints me is that we had this great staff who was warning them about this and we could have done [the project] at pre-COVID prices,” said Mayor Dan Shore. “Poncha Springs was the third fastest-growing community in Colorado, with a 33 percent growth rate over the past three years. No other community in the region is growing that fast.”
“We do rate increases because we have to – we don’t want to put Salida ratepayers in the position of having to pay an extra $50 per month for the developers [in Poncha Springs].”
Critelli made the motion to approve Emergency Ordinance 2023-09. Council member Templeton seconded, and the motion carried unanimously.
Excessive vehicle idling ordinance dies, public confusion over intent
At the same meeting, the Salida City Council failed to bring up a motion to approve Ordinance 2023-08, which would have curbed “vehicle idling” within City limits to 15 minutes or less, after a barrage of citizen comment. Objections were made on grounds that ranged from deriding the ordinance as “feel-good legislation”, to saying that it would be useless without teeth to enforce it. Others said that legislation did nothing to change behavior anyway, and some expressed fears that it might impose an undue hardship on the city’s unhoused population, who might be living in their cars.
AVV has since learned that the original intent of the ordinance was solely to curb wasted fuel consumption and particulates emitted by excessive idling while unloading commercial diesel trucks, following CRS § 42-14-105. The ordinance as suggested by the city sustainability committee, which had passed on first reading, was modelled after similar ordinances in other mountain towns, with a goal of reducing pollution and health risks to residents.
Sources confirmed that there was no thought given to contact or harass people living in cars, trying keep warm, although the language is now viewed by some as being (unintentionally) overly broad.
Although ultimately declining to bring forward a motion for a vote or amendment, SCC members pushed back on some of the objections: “Regulations do sometimes change behavior,” Critelli argued, citing seat belt use and littering as examples, although “pursuing an education campaign is probably a good thing.”
Templeton expanded on that theme: “There are times when all the education in the world does not make one bit of difference. Littering is one example – people didn’t stop littering until there were fines attached. Enforceability is not the litmus test, or we wouldn’t have speeding laws. I think there are some ways that we can address this issue – there’s no reason for people to idle their trucks for 45 minutes.”
“People who live downtown can have delivery trucks idling for 30-45 minutes under their windows. I don’t think education is going to do it, there has to be a two-prong approach.”
In other business
The SCC approved a contract to JKS Industries in the amount $341, 365 for grant-funded asbestos removal during the 102 D Street demolition project; and approved Resolution 2023-27, allowing camping in Marvin Park during the Crest Crank event in September.
They proclaimed June as Pride Month and June 21, 2023 as “The Longest Day” to honor those impacted by Alzheimer’s Disease.
During public comment, former Salida City council member Cheryl Brown Kovacic announced a new nonprofit “Places to Age” under the banner of the Chaffee County Community Foundation and their Senior Housing Fund.
She noted that 27 percent of the Chaffee County population is aged 65+.and that once a senior can no longer age in place in their own home, they are forced to leave the area for assisted care. Their mission: “Bringing Assisted Living Options To Our Community”. Brown-Kovacic then requested a return visit to a future council work session to provide more details.
Salidan Mike Harvey of Recreation Engineering and Planning updated council members on the temporary changes being made at the Scout Wave, paid for with private money, to control the wave’s hydraulics during high water flows. He said that long-term solutions are also being worked on.