Realtors: City ordinances prohibit growth

Craig Realtors Association members criticized city policies and ordinances during Tuesday's Craig City Council meeting, saying building, parking and landscaping regulations, as well as the cost of city services, prohibit growth in Craig and in their wallets.

Georgina McAnally, owner of American Northwest Realty, said there are at least 340 platted residential lots in Craig that are not served by city water and sewer lines, increasing development costs by $30,000 to $50,000.

Public Works director Bill Early estimates it costs $50 per foot to extend a water or sewer line.

That, McAnally said, makes real estate sales difficult. Despite the growing need for lots, even those priced as low as $1,800 don't sell because of the cost to extend water and sewer lines to the property, she said.

Most of the areas in question are in platted subdivisions and should have had those lines installed during their development, but did not because of the oversight of past city councils and staff members, said Vicky Burns, owner of Brass Key Realty. Therefore, the city should bear the responsibility and the cost of extending the lines.

"I think you ought to pay for putting the lines in," Burns said. "There should have been water and sewer put to them when the subdivisions were done. It's a lack of follow-up by the city to make sure all services were put in when the subdivisions were created."

Upgrading the lines would make the property sellable, benefiting the city in increased property tax, she said.

Kevin Peck of Northwest Title Company said the average sale price for a home in Craig is $133,214, which translates to $709 to $831 in property tax revenue the city's share of which would be approximately $400 a year. The city would also earn the revenue from tap fees and service fees, McAnally said.

Mayor Dave DeRose said tap fees are used for future water and sewer facility improvements and services fees pay for line maintenance.

"The city government is responsible for helping us promote our community to bring people in," she said.

The problem, City Attorney Sherman Romney said, is that somebody has to pay in the end whether it be the developer or the taxpayer.

"The other alternative is to maybe have a tax increase to pay for this growth to make these improvements that would benefit just a few people," he said.

Those who want to purchase residential lots aren't the only ones suffering from city policies, Burns said. Anyone wanting to open a business suffers too. City ordinances regarding architectural design, parking requirements and landscaping requirements are prohibitive to new businesses.

"When people see what other businesses do they laugh when they compare that to what is required," Burns said.

Road and Bridge Department Director Randy Call said it doesn't cost any less to develop a subdivision in Craig than it does in Steamboat Springs. Romney suggested that special assessment districts be established in which the city would extend water and sewer lines and charge the property owner or developer for the work. Although an option, it wasn't favored because the costs to complete the work would not be less, City Manager Jim Ferree said. The city can't do the work because it doesn't have the manpower, so it would have to request bids for the project.

"Do we tell taxpayers 'You're now responsible to pay for what happened in the past,' or do we let economic growth pay for economic growth?" DeRose asked. "This council is not anti-growth and if you think that, I'm sorry. I think we are responsible for the infrastructure, responsible to maintain it. I think development pays for development."

The dilemma was called a double-edged sword. If the city agrees to pay to extend water and sewer lines, unaffected taxpayers will be paying for improvements that don't benefit them. If the city doesn't do something, people can't develop those lots because it is so cost-prohibitive. Councilors Kent Nielson and Don Jones and Ferree and Romney agreed to serve on a committee to explore options. Several members of the Craig Association of Realtors said they would also serve.

In other business, the council:

commended Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta and his staff for earning their state accreditation, a time consuming and difficult process that approximately 30 departments in Colorado have received. Vanatta estimated there were only two or three other departments on the Western Slope that had received the accreditation.

voted unanimously to award a bid to Victory Motors in Craig for $20,641 for an animal control van.

voted unanimously to award a bid to APH Construction in Craig for $47,770 for the construction of a 25-foot by 50-foot addition to the north Road and Bridge Department shop.

voted unanimously to award a bid to American Leak Detection of Denver for services not to exceed $7,500. American Leak Detection charges $825 per day for its services and Public Works Director Bill Early estimates they can inspect half the cities 65 miles of pipe for the $7,500 cap.

voted five to one to award a bid for $2,975 to Layton Truck and Equipment for a utility truck body for the Water Department. The body will be a Knapheide. Mayor Dave DeRose was the opposing vote, saying, in his experience, Knapheide truck bodies had shorter life spans. The bid was the lowest of the three received.

voted unanimously to award a bid for $4,438 to Kois Brothers Equipment for a snowplow for the Parks and Recreation Department.

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