Loma and Mack: The Ruler Out West
Loma and Mack, two rural communities west of town, are struggling with the basic urban convenience of a sewer system. Residents are being asked if they want it, and if they do, they may need to allow for a higher housing density to help pay for it.
Currently, Mack has a sewer system and Loma does not. Mack’s sewer plant is in need of upgrades, however, and county planners are trying to determine if residents out west want to expand the Mack facility and bring sewer services to Loma.
“Mesa County has plans to hire a consultant in 2009 to either upgrade the Mack plant to a different type of plant or do some minimal fixes to keep the plant running,” says Julie Constan, senior engineer with Mesa County Public Works.
The county has also hired the consulting firm Olsson Associates to help determine what the residents of Loma want their community to look like and offer its residents. One issue the company will focus on is the housing density the community would need in order to have a viable sewer service.
“Part of this planning effort is to recognize that growth is coming and plan accordingly,” says Nick Bowden, project manager with Olsson Associates. “There’s an appropriate way to plan for the growth without selling out those rural roots.”
The first initial survey was sent out to more than 1,000 people in the Loma area, and most of the respondents want Loma to remain an agricultural community. Some respondents in the core area surrounding the school and the post office want a few more urban amenities. “If they want sewer, it’s going to cost,” says Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis. “We need higher density so the cost is spread out amongst a larger group of people.” At this point, the county hasn’t made a recommendation regarding the Mack sewer system, so all talk of an expansion to Loma is merely one option. If a sewer system is brought to Loma, existing homes could hook up to the sewer system if they wanted to pay the hook-up fees, but wouldn’t be required to until their septic systems failed. The county will hold another public meeting regarding the Loma Community Plan at the Western Slope Cattleman’s Livestock Auction barn on March 5.
Loma could have a large employer moving to the area within the next few years if a proposed underground coal mine off Highway 139 gets support and approval. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was recently released and is available at the Fruita and Grand Junction public libraries, and is also posted online at the BLM’s website.
The final Environmental Impact Statement won’t be released until the end of the year at the earliest, and if the company goes forward with plans, construction on the mine is optimistically projected to be in mid-2010.
A public meeting in Fruita was held earlier in the month to allow residents to hear the company’s plans and at the various proposals and projections. The overall mood from the crowd, which overflowed out of a meeting room at the Fruita Civic Center, was positive. “I think most of the comments were from people who were happy that the mine was coming in,” says Randy Price, Mesa County Local Governmental Designee. The BLM will continue to accept public comments on the proposed mine until March 17.
The Redcliff Mine could employ up to 250 people when the mine is running at full capacity, and it is doubtful that all of them would want to live in Loma. Currently, the McClane Mine, which is near the proposed site of the new mine, has 27 employees, and none of them live in Loma, although six live in Mack.
County planners aren’t counting on the mine as a certainty, but they’re keeping it in the back of their minds as they consider the Loma Community Plan and the Mack Sewer system.
Loma residents want the area to remain in agriculture, and one of the area’s newest businesses, the Western Slope Cattlemen’s Auction, is a perfect fit for the area. Business has been good at the auction barn, which held its first auction in January 2008. “It’s been excellent; we beat our projections by several thousand head of cattle,” says Bill Martin, co-owner of the barn. “The sellers and the buyers both are very pleased.” Last spring, the Strayhorn Grill opened at the livestock auction, offering breakfast and lunch on weekdays. The restaurant expanded its hours last week, adding evening hours on Friday and Saturday, and adding a steakhouse menu to go with the evening hours. “We were full both nights last weekend,” says Martin, who added that a supportive buyer from Wray near the Kansas border left his house at 8:30 a.m. to make it for dinner on opening weekend.
Although it’s possible to find small-acreage hobby farms or estates in Loma and Mack in a variety of ages, sizes and designs, it’s not possible to find a 52-lot subdivision of new homes on city-sized lots. There are a few existing homes on city-sized lots in both communities, and there is a nice-looking mobile home park in Mack with newer modular homes. There are also many acres of land still in agricultural production. If current residents have any say in the matter, the area west of Fruita will stay rural, with productive agricultural land, for the foreseeable future.