Sewer requirement for developer upheld

A divided Mesa County Commission on Tuesday agreed to require a developer to provide sewer service to a 98-acre commercial and industrial subdivision off 32 Road on East Orchard Mesa.

The board voted 2–1 — Commissioner Steve Acquafresca dissented — to uphold a requirement by the Planning and Economic Development Department that a sewer line be extended to each of the 19 lots in the Springfield Estates subdivision in order for the developer to receive site-plan approval.

Prior to the vote, developer and subdivision owner Gary Rinderle told commissioners he wouldn’t be able to sell the lots if a connection to the Clifton Sanitation District were required. As a result of the commissioners’ decision, he said afterward, the bank will take possession of his property.

“I’m at the bottom,” Rinderle said.

County officials who approved the subdivision’s concept plan in 2007 allowed individual sewage-disposal systems. At that time, the land was zoned for low-density residential development.

At Rinderle’s request, the property was rezoned last year to allow commercial development on six lots and industrial development on 13 lots. County Land Use and Development Director Linda Dannenberger said the rezoning was based on the future availability of sewer service. She also noted that Kurt Larsen, the former Planning and Economic Development director, based his decision on the county’s land-development code, which requires developments within a sewer plant’s service area to hook into the plant.

But Rinderle’s attorney, Robert Traylor, said the subdivision was never designed for sewer service and that such service was never required when the county approved the subdivision concept plan, plat and rezoning. He also noted that the Mesa County Health Department indicated that septic tanks will adequately serve the property.

Traylor faulted Larsen for taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach with Springfield Estates and said his decision has hiked the price of the lots and scared off potential buyers.

Rinderle told commissioners he was willing to extend sewer service to the six commercial lots and that the bank would extend his loan another six months if he could sell the industrial lots without sewer hookups. Without that concession from the county, he said, he would lose the property.

Acquafresca said he would accept the industrial parcels being served by septic tanks. But commissioners Janet Rowland and Craig Meis said they believed county planners and the developer expected the subdivision would hook into a sewer system when it was rezoned for commercial and industrial uses.

Although she didn’t wish difficulty on any business,  Rowland said, “we can’t just ignore (land development code) requirements. Development requirements should be the same for everyone.”

To try to avoid the bank repossessing the subdivision, county planners offered to allow four of the industrial lots to be built with septic tanks as long as they were connected to the sewer line within five years.

“We hope we can work something out,” Dannenberger said after Tuesday’s hearing.

Rinderle, though, said even if he could sell those four lots, it wouldn’t be enough to appease the bank.


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