Whitewater poised for growth, still a great place for solitude

The collection pipes for the new sewer system in Whitewater are currently being installed.

There are plenty of small acreage properties available on both sides of Highway 50 in the Whtiewater area. This area in the top photo, off Reeder Mesa Road on the east side of Highway 50, will not have sewer service when the new service from Clifton Sanitation begins next year. (Photos by Penny Stine/Real Estate Weekly)

Mesa County has written the plan for Whitewater, and is now implementing it through the rezoning process and by bringing sewer to the rural community. “518 parcels have the potential to be rezoned,” says Michael Warren, senior planner with Mesa County. The county is sponsoring a rezoning effort, encouraging property owners to participate in the process that will change the zoning of their property from rural, agricultural/forestry/transition to urban. As part of the Whitewater master plan, the county has already determined where the mixed use, commercial and industrial land will be, as well as which parcels will remain residential.

“We will probably get quite a few folks who will rezone,” says Warren. “It will eliminate the step of rezoning when and if they want to subdivide.”

Not only does it eliminate the future step, it eliminates the cost. The county is waiving the standard $500 rezoning fee for property owners who choose to rezone now. “I think once the sewer gets going, we’ll see some pretty good movement out there,” says Warren. “You might see are a convenience store with a post office, a gas station or a liquor store, maybe a real estate office.”

Martin Garber is one property owner who plans to take the county up on their offer to rezone. Garber owns six parcels within the old Whitewater downtown area and plans to rezone all of them, although he has no plans to subdivide the property at this point. “I’m not sure that it will benefit me, but it might benefit whoever I sell the property to,” says Garber, although he has no plans to sell the property right now, either. He’s thinking further down the road. “This is my retirement fund.”

Garber also plans to hook up to the sewer system as soon as it becomes available, although the county won’t require existing property owners to hook up to the system until their septic systems fail.

“I’m anticipating maybe 75 percent of property owners will hook into it right away” says Julie Constan, engineer with Mesa County. “They’ll receive a discounted tap fee due to a grant from Department of Local Affairs.”

The discounted tap fee will be $2500 per residential unit, which may sound high until the regular tap fee of $8,000 to $10,000 is considered. According to Constan, a new septic tank stats at $8,000 and goes up from there, so residents who choose to hook into the sewer system are getting a great deal.

Right now, phase one of the project is nearing completion. The collection pipes for the new sewer system should be in place by April 2009. When the county went out to bid for that portion of the project last fall, 13 different companies submitted bids for the project, which was awarded to a local company, Mendez Construction.

“We’ve never had that many companies provide a bid like that,” says Constan, who hopes that there will be several local companies bidding on the next phase. “I know our county commissioners want to see local companies winning our bids.”

The next phase of the sewer system will be a lift station that pumps wastewater up the hill from Whitewater so gravity can carry it back down to the Clifton Sanitation District. The design of the project should begin soon, and construction of the lift station itself should begin in the fall. If all goes according to plan, Clifton Sanitation will be providing sewer service to the old downtown Whitewater area by March 2010. At this point, sewer service will not extend east across Highway 50 or too far south of Highway 141, but it can be expanded to provide for such services when developers are willing to pay for the costs of expansion.

Further down Unaweep Canyon along Highway 141, the town of Gateway is experiencing a temporary lull in development. The town’s biggest employer, Gateway Canyons Resort, has slowed its pace of construction due to the national economy, although they are continuing with two projects that are nearing completion, Palisade Event Center and Mission Bell.

The Palisade Event Center will be a 20,000-square feet building with conference rooms, a potential restaurant and a ballroom. It could not only be a great place for conferences and business retreats, but weddings and educational events. Mission Bell will be a large outdoor stage area.

The company continues to cautiously move forward with plans for a private golf course and a golf course residential community. At the same time, it’s also considering alternative amenities that would attract second homebuyers to the area if they should choose not to go forward with the golf course.

“I can’t tell you which way it’s going to go,” says John Williams with the Gateway Canyons business office. “We’ve got a lot of confidence that we’ll be able to have a fairly unique resort and residential community.”

Although the county wants to see urban density in a small portion of the greater Whitewater area, there is plenty of open land off Highway 50 and along some portions of Highway 141. It’s possible to find small acreage parcels, and there is irrigation water available in some areas, allowing homeowners to not only keep horses, but also to grow alfalfa for feed.

Urban amenities may come to some parts of Whitewater, but others will remain rural for a long time.


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