At the April 23rd Board of County Commissioners’ (BOCC) meeting, Road & Bridge Superintendent, Chris Baer, presented the commissioners with a bid for acceptance from United Companies of Grand Junction.
The bid was broken into three segments. The first reflected the approved work scheduled for this summer on County Roads 515, 832, 838, 8500, 84 and 858 on about 2.4 miles of roadway. The total amount to complete these projects is $1,717,475.
The second segment showed an Alternate (#1) for 1.4 miles of road improvements on CR 53. The total cost for construction amounted to $757,466.
The third segment was for Alternate #2, which is for .86 mile improvements to CR 61 at an estimated cost of $357,585.
Baer asked the commissioners for their acceptance to include alternate #1, mainly due to the benefits of having the equipment here, and, as a result of recent negotiations with Snow Mountain Ranch, a cost sharing agreement for the work on CR 53. Alternate #2 was not included in the project scope.
The commissioners agreed they were in favor of the road projects Baer had proposed and agreed to accept the bid, to include alternate #1, contingent upon securing a cost sharing agreement with Snow Mountain Ranch for 50% of the cost. The acceptance was approved unanimously.
The commissioners reviewed the amended Final Plat (AFP) for the Sterling Pointe Condominiums. Located .25 miles northeast of Fraser, the 17.99 acre multi-family development had been originally platted in 2008, but fell into default. Legacy Capital Partners had since acquired the property in 2016 and submitted the amended final plat for proposed development to begin this spring.
The AFP proposes 140 units, composed of 20 6-unit condo structures; 2 6-unit townhomes; and, 2 4-unit townhomes. The developer plans to construct 1 – 2 buildings this year and will ramp up construction over time. Eco Luxe Real Estate is selling the units, which start at $355,000 for a 2 bedroom condo.
“I’m glad this project is moving forward, it’s been a long time”, said Commissioner Kris Manguso.
Chairman Cimino stated, “I am very much in favor of approving this, even though the primary market is second home buyers”.
The Planning Commission had approved the AFP, with a list of eleven conditions the developer had agreed to address.
Commissioner Manguso moved to approve the AFP as presented and wished the developer good luck. The motion was passed unanimously.
Safety and Septic concerns with STRs
The commissioners resumed discussion on concerns raised at a prior BOCC meeting on the safety and potential overuse of property facilities on Short-term rentals (STR).
Julie Nessen, Community Development, led the discussion, presenting an updated overview, based on feedback received at the last meeting and research done over the past year.
On the subject of Property Manager’s responsibility, Nessen identified the benefit to their assuming responsibility would reduce the amount of work for staff in administering the program. However, the Cons included the fact that not all owners hire property managers. “Would this become a requirement?”, asked Nessen. Staff would also be challenged to determine “approved” property managers and verify information.
Nessen suggested that Safety inspections could be completed by the Fire District, who could give professional assessments and outline preventive measures. The challenges to homeowners would be with scheduling the inspections, most likely adding to the department’s already full plate.
Water & Sanitation verification would insure adequate water to the household, protects the environment and insures the health and safety of residents and guests. The challenges are that it makes more work for staff, adds possible expense to the homeowner and makes more work for septic engineers and water & sanitation districts.
Currently, all information from the applicant is self-reported and not verified by staff.
“Occupancy is the biggest thing”, said Nessen. There is a question of safety when there are 10-12 in a 2 bedroom home or condo. She also pointed out that reduced occupancy would result in decreased revenue from fees.
Nessen’s recommendations were to add requirements for conducting fire district inspections, which provide an independent and complete inspection and could also help with determining maximum occupancy, require proof of adequate insurance and obtain water & sanitation verification.
Kyle O’Herron, with A&A Septic Services told the commissioners “Half our business is done in Summit County. It is different in Summit than here. I can look up any house and see the system and when it was last serviced. Grand County is behind in that”. O’Herron added, “Disposal is a nightmare for us”. With no sludge facility in Grand County, once A&A’s 5,000 lb tanker is full, they have to wait for driver to come up from Denver to pick it up and swap it. “This limits how much I can service in Grand County”. O’Herron said, “We would greatly appreciate your looking into how we can dispose of sewage, similar to the Silverthorne wastewater plant”. He estimated that his company probably pays facility staff salaries at that location. “In the last 3 months, we’ve dumped 45,000 lbs, and it could have been double, if we had more capacity.”
O’Herron recommended that STRs should pump their septic every 2-3 years, due to capacity.
Chairman Cimino stated, “This is what we are evaluating. There are no wholescale changes at this point. This is good information to have in the next year or two” to consider some changes on STR policies. “For septic, do you have any suggestions for how to create an effective policy under the regulatory environment?”
O’Herron replied, “Summit County has a lot of STRs. They are required to have them inspected every two years”. He told the commissioners there have been cases where tanks have collapsed or failed, and clogged shut.
Nessen added that, in Summit County, they are required to pump every 3 years. She clarified that the inspection requirement will start October 1, 2019. At that time, every STR will have to be inspected and turned in with the permit application.
Tom Yoder, with Tabernash Meadows Water & Sanitation, said “it’s a growth issue”. He told the commissioners he’d had a couple of great conversations with Chris Bergquist, of Good to Go Portables, another septic service company. They talked about the challenges he had with getting sewage hauled out of the county. Bergquist had asked Yoder whether there was any way to dump at Tabernash Meadows. “We are loaded to about 20% right now, but it’s a capacity issue”. While there’s room to take some, how to handle inflow will take more work than what’s ‘coming down the pipe’. It’s not a long-term solution.
Joan Lyons, Community Development, told the commissioners that, about 15 years ago, the county had considered a sludge facility. “Everyone was onboard, but it never happened. I am not sure why”.
Robert Davis, Community Development, stated, “There are 2 fire chiefs here today. We summarized what happened last Tuesday, and the consensus is that there should be some sort of inspection. Cost issues came up, in terms of what is charged, and we are not prepared to talk about that yet”. Davis added, “the fire department is not authorized to collect/charge any fees. We have to answer as to how money would be collected and who would do the inspections. This is a strong safety concern and we should continue the conversation on that”.
Grand Fire Chief Brad White told the commissioners the Fire Departments do not have jurisdiction to conduct private home inspections. He suggested the homeowners utilize their insurance, licensed home inspector or property managers to conduct the inspections, using a checklist similar to what the fire departments utilize for inspections. “The vast majority are doing well. The idea is to catch it before it is a problem. If you’re going to go to the effort of licensing them, there needs to be a little follow up.” White said, on the flip side, commercial properties are subject to different inspections. “There’s a happy medium.”
As for the difference between commercial and residential property, it was clarified that a home or B&B with 5 bedrooms or less is categorized residential. Chairman Cimino said, “We talked about Summit County. I have witnessed 3 Summit County commissioners pushing hard for the state to classify STRs to tax them as commercial”. He added, “I am against that, but it’s a valid argument. I think it would be very harmful to our county”.
Chairman Cimino said, “I want to go back – Julie, Mr Davis, Ms Lyons, you gave us pros and cons. Do you have any strong ‘we think this’?”.
Nessen replied, “Inspections are important. Insurance covers liability, but not safety. I like spot inspections or random inspections, so at least they know we are checking”. Nessen added, “Many units in Fraser may not have CO monitors or smoke alarms. If not inspected, we don’t know. It’s more safety than liability. I am leaning toward professional inspection”.
“Water and Wastewater is being overworked, even if newer property. I think a happy medium – maybe higher capacity STRs such as the 3 bedroom that sleeps 16, that’s where we start.”
Davis stated, “We don’t want to see headlines of people passing away in our STR’s”.
Chariman Cimino commented, “Our safety record has been good so far, but there is some risk out there”.
Davis offered, “I think spot check, some form of inspection – we are prepared to investigate alternatives for that. The bottom line is some form of inspection”.
“I hear fire safety. I have not heard water concerns. Are we concerned over use of water?”, asked chairman Cimino.
Commissioner Manguso said, “The state issues well permits, they monitor and deal with it. Our water commissioners are responsible. I don’t think that’s something we want to take on”.
Lyons suggested they create an ad hoc committee. “If the requirement is to have the septic pumped every 2 years, we have to accommodate that and we need to look in to that.”
Commissioner Linke said, “my concerns are with fire safety. We’re on the right track with insurance proof and the same goes for septic. When it starts affecting the guest experience or they have to replace it, their wallet is going to be affected”. He added, “I like the idea of having an ad hoc committee for this. Part of our obligation is public safety. Visitors are assuming the homes are safe”.
The commissioners directed staff to discuss with stakeholders, operators of sanitation facilities and services and property managers and come back with options for decision at the May 21st meeting.
Chairman Cimino observed the fees had been changed twice in a very short time frame. “My thought is that fees should cover whatever this program costs. I am opposed to any fee increases in 2019 and want to hold it steady until 2020.”
Chairman Linke added, “One caveat is if clear and compelling evidence causes the program to be upside down, we may need to look at fees”.
The commissioners welcome phone calls and emails on this subject. To learn more, visit: co.grand.co.us.