Durango, La Plata County study Grandview water

There seems to be general consensus between Durango and La Plata County about extending the city’s utility services to Elmore’s Corner, but the working relationship appears to be under some stress.

City Manager Ron LeBlanc was annoyed that county staff members passed out a legal opinion about another utility providing water services for Grandview just before a joint study session Tuesday between city councilors and county commissioners.

“We were given a copy of this a half hour before the meeting. It’s really not consistent with open and honest negotiations,” LeBlanc told The Durango Herald.

“We try to be open and honest and do things in a fair and professional way. It’s just we’re not treated that way.”

After the meeting, LeBlanc confronted Gary Suiter, the county’s interim planning director, asking him if “throwing (expletive) on the table is a professional way of conducting business?”

Suiter told LeBlanc that he didn’t “view it as a bomb. I viewed it as great information.”

But Kellie Hotter, a county commissioner, said during the meeting that she thought the legal opinion “had zero relevance.” Her comments then ended public discussion of a letter that had been addressed to her.

In the letter dated Dec. 9, 2011, Eric Jorgenson, a lawyer for the La Plata Archuleta Water District, based in Ignacio, responded to Hotter’s question about the implications of Durango not providing utilities to Grandview, would it open the door for the water district to step in?

Jorgenson outlined possible conditions for La Plata Archuleta becoming the area’s utility, but also emphasized that the district views Grandview as the city’s service area. As part of its policy, the district would not extend into a “municipal service area without the consent of the municipality.”

The city and the county are working out conditions for city provision of water and sewer to unincorporated areas, such as providing water for Grandview up to Elmore’s Corner, at U.S. Highway 160 and Colorado Highway 172.

City officials want assurances from the county that the new utility service areas won’t spur ugly urban sprawl. So the county and city are drafting transitional zoning standards to ease these service areas toward eventual city annexation.

“One thing I’m passionate about it is making sure we don’t sprawl out,” said City Councilor Christina Rinderle, who fears “billboards and auto-body shops” from Durango to Bayfield.

For aesthetics, Rinderle suggested that the county could set requirements for planting trees.

County Commissioner Bobby Lieb then quipped that the county could be putting “lipstick on a pig.”

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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