Enough water is available for a proposed development in El Rancho, but it’s much more complicated than that.
A letter from the Evergreen Metro District to developer Jack Buchanan with Northstar Ventures says it appears that the distribution system is capable of delivering water to the site. However, available water flow for firefighting purposes needs further study.
The ball is in the developer’s court to flesh out its site development plan to determine more precisely how much water it would need. That way, EMD can more closely determine whether it can serve the development.
“A development analysis specific to the site of your proposed development is necessary in order for both Evergreen Metro and West Jefferson County Metro Districts to determine the ability and desire to serve,” the letter states. “There are substantial hurdles to overcome prior to determining service.”
At the July 28 EMD board meeting, Buchanan was undaunted by the hurdles, saying that preleasing sites on the nine-acre property was nearly complete, so he can provide details on expected water and sewer usage. He and his engineers were willing to work with the districts to overcome the hurdles.
Buchanan is proposing commercial development including a 100-room hotel on the RTD Park-n-Ride, Foothills Fire & Rescue, Alpine Rescue and former Observatory Café properties in El Rancho. He also wants to reconfigure Rainbow Hill Road, so it intersects with Highway 40 closer to the entrance to El Rancho Brewery.
The Evergreen Metro District is the administrator for the work done by the West Jefferson County Metro District, which provides water and sewer service to properties generally north of Lewis Ridge Road to El Rancho.
General Manager Dave Lighthart explained that there are two tracks that need to be worked on simultaneously: the engineering to ensure that the proposed development, and current and future property owners will have access to water and sewer, and the legal issues.
The two-acre property where the Foothills Fire station is — and is the proposed site for the hotel — is not in the West Jefferson County Metro District. Rather, it is in the Lookout Mountain Water District. If the developer moves forward, decisions would need to be made about which district would serve the property.
A legal move similar to an annexation might be needed to move the property out of the Lookout Mountain district and into the West Jefferson County Metro District.
“Inclusion is not a given and is strictly at the determination of the board of directors,” the letter said. “The potential for exclusion requirements from other districts will also need to be investigated.”
EMD board President Mark Davidson noted: “We have to look at what’s our capacity, how much is already used by taps out there and what else is within the district. We owe some level of service to those in the district before looking at (properties) out of district.”
The developer’s plan to use gray water needs to be studied to determine whether it is possible.
Buchanan said the developers are looking hard at using gray water to lessen the impact on the water system and the environment. However, EMD has requirements on how much water must be returned to the system.
“We want to have it so the entire project is not a typical user of water,” Buchanan said. “We want to have a big reduction in water usage. We view this as a chance to be a poster child for the state to conserve water use.”
Davidson said EMD is fundamentally in favor of recycling, but there is a return-flow requirement in Colorado water rights law.
“Everything that flows out we have to get a return flow through the wastewater system,” Davidson said. “It’s a hurdle we would have to figure out.”
• The developer would need to negotiate an agreement with El Rancho Brewing to lay water and sewer pipes to the proposed development, since those pipes are not already in the roadways.
• The development analysis will allow EMD to determine whether it is compatible with district systems or whether additional equipment will be needed.
“Preliminarily it’s quite possible that we can’t be everything to everybody out there without some changes to our system,” Davidson said. “That may require some additional storage capacity or pipeline capacity to make this work. There’s a good chance that that may fall to a degree to augment our system, especially with an inclusion. That’s where we are and where we aren’t.”