In the face of increasing water scarcity and expanding development east of Durango, a homeowners group is pursuing a more stable source of water.
Homeowners in the Palo Verde subdivision are proposing to create a public improvement district in order to finance construction of a water line to serve homes in the subdivision. The 18-home development is just east of Three Springs. The water-line project, estimated to cost almost $500,000, would connect to the city of Durango’s water line in Three Springs.
La Plata County commissioners approved the petition to create the improvement district and gave homeowners the go-ahead to put three questions on the November ballot related to the creation of the Palo Verde Public Improvement District, authorizing the district to incur debt and allowing it to establish a mill levy to repay the debt. A petition to put the question on the ballot received signatures from at least 24 of the 49 potential electors in the proposed district.
While the Board of County Commissioners would serve as the governing body for the district, homeowners within the district would be on the hook for all financial obligations, not the county, according to a county staff report.
In addition to the basic cost of the water line, the district will need to pay a treasurer’s fee of $1,605 per year, which is required by state law, and an administrative fee to the county based on staff time dedicated to creating and overseeing the district.
The district plans to borrow a total of $546,573, which would require a mill levy of 88.78 mills. That would raise property owners’ current mill levy from 32.19 to 120.97 for the period of indebtedness, which is estimated to be 20 years.
The increase would raise the property taxes for the average homeowner in the district from $86 per month to $324 per month. Annually, the owner of a $363,500 house – the average home value in the subdivision – would pay $2,857 more in property taxes each year, according to a county staff report.
Homeowners who support creating the district see it as a way to counteract declining well performance as more areas are paved over and less water flows into the water table from irrigation ditches.
“Unfortunately, we see things only getting worse because of the development and the change in irrigation on the mesa,” said Joseph Feuquay, a Palo Verde resident. “We have seen wells that have produced 6 gallons per minute go to 1 gallon per minute.”