Another public hearing was held on the Byers Peak Ranch annexation last week. The applicant and the Town of Fraser made presentations addressing key issues. Much effort was made to unwind the fish stories made by opponents at previous public hearings and over the past couple of years. The same day the paper carried a letter to the editor which showed the unfortunate affects these stories have had on the process. The questions posed in the letter are very important – they need to be answered factually – as they were at the public hearing last week in testimony.
Question: Are the terms of the annexation equitable to the taxpayers of Grand County and Fraser?
If annexed the terms of the annexation are highly favorable to Fraser, not so much to the County — the Town will obtain a major source of revenue, water rights and water storage for the entire Fraser water system.
Question: What exactly are you providing the taxpayers whom you are asking to foot some of the bills for your development?
The applicant is not asking taxpayers to foot some of the bills. All costs and risks of the development will be assumed by the developer. Current residents and businesses of Fraser will not pay for any development — and they have not been asked to. On the other hand, Fraser taxpayers will receive a lot. At 100 percent build-out Fraser will receive revenue from water and sewer tap fees, building permits, plan review fees, use tax fees and property taxes estimated at $52.4 million. The Town projects revenue of $3-12 million just from the use tax and a savings of $4.5 million-plus on construction of water storage.
Question: What about water?
The letter is correct that development in Colorado has to indicate its source of water prior to proceeding, and working with Fraser’s engineers Byers Peak Ranch had done just that. According to Town water engineers, Fraser has enough water for the entire Town, the Ranch and other future projects. What Fraser lacks is adequate local water storage (to meet state requirements) and certain water system improvements. These carry significant costs and would be a major burden to Fraser and its residents.The storage will protect Fraser’s water rights and prepare it to respond to other water responsibilities, including maintaining flows beneficial for the entire town and environmental quality of the Fraser River. Fraser decided to require Byers Peak to provide additional water rights and construct reservoirs capable of storing 60 acre-feet of water to satisfy existing and future water augmentation requirements at no cost to current residents of Fraser. As a guarantee, if the reservoirs are not constructed, water storage must be provided to Fraser in existing reservoirs.
So, I am glad to report that citizens are not going to “have to take their hard-earned dollars out of their pockets and place them” in the pockets of Byers Peak Ranch. I am also glad to point out that this is consistent with the record of commitment, investment and giving-back of the owners that I detailed in a prior letter. The biggest risk for Fraser citizens is if Byers Peak Ranch is developed in the county and the Town doesn’t benefit. Because then, Fraser will not gain 60 acre-feet of water storage, a 6-acre municipal parcel, the potential $20 million-plus fee revenue, and long-term control of the land at little to no cost. That’s no whopper – if that happened it would be like letting the “big one” get away.
Jack Bestall is the principal of Bestall Collaborative Limited and owner’s representative to BPR LLC, Downhill Adventures LLC