Thursday, June 29, 2006

CONSERVATION IN ACTION: After years of negotiation the City of Durango purchased a 177 acre tract of land on the side of Animas Mountain known as Jacob's Cliffs from Jake Dalla. Now known as Dalla Mountain Park, the land has many unique features including spectacular cliffs and fields of enormous boulders, small open meadows and impressive views of the La Platas and Perins Peak. The City will manage the property as a public park and has granted a conservation easement to ensure that it will always remain open even if ownership should change in the future.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

CONSERVATION EASEMENTS: A conservation easement (or conservation restriction) is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows you to continue to own and use your land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs.

When you donate a conservation easement to a land trust, you give up some of the rights associated with the land. For example, you might give up the right to build additional structures, while retaining the right to grow crops. Future owners also will be bound by the easement's terms. The land trust is responsible for making sure the easement's terms are followed.

Conservation easements offer great flexibility. An easement on property containing rare wildlife habitat might prohibit any development, for example, while one on a farm might allow continued farming and the building of additional agricultural structures. An easement may apply to just a portion of the property, and need not require public access.

A landowner sometimes sells a conservation easement, but usually easements are donated. If the donation benefits the public by permanently protecting important conservation resources and meets other federal tax code requirements it can qualify as a tax-deductible charitable donation. The amount of the donation is the difference between the land's value with the easement and its value without the easement. Placing an easement on your property may or may not result in property tax savings.

Perhaps most important, a conservation easement can be essential for passing land on to the next generation. By removing the land's development potential, the easement lowers its market value, which in turn lowers estate tax. Whether the easement is donated during life or by will, it can make a critical difference in the heirs' ability to keep the land intact.

The Colorado Legislature is once again revising the state income tax credit for conservation easements to correct inconsistencies with federal law, and to remove the temptation to use the credit in ways for which it was not intended. The credit, and the ability to covert it to cash by transfer or refund, have made land protection attractive and affordable for landowners at all income levels. Resident taxpayers and nonresident landowners who are members of Colorado pass through entities may claim the credit. However, the provision of the current law that allows an easement donor to claim a credit of 100% of the first $100,000 in easement value has raised the question of whether some easement donors have "donative intent," (which is necessary to qualify for both the federal income tax deduction and the state tax credit.) The same provision has led some landowners to structure a series of easement gifts in order to take maximum advantage of the credit. This practice, while not illegal, has resulted in smaller conservation easements that are harder for a land trust to justify. House Bill 1354, to take effect in January of 2007, eliminates the "100% of the first $100,000" provision, and also clarifies who may claim the credit. It changes the formula for calculating the credit to a simple 50% of the value of a donated conservation easement, and it raises the credit cap from $260,000 to $375,000.

Source: La Plata Open Space Conservancy - 2005 Annual Report. /

BAYFIELD: The Bayfield Town Board has passed a measure restricting high-elevation development. The restrictions will promote safety and smart growth on the town's biggest hillside.

The measure, passed by the board, requires developers who want to build above 7,500 feet elevation to seek a waiver from the Town Board following a Planning Commission recommendation.

Developers of projects above that elevation would be required to submit plans for an access road, a cistern for emergency water supply, adequate water pressure and sewage, fire mitigation emphasizing defensible space, sprinkler systems for any uninhabited buildings and maintenance of the natural environment, vegetation, wildlife habitat and migration corridors.

Monday, June 26, 2006

SENIOR HOUSING: The Volunteers of America announced in their spring newsletter that their affordable housing project for seniors is on track with a projected opening sometime during the late summer or early fall of this year. The project, located off of E. 32nd Street near County Road 250, houses 30 units that will be leased to individuals and couples who meet eligibility criteria. These criteria include being at least 62 years of age and meeting the income guidelines established by HUD: 1 person =$20,800 per year; 2 people =$23,700 per year. Applicants must also pass a criminal background check. Rent is calculated at 30% of the individual or couple's adjusted monthly income and the initial lease term is one year. Each unit is approximately 500 square feet with one small pet allowable per unit adding a deposit of $300. The units will be filled on a first come, first serve basis. Applications are currently being accepted. Applications can be obtained and dropped off at the Volunteers of American Thrift Store. For additional information contact: Anna Strobl, Director of Affordable Housing for the Volunteers of America Colorado Branch at (303)297-0408.

Thank you Volunteers of America for all you do for our community. The VOA is a national, nonprofit, spiritually based organization providing human service programs and opportunities for individual community involvement including the Durango Community Shelter, Southwest Safehouse and the Thrift Store.

Friday, June 23, 2006
EWING MESA: Back in April we reported the agreement between Oakridge Energy, Inc. of Wichita Falls, Texas and Denali Partners of Minneapolis, Minnesota for the sale of 1,965 acres of land on Ewing Mesa southeast of Durango. In a press release Oakridge Energy, Inc., the owner of the tract, said the potential buyer, Denali Partners had terminated its option to buy after a 60 day inspection period. Denali Partners deposited $2 million in earnest money in April for a 60 day inspection. The earnest money has been returned, Oakridge said in its press release.

BAYFIELD: We have previously noted the severe problem the Bayfield Sanitation District is having with its water treatment system. The bottom line is the town has outgrown its simple lagoon system. In March the state health department issued a moratorium on new building permits in the town after the Southern Ute Indian Tribe complained that Bayfield was polluting the Los Pinos River, from which the tribe and Ignacio draw water. The moratorium was lifted in April with some conditions attached.

Now the Town of Bayfield and the Bayfield Sanitation District are discussing the possibility of dissolving the sanitation district. "It's always a good decision to have a town be in control of its destiny," said Rick Smith, a Town Board member. "If you have another governmental agency in the town limits, that makes it very difficult to make decisions."

The problem, as we see it, is that, in addition to Bayfield, the Sanitation District also serves Gem Village and the surrounding area. If the sanitation system is taken over by the Town of Bayfield there needs to be measures adopted to ensure the residents and businesses in Gem Village are represented in the new entity that is created.

Dissolving the district would likely require a special election, possibly in February.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

IT'S OFFICIAL: Delta Air Lines will begin offering two daily flights between Durango and Salt Lake City starting July 1.

The official word came Wednesday during a conference call with airport officials and a Delta official, said Don Brockus, spokesman for the Durango-La Plata County Airport.

Delta had announced back in March that it would begin the daily flights. But it did so believing there was $750,000 federal grant available to help subsidize lost revenue. Currently, it's not certain the grant is available but, either way, Delta plans to offer the flights for as long as they remain profitable.

The two daily flights will be serviced by 50 seat planes bringing the total of daily outbound seats from Durango to 550.

Getting to Durango just got easier. Thanks Delta!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

MERCY MEDICAL: Our new hospital Mercy Regional Medical Center is set to open June 27. The facility will set the standard for technology and services in the region and beyond. We've already experienced the economic impact in our real estate market with an influx of both professional and support staff into the area.

The new medical center in Grandview is almost twice the size of the current facility on Park Avenue with 212,000 square feet compared to 111,432 square feet.

From the entrance lobby to the top floor, the center exudes high technology and, at the same time, a homey atmosphere. For example:

** Eight-two private rooms for patients have the comforts of home - a bed that folds into a chair, private bathroom, a flat screen TV and a fold out bed for a family member;

** A double decker pass through allows supplies to the stocked from outside the room in order to minimize disruptions to the patient;

** Soft lighting, pastel colors and halls decorated with paintings, photographs, statues and wall hangings.

The regional center sits on 60 acres and was designed to allow doubling of capacity. The hospital will built out; the adjoining medical office building will build up.

The medical center represents an $82 million investment by Catholic Health Initiatives, Mercy's parent organization, and the local community. Catholic Health contributed $70 million and local donors have come with the rest. The $12 million in local donations includes $1.4 million from one individual for a 64-slice CT scanner.

We salute Catholic Health Initiatives and the good people of southwest Colorado for their efforts and generosity. Its times like this that remind us that we would not live anywhere else. Give us a call or email us if you would like more information about our wonderful area.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

DURANGO: The Durango City Council voted Monday to extend water and sewer services to a developer proposing 64 "trophy homes" in the Animas Valley. The decision came after more than an hour of testimony from the public and comments by councilors. Exchanges back and forth were fierce at times and comical at others.

The decision to extend city services to Riverside Subdivision was made on the condition that the developer:

** Not exceed the 64 homes currently approved by the county;

** Set aside 78 acres in a conservation easement;

** Develop lots in such a way to increase contiguous open space lands;

**Pay to extend water and sewer lines and pay fees toward improving the ciyt's water and sewer plant.

The proposed subdivision sits on 240 acres in the Animas Valley, just north of the city limits. It is the same site where, a few years ago, the developer sought approval for an 800 unit New Urbansim development known as River Trails Ranch. This massive development was staunchly opposed by a group called Friends of the Animas Valley and failed to gain council approval.

In other matters, the council approved Three Springs Village I - calling for 883 homes and 81,561 square feet of commercial development on 148.6 acres in Grandview. They adopted an ordinance guiding development and re-development patterns in the subdivision.

Three Springs Village is part of a larger development proposal for land near the new Mercy Regional Medical Center. The bigger tract totals 681 acres and calls for as many as 2, 283 homes, apartments and other dwellings and 864,000 square feet of commercial space.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

1ST QUARTER STATS: The real estate sales statistics are in for the January 1 to March 31 period.

In-Town Homes:

Bayfield/Ignacio - 13 sold at an average price of $262,392
Durango - 30 sold at an average price of $459,950

Condos & Townhomes:

Durango - 29 sold at an average price of $296,966
Resort - 24 sold at an average price of $360,313


Under 1 acre - 7 sold at an average price of $162,942
Under 10 acres - 24 sold at an average price of $159,197
10 to 34.99 acres - 4 sold at an average price of $402,250
35+ acres - 15 sold at an average price of $406,600

Source: Durango Area Association of Realtors

Give us call toll free (800) 834-8445 or email us if you have any questions about Durango real estate, our economy or laid back lifestyle.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

TOP EMPLOYERS: Many of our buyers want to know about job opportunities in La Plata County. Here is a list of the biggest employers in our area and the estimated number of employees in 2005:

1. Southern Ute Indian Tribe - 1091
2. Mercy Medical Center - 750
3. Durango School District 9R - 660
4. Fort Lewis College - 650
5. U.S. Government - 459
6. Wal-Mart ****
7. La Plata County - 400
8. CO State Government - 238
9. City of Durango - 270
10. Durango Mountain Resort - 125 to 690

****Information is not available

Friday, June 09, 2006

BAYFIELD UPDATE: Concerned about the capacity of Bayfield's overburdened sewer system, Interim Town Manager Joe Crain has recommended that the Town Board put a moratorium on new annexation of residential property. The recommendation comes on the heels of a nearly month long moratorium on new taps and construction permits after the Colorado public health agency concluded that the town's sewage treatment plant had exceeded capacity.

According to Crain, irrigation water is seeping into underground sewage pipes in the Bayfield Sanitization District and thereby increasing the load at the plant. Crain said, there is "no doubt" that the sewer system will exceed capacity if the water continues to infiltrate the system. Several residential developments are currently underway. Until the town knows it can meet the demands of future houses in these six developments, it should not annex new property for residential use, Crain said.

Obviously, affected developers and builders believe the recommendation is an overreaction on the part of the town while the Town Board feels it needs to be proactive in addressing the issue. Growing pains, growing pains, growing pains. Stay tuned - we'll keep you posted.

Monday, June 05, 2006

RURAL LIVING: As in-town and close to town prices have steadily increased, rural living offers many advantages including privacy, limited traffic and noise, and often a better value for your real estate dollar. You should know, however, there are a number of important differences in the level of services and access.

Over 900 miles of county roads branch throughout La Plata County. Only about 700 miles of that are maintained. Some of these roads are paved but most are gravel, and gravel roads generate dust, a consideration in the selection of your homesite. On gravel roads, you may also expect small rocks to be kicked up by other vehicles, sometimes causing chipped or cracked windshields. In most of our subdivisions lying in the county, the roads are private and the residents are responsible for road maintenance and snow removal. Before purchasing a property you should determine if the roads are public or private. We can help with that. If the roads are private, be sure to ask the Homeowners Association how residents are charged for maintenance and how often it is performed. Here, we can also assist you.

Emergency services such as law enforcement, fire and ambulance are provided to most areas of the county, but rural residents must understand that response times will likely be longer than in the city.

Living in La Plata County we enjoy a true four season way of life. In the winter expect to deal with snow and ice and consider owning a four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive vehicle. The La Plata County Road and Bridge crews do a heroic job of keeping roads clear of snow during winter storms. Main county roads are vital to public safety and the smooth flow of traffic and therefore they receive priority maintenance. These include County Roads 240, 501, 141 and 310/318. During winter storms, many of these high-traffic roads are plowed several times a day. In subdivisions, Homeowner Associations employ private contractors to conduct snow plowing and removal. Of course results vary, but in most subdivisions residents are able to carry on with their lifestyle. Winter snows bring a lot of work with them but they also bring beauty, quiet and most of all moisture. The longer you live here the more you appreciate the saying "Think Snow."

Call or email us if you have questions about living in our wonderful area.