Monday, April 30, 2007

HELPING OTHERS: RE/MAX International announced that its affiliated offices and sales associates donated a total of $11.3 million to the Children's Miracle Network in 2006, making the third straight year that our organization has increased its annual giving by $1 million or more.

Since RE/MAX became the official sponsor of the Children's Miracle Network in 1992, its affiliates have raised more than $75 million for the charitable cause.

Founded in 1983 and headquartered in Salt Lake City, the Children's Miracle Network raises funds for about 170 hospitals in North America. Last year those hospitals provided services to over 17 million children.

Affiliates of RE/MAX raise funds for the Children's Miracle Network in different ways. Some agents participate in the Miracle Home Program, through which they donate money to the organization for every real estate transaction closed. Many offices hold fund-raising events, including golf tournaments and auctions. Offices in the RE/MAX system who have 100% agent participation are designated Miracle Offices.

Not only is the Children's Miracle Network a wonderful way to give back to our community but it also feels good to be able to help kids across the nation.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY: Durango's hotel guests may be asked to pitch in a few extra dollars to pay for a convention center under a proposal by a downtown business group. The Durango Business Improvement District Board of directors is crafting a lodger's tax increase, with the intent of placing it on the November ballot for voter's approval.

The tax would fund a convention and events center, an idea that local business leaders have been trying to bring to fruition for years. The board believes the tax would be the best source of revenue for a conference center because local would not have to pay for it.

Durango needs a convention center because not having one turns many convention possibilities away. Plus, the town also needs a building to hold its own events.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe is currently under construction with their new Sky Ute Casino Resort in Ignacio. This new facility will include conference facilities. We believe this a terrific opportunity for the City of Durango, by developing our own convention facilities, to compliment and work with the Tribe in bringing more people and attention to our wonderful area. /

Friday, April 27, 2007

END O' DAY END: Razing of the End O' Day Motel will eliminate an affordable housing option for Durango residents. Owner Tracy Reynolds said he hopes to gradually empty the building of its residents by ceasing to rent rooms once tenants leave. Reynolds pledged during a Durango Planning Commission meeting to help tenants find somewhere else to live before he destroys the building this fall or next summer.

Jennifer Lopez, executive director of La Plata County Regional Housing Authority, said several affordable housing developments were in the works, including 63 heavily discounted units in Three Springs.

I don't know what "heavily discounted" means but some tenants at End O' Day are paying about $460 a month and even doubling up. Where are these folks going to live? I wish I had a solution. /

Thursday, April 26, 2007

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST: The End O' Day Motel in Durango is nearing the end of its days, to be replaced by a mixed use development of commercial and residential condominiums.

"The End O' Day Motel is something that has definitely outlived its useful life," said owner Tracy Reynolds. Reynolds' plan to raze the building located at 360 E. Eighth Avenue, north of the Sonic Drive-In, was approved by a unanimous vote of the Durango Planning Commission on Monday. The City Council is expected to hold a hearing on the project in mid-May.

Reynolds wants to replace the motel, which has become an eyesore with fading paint, a lifeless electric sign and a potentially dangerous electrical system that requires an on-call electrician, with a three story condominium development and four commercial units.

Reynolds said he intends to build the development according to Built Green Colorado principles including the use of recycled materials. "We feel like it's a responsible thing to do, and also a good way to market the project." /

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

DOWNTOWN DURANGO: A robust economy has led to a surge of investment in downtown Main Avenue. The sounds of saws and hammers emanate from storefronts from the 1000 block to the 800 block. Retro red brick and historic looking windows are replacing stucco along the street, and developers can't build condos fast enough. Developers are taking the time and expense to make the renovations look good, often with nods to Durango's aesthetic history.

Strong retail sales have helped. For the last 3 years sales tax increases have been steady and robust. Sales tax receipts in the Central Business District were up 4.6 percent last month compared to March 2006. /

Monday, April 23, 2007

FIRE: Colorado wildfire officials expect a hot, dry summer to translate into an active fire season statewide this year but a moist spring in southwest Colorado may be good news for the early part of the summer.

Wildfire specialists are especially concerned about areas west of the Continental Divide, including Durango. Pam Wilson, fire information office for the U.S. Forest Service in Durango, said that local agencies are expecting an "average to above average season."

An additional $3.5 million has been added to Colorado's wildfire plan. This will allow for three single engine tanker planes to remain on call in strategic fire areas throughout the fire season. The money will also provide ten fire engines that will be posted in "red zones" at the wildland urban interface where dwellings are in immediate danger. /

Sunday, April 22, 2007

DOGS: I'm sure there is not another city in the U.S. as "dog friendly" as Durango. Just take a stroll down Main Avenue and see. Durango does have a lease law and animals are to be restrained by physical means.

The Durango Dog Park Off-Lease Area is the only public facility within the city limits that allows dogs to play without the use of a lease. It is located at the base of Smelter Mountain and has pet pick up bags and trash containers on site. Here are the guidelines for the park:

* All dogs must be under visual supervision and voice control from the owners at all times.

* Aggressive dogs are not permitted.

* Owners are legally responsible for any and all injury or destruction of property caused by their dog.

* All Dogs must be on a leash prior to entering and upon leaving the off leash area.

* All dogs must be property licensed, vaccinated and wear a collar with identification tags at all times.

* Dispose of garbage properly.

* Respect other users in the area such as hikers, bicyclists and boaters. /

Saturday, April 21, 2007

LANDOWNERS RESPONSIBILITY: The Board of County Commissioners is enforcing the weed management and enforcement plan for La Plata County. this plan involves the public and is part of the Colorado Noxious Weed Act. Her are a couple of key excerpts from Article II, Chapter 58 of the La Plata County Code:

* It is the duty of all persons to use integrated methods to manage and prevent the spread of all noxious weeds if the plants are likely to be ecologically destructive or aesthetically or materially damaging to neighboring lands.

* Persons are prohibited from importing seeds, propagative plant parts or live plant and cultivating a noxious weed within La Plata County, and such person doing so shall be fully prosecutable.

La Plata County will not compel the management of noxious weeds on private land without first applying the same or greater management measures to any land or rights-of-way owned or administered by the BOCC that are adjacent to the private property. /

Friday, April 20, 2007

WEED MANAGEMENT: Biological control methods (grazing, predators, parasites) have typically been the preferred method of noxious ween control, but scientists are learning that to be successful, we must use an integrated approach and a combination of methods including: prevention (seed dispersal, irrigation management), mechanical (cutting, mowing, hand pulling, burning)< cultural (crop rotation, mulching), and chemical (weed oils, herbicides). Problems arise with all of these methods when they are applied individually. One example is grazing cattle. It may work well as a biological control method, but the cattle need to be quarantined for five days, otherwise, the seed may be redistributed elsewhere through their excrement. /

Thursday, April 19, 2007

NOXIOUS WEEDS: Noxious weeds have become a problem in much of the western United States and La Plata County is no exception.

Noxious weeds differ from other plants because they are not native to the area in which they are found. They ofter go unimpeded by natural predators and enemies such as insects and disease. Generally aggressive and competitive, they often overtake native species by stealing moisture, sunlight and nutrients - effectively eliminating them. Noxious weed that are found in wetland areas block water access from animals that live there, along with their natural predators. This disrupts the entire ecosystem.

The Colorado Noxious Weed Act, created in 19990, assists county and city governments in implementing management programs to deter these plants from infesting weed free zones. They also help educate the public on the negative environmental impacts of noxious weeds and how to avoid spreading them. Simple precautions such as wiping your feet before entering Open Space Parks and staying on designated trails have proven effective.

Colorado has a diverse plant population and it is sometimes hard to differentiate between native and invasive species. Through education, research, and proper precautions, we can fight the spread of noxious weeds. It is now mandatory for property owners to regulate and control noxious weeds on their land. /

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

ECONOMY: The 2006 stats are in and La Plata County's economy continues to improve. The leading sectors of our economy - tourism, energy, real estate and construction - all showed signs of continued growth.

Indicators for the tourism sector, for example, showed steady growth. Airport passengers at the Durango-La Plata County Airport increased 12% over 2005. More tourists and locals took a ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad; a 5% increase. An 11% increase in visitors to Mesa Verde was the largest change since 2001. Overnight guests increased and the lodgers tax was up 7.2 %.

Employment growth continued in 2006 with an increase of 7.2 %. Prices for local agriculture were mixed with alfalfa hay prices increasing 5.6% while calf prices declined 1.1%.

Both the real estate and construction sectors of the economy continued to grow. The median residential real estate price increased by 14%. Average prices increased 13% in 2006 and 21% in 2005. Building permit values increased 22%.

Finally, both the population and financial resources available in La Plata county continued to grow in 2006. Population, as measured by the installation of new residential electric meters increased 2.9%. Bank deposit information provided by the FDIC shows an increase of 16.7% in 2006. /

Sunday, April 15, 2007

FLOOD INSURANCE: What is a Flood? Flood insurance covers direct physical loss caused by "flood." In simple terms, a flood is an excess of water on land that is normally dry. Here's the official definition used by the National Flood Insurance Program:

A flood is "A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or two or more properties (at least one of which is your property) from:

** Overflow of inland or tidal waters;

** Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source;** Mudflow*, or

** Collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined above."

* * Mudflow is defined as "A river of liquid and flowing mud on the surface of normally dry land areas, as when earth is carried by a current of water...

"Who Must Maintain Flood Insurance? Anyone who purchases a home in a designated 100 year flood plain AND borrows money from a Federally Insured Lender using the property as collateral must furnish evidence of flood insurance to the lender. Also, as many of our friends and neighbors found out after the Missionary Ridge and Valley fires in 2002, flood insurance is vital in offsetting losses incurred as a result of the mud slides experienced thereafter.

We encourage anyone living and a designated flood plain or mud slide prone area to investigate flood insurance. It can be purchased through your local insurance agent and is underwritten by the national Flood Insurance Program, a Division of FEMA. /

Saturday, April 14, 2007

DURANGO LIFESTYLE: The Durango Bluegrass Meltdown is underway. We began last night with a concert sponsored by the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge at the Railroad Museum. The bluegrass band Lonesome Traveler from Fort Collins performed. This talented group played everything from cowboy ballads to Irish jigs to "Bill Monroe" style bluegrass.

After the concert we dropped by the Diamond Belle Saloon and listened to the music of Greg Ryder (he could double for Marty Robbins) then on to a quiet dinner at the Mahogany Grille backed by the beautiful piano music of Lacy Black.

As we left the Strater Hotel we came across a group of individuals jammin' bluegrass in the lobby. A night out in Durango; it just doesn't get any better! /

Friday, April 13, 2007

GOING GREEN: The City of Durango, which started buying renewable source electricity in 198 when La Plata Electric Association offered wind-generated power, now is going all green.

City officials announced Thursday that 100 percent of the power it buys will be generated from renewable sources. Green power currently constitutes about 10% of city power purchases.

The extra the city pays for green energy will add about $120,000 a year to its electrical bill, but the extra cost will be offset by an LPEA energy audit aimed at showing the city how to be more efficient and cut energy use.

Kudos to the city leadership for taking the initiative in energy conservation. /

Thursday, April 12, 2007

FALLS CREEK: The U.S. Forest Service intends to forge ahead with a plan to chip and seal Falls Creek Road and convey an easement to La Plata County.

Deputy Regional Forester Greg Griffith has signed a decision notice and finding of "no significant impact" for the Falls Creek improvement project. An environmental assessment also has been completed, the San Juan Public Lands Center announced.

Falls Creek Road provides access to several private subdivisions and the national forest. The road receives average daily traffic that exceeds its carrying capacity and driving conditions on this segment of road are becoming unsafe, the Public Lands Center said. Use of the road is expected to increase with growth.

A year ago a group of residents along Falls Creek Road objected to Forest Service plans because they said they had not been properly notified of the environmental assessment. And they said the assessment did not properly address affects on wildlife or the area's archaeological remnants.

While the Forest Service's finding is subject to appeal, work is schedule to begin this summer with the county contributing labor and equipment and the Forest Service and Falls Creek Ranch providing the funding. /

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

ENERGY: La Plata County government is studying ways to conserve energy and resources associated with its daily operations including making buildings more energy efficient.

The county has already done one energy audit, at the state's expense, that shows more can be done to make county owned buildings more energy efficient. Now the county plans to hire a private company to provide more information about ways to conserve energy, how much certain improvements would cost and what energy savings will result. /

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

NATURAL GAS & YOU: In considering the purchase of a property in La Plata County, it is important to investigate the real estate listing and prior deeds to find out the exact nature of mineral ownership interests. Often, different parties own the surface and the subsurface. This is commonly referred to as "severed estate" land. Most of the property in La Plata has been severed. Previous owners may have sold the mineral rights or granted right-or-ways or easements that are transferred with the property. Because of the long history of natural gas activity in La Plata County severed estates, easements and right-of-ways are common on property in our area.

Well established Colorado law recognizes that access to the mineral estate from the surface estate is necessary in order to develop natural resources. The law provides for access to the mineral estate by allowing "reasonable use" of the surface. The Colorado Oil and Gas conservation Commission (COGCC) rules require surface owner consultation and strongly recommend that a surface agreement be negotiated, in good faith, with a surface owner prior to granting a drilling permit. Over 99% of all wells in La Plata County have utilized surface owner negotiations to decide well locations, road use, road and pipeline construction, fencing, crop reclamation, etc. If a surface agreement cannot be successfully negotiated the COGCC rules allow for a surface bond to be posted with the state. The bond is intended to protect the surface owner from "unreasonable crop losses or land damages from the use of the premises" --not for perceived economic loss associated with mineral owner access.

There are hundred of miles of roads constructed as part of an oil and gas lease after companies negotiated and paid for easements with landowners, if required. Known as "lease roads," they are maintained by the industry but often may be utilized by residents living in the area. Companies do not routinely remove snow if access to facilities is not necessary. Generally, companies do repair road damage caused by construction as soon as weather and equipment availability allow. Most companies are willing to work with residents to make lease road conditions acceptable, however, there is no guarantee that a lease road will be accessible to passenger vehicles.

Due diligence is mandatory when purchasing any property and that's where we can help. Call or email us if we can assist you. /

Monday, April 09, 2007

BLUEGRASS: One of our favorite events is coming up this weekend. The annual Durango Bluegrass Meltdown begins Friday and continues through Sunday. This celebration of spring and bluegrass music is a perfect example of what makes Durango special.

Bluegrass bands and musicians from across the country will be here showcasing their talents. In addition to regularly scheduled performances at the Abby Theater, Diamond Circle Theater and the Durango Arts Center, impromptu sessions will spring up on street corners and restaurants all over town.

Last year Mary and I were in Farquahrts. A couple of guys wandered in, started playing and within minutes the group grew to about 8 pickin' and jammin' and having a great time.

In Durango you never know when a party will break out. /

Sunday, April 08, 2007

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, which took 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. /

Saturday, April 07, 2007

SPRING MEANS BRUINS: As spring approaches we need to be reminded that warmer weather also brings back our old friend, the black bear. Even thought it's early in the season there have already been 2 bear sightings this year.

Black bears tend to frequent the Durango area when they come out of hibernation in the spring and in early August as they start packing on fat for their winter hibernation. Although they're here for their natural foods such as berries, oak acorns, plants, vegetation and the like they've also found that we humans provide them with a food bounty of our own - be it bird seed, fruit, pet food, barbecue grill scraps and trash.

Normally shy and secretive in the wild, bears have an amazing sense of smell and have learned to associate humans and their homes with food. Sadly, people unwittingly feeding bears NEVER ends well for the bears. Bears that pose a human safety risk or cause property damage in their attempts to get food are captured and moved away. If the same bear causes problems anywhere else after being relocated it is humanely destroyed by wildlife officers. Bumper stickers seen around town proclaiming "Garbage Kills Bears" are all too true.

Don't attract bears to your property through your carelessness with trash and other attractions. Safely store trash during the week and put it out the morning of pickup only. Take down bird feeders when bears are around or make them absolutely inaccessible to bears. Securely store or remove anything else that may attract bears to your home. The responsibility of coexisting with bears lies with all of us that have chosen to live in bear habitat. Be part of the solution and be considerate of the welfare of our bears and your neighbors.

If Mary and I can answer questions or provide more information give us a call or email. We'll be happy to assist you. /

Friday, April 06, 2007

MORTGAGE LENDING: A national tightening of mortgage lending requirements is hurting some local mortgage brokers and prospective home buyers. Durango mortgage brokers say deals have dried up for sub-prime mortgage customers and potential home buyers with marginal credit and no money for a down payment are being shut out of the market. People without good credit and good income are not able to get 100% financing and they're unable to purchase homes that three months ago they could have purchased.

A leading lender of subprime home mortgages, New Century Financial of California, filed for bankruptcy on Monday. More than two dozen subprime lenders have shut down in recent months and many more are scrambling to stay in business.

Subprime loans target borrowers with low credit scores. The loans carry relatively high interest rates but can offer low initial payments. As Realtors we obviously promote home ownership. That being said, we don't believe, however, that individuals with poor credit should be taking on more debt and we don't believe that lenders should be fast and free wheeling in their lending practices. Trouble always follows.

We've been through the tough financial times in the mid 70's and mid 80's. We've seen what happens when lenders lower their standards. Many of todays mortgage brokers were in grade school then. /

Thursday, April 05, 2007

WILDFIRE: April is Wildfire Prevention and Education Month. Wildfire is the greatest natural disaster threat in southwestern Colorado. An increasing number of people are building homes in forested areas. Add to that the impacts of drought, insects and climate change and wildfire is an even more likely event.

Spring is the time to be proactive in preparing properties to lessen the impact or damage from wildfire. Two steps to take immediately include creating and maintaining a defensible space around structures and preparing the family for potential evacuation.

Other suggestions include:

* Properly thin and remove trees and shrubs within 30 feet of your home;

* Remove tree branches overhanging the roof;

* Clear roof gutters of leaves, branches and other debris;

* Trim grass and weeds to a low height;

* Store combustible and flammable items safely;

* Keep your chimney screens in place and in good condition;

* Ensure you have an outdoor water supply with a hose to reach all parts of the home;

* Place fire extinguishers in all buildings and be certain they work;

* Make sure your street and address signs are visible and readable;

* Keep tools such as rakes, shovels and hoes accessible in case they are needed;

* Discuss an evacuation plan, do a fire drill and map out meeting points ahead of time.

A home self-assessment, list of fire mitigation contractors, downloadable risk maps, fact sheets and brochures can be found at /

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

SILVER PEAKS: The Durango City Council voted 3-1 Tuesday to approve Hillcrest owner Ed Lewis' plan to turn the first 130 apartment phase of his Hillcrest Apartments complex across from Fort Lewis College into the Silver Peaks Condominiums.

Lewis promoted the subdivision as the creation of affordable housing, with sale prices ranging from $130,000 to 230,000 for the one, two and three bedroom condos. Although the 240 unit Hillcrest Apartments are not considered affordable rentals, the sales pitch appeared to invite criticism from affordable housing advocates who said that there was nothing to keep these prices from rising. Lewis agreed saying, "This is a free market country."

The council also voted 3-1 to redefine the height of downtown buildings, deciding that height will be measured from the sidewalk. The new definition also has a built-in system to step buildings down slopes.

Speaking of our City Council, the voters of Durango opted for change rather than status quo electing three new faces to the council. Congratulations to Leigh Meigs, Michael Rendon and Scott Graham - welcome to the City Council. /

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

ENERGY CONSERVATION: Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, which supplies electricity to rural cooperatives such as La Plata Electric, recently initiated a compact florescent light bulb program designed to help co-op member-owners lower their energy bills and realize the benefits of energy efficiency. The power supplier purchased 44,000 CFLs and has distributed 1,000 to each of its member cooperatives including LPEA.

The bulbs distributed by Tri-State use 23 watts of electricity but give the equivalent of a 100-watt incandescent bulb. They consume two-thirds less energy and last up to 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb. Each co-op determines how it will distribute the CFLs to its members. Plans are for LPEA to continue its complimentary give aways at annual meetings and events, and also explore a local CFL study with Fort Lewis College.

Though it may seem a small effort, saving energy does prevent pollution. Using less energy at home ultimately lessens greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. Every CFL can prevent more than 450 pounds of power plant emissions over its lifetime. /

Monday, April 02, 2007

INDIAN LANDS: The reservations of the Ute Mountain Indian Tribe and the Southern Ute Indian tribe, both sovereign nations, are partially located within the boundaries of La Plata County. The Southern Ute Reservations is a checkerboard reservation, which means that there are pockets of private land interspersed among tribal owned property within the exterior boundaries of the reservation.

One question we are often asked is "How can there be privately owned land within the Indian reservation?" Well, in 1895 Congress passed the Hunter Act which gave the Indian the right to homestead 160 acres of land, improve the land and eventually gain vested title. Many of the Southern Utes took advantage of this opportunity. Once vested in title they were free to sell, lease or otherwise convey the land as they chose. As time passed, ownership of these homesteads changed, parcels were sold off and today we have many non-indians living within the boundaries of the Southern Ute Reservation.

An interesting note is, while many Southern Utes elected to "homestead" the land, the Mountain Ute Indian Tribe preferred to continue their communal lifestyle and moved their tribal headquarters to Towac west of Cortez. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe is one of the largest employers in La Plata County and a vital contributor to our economy and community. Tribal headquarters are in Ignacio. For more information concerning tribal lands, contact the Southern Ute Indian Tribe at (970) 563-0100. Or, if you prefer, give us a call or email. We'll get the information you need and get back to you. /