Tuesday, July 31, 2007

WATER: If the sight of a lawn sprinkler dousing curbs and sidewalks on a hot summer afternoon strikes you as wasteful, you're not alone.

The City of Durango wants to reduce the amount of water wasted during the summer months by 20 percent, and an ordinance to make sure that happens is imminent. The ordinance passed the Durango Planning Commission by a 4 to 1 vote July 9 and next moves to the City Council for final approval.

The ordinance, promoting the Xeriscape method of water efficient landscaping, will only apply to new commercial and multifamily developments and not to single family residences or existing businesses.


Monday, July 30, 2007

LPEA REFUNDS: The board of directors of La Plata Electric Association, our local energy co-op, voted to refund $2 million in capital credits to customers who have maintained an account with LPEA for at least one year. The amount of the refund will depend on the amount of money each customer has paid over the duration of each account.

The refunds will be credited directly to the customer's electric bills or mailed as checks to those who no longer have an active LPEA account or are scheduled for a refund in excess of $250.

Each year, payments made by customers that exceed the cost of providing the actual electric service are placed into a patronage capital account in each customer's name proportionate to the amount paid. The capital often is used to finance improvements such as additional electrical lines, poles, transformers and substations.

When the co-op's finances are healthy, as they are this year, the capital investment often is returned to the customer-members. Since 1939, LPEA has refunded more than $25 million to members.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

BANKING: They say money makes the world go round. In Durango, banks - the ultimate money keepers - both reflect and help drive the local economy.

As Durango grows in population and wealth, the local banking industry is growing along with it. La Plata County has 10 banks with 19 branches. Their combined deposits topped $1 billion in 2006 for the first time.

The local banking industry is intimately tied with the housing industry. Consumer deposits fuel loans that in turn drive economic growth, including construction. The local industry is doing well, while not quite enjoying growth as strong as a year ago.

Banks are further fueled by Durango's tourist economy which attracts people with money to spend. People come into town to take advantage of the many attractions and typically they have an above average median income. Many are thinking about buying a second home or retiring to Durango. *

*source - The Durango Herald


Monday, July 23, 2007

VACATION HOMES: Last year, while investment home sales dropped nationally, vacation home sales rose nearly 5 percent at a time when real estate, in general, was experiencing a downturn.

By 2025, an estimated 35 percent of the U.S. population will be age 50 or older. That's one of the reasons why all signs point to a continued strong market for vacation homes, bolstered by Baby Boomers as prime vacation home candidates. Whether they simply want to diversify investments or want a place to get away, Baby Boomers are driving this marker growth.

This bodes well for the continued strength of the Durango market. Statistics from the National Association of Realtors show that:

** Two-thirds of of buyers desired a vacation home close to a body of water;

** Nearly 40 percent preferred to have access to recreational or sporting activities;

** More than 30 percent chose vacation or resort areas;

** And 31 percent preferred mountain retreats or natural attractions.

With our lakes, rivers, rafting, fishing, hunting, skiing, biking and unmatched beauty is it any wonder our vacation home market remains strong. Durango has it all.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

LAKE DURANGO: A settlement reached Tuesday in the long-standing Lake Durango water dispute call for the creation of a new water authority to take over operations of the private company that supplies water to Durango West and other nearby subdivisions. For years, the company has been plagued with complaints of inadequate supply and poor quality. Other subdivisions served by the company include Shenandoah, Trappers Crossing and Rafter J.

The new authority, as a non-profit governmental entity, will be in better position to complete a pending arrangement to secure water from Lightner Creek.

It is expected that the water authority will be formed by December 2007.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

CHIPMUNK HILL: A popular sledding and tubing hill on Highway 550 south of Durango Mountain Resort will soon be history. A conceptual plan to develop this 160 acre parcel has been submitted to the La Plata County Planning Department for review.

The plan calls for 16 homes plus a trail easement that would allow the public to cross the property to access public land to the east.


Monday, July 16, 2007

GROWTH: At last Tuesday's city council meeting city planning director Greg Hoch presented councilors with statistics that confirm what we have know for some time - that Durango is growing and growing quickly - but the latest numbers indicate that the number of homes in the city could more than double based on numbers of the 2000 census. In that year, Durango's 13,922 residents lived in 5,813 homes, apartments and condominiums. Seven years later, there are now more than 16,000 people and 7,660 housing units, representing an overall housing increase of 32 percent an an annual growth rate of 6.4 percent.

The growth rate is a serious concern to Durango's three newest council members, Leigh Meigs, Michael Rendon and Scott Graham, all of whom ran on strong managed growth platforms before their April elections. Rendon believes the development approval process needs to change to give elected officials more of a say in long-term planning decisions. "We were elected not because people are anti-growth, but because they want managed growth, and that's the way we can do it," he said.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

HOUSING HELP: The first use of financial assistance in La Plata County to help low and moderate income families get into their own home is virtually assured, Jennifer Lopez, executive director of the La Plata County Regional Housing Authority, said Friday.

The agency has received a $256,800 grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development through the state Division of Local Affairs to create a revolving loan fund to assist with down payments and closing costs.

A family of four with an income of $48,500 or less annually could qualify for financial aid. This is the first down payment assistance program in Durango or La Plata County where appreciation of real estate prices has impacted the purchasing ability of low and moderate income buyers.


Friday, July 13, 2007

WATER: Fish in the Pine River below Vallecito Reservoir would get some extra protection under an agreement approved by a state water board Thursday.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board voted to accept a donation of water from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Pine River Irrigation District. The deal will put varying amounts of water into the river for a stretch ending 12 miles downstream from the reservoir, home to brown and rainbow trout.

In exchange for the donation, the water board agreed not to file for an in-stream flow right, a water right that could force water to stay in the stream.

Under the agreement, the reservoir will release 136 cubic feet per second during the summer to supply a 12 mile stretch down to U.S. Highway 160. During the winter, the reservoir would release less - up to 50 cfs.

The agreement will take effect once it is signed by Pine River and Southern Ute officials.


Monday, July 09, 2007

$$$$$$ : And you thought Durango real estate is getting expensive. A 56,000 square-foot house near Aspen owned by Prince Bandar bin Sultan is still waiting for a buyer. The mansion, which is named "Hala" and includes 95 acres, went on the market last summer for $135,000 million, the highest price ever asked for a home in the United States.

The main residence has 15 bedrooms and 16 bathrooms and features its own hair and beauty salon, an indoor swimming pool, steam room, gym and heated stables. The estate also has its own water treatment plant, garage facilities including gas pumps and a car wash and extensive security facilities.

Prince Bandar is the former Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States.

If you're homeless and have an extra $135,000 million, give us a call.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

LAND-USE CODE: After years of public debate and scrutiny, the new La Plata County Land-Use Code is nearing completion. It will be the subject of a public hearing Tuesday and could go to county commissioners for approval as early as August 14.

The new code clearly tells property owners what they can and can't do with their land. That's what people love about the code. It's also what people hate about it. At a voluminous 446 pages, it promises a dramatic shift in how development happens in La Plata County.

Currently, the only way property owners know what they can build on their land is to go through the lengthy permitting process. Under the new code, most landowners would need only to look at a map and see what zone they are in.

It will be interesting to see how implementation of the new code plays out. Hopefully, the days of trying to catch a county planner in a good mood are over.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

WATER: A stalled plan to form a potable-water district in southeast La Plata County where residents rely on wells or truck-in their water, is ready to move ahead.

Proponents filed a service plan with the county Monday. But nothing will happen immediately. Supporters are aiming at a mail in formation election-creation of the district and election of a board of directors-after the first of the year and a revenue election sometime thereafter.

State law says revenue elections must be held in May of even years or in November of any year. In this case voters would be asked to approve $25 million bonded indebtedness, a 5 mill tax levy and remove the district from state spending limits.

The proposed La Plata Archuleta Water District first bogged down in late 2003 when shareholders in the Pine River Irrigation District rejected the leasing of as much as 2,000 acre feet of water for a 400 square mile service area.

A recent court ruling said that individual shareholders could pool water to lease giving district backers new hope.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

GOING GREEN: Most folks associate "green" and "bank" with greenback dollars. At Alpine Bank Durango, however, "going green" means purchasing 100 percent of its electric power from renewable resources through La Plata Electric Association.

Though not the first bank to purchase Green Power from LPEA (First National Bank of Durango stepped up early in the offing), Alpine is the first to commit to 100 percent GP. Thanks Alpine!