City of Colorado Springs / Commissions & Committees / City/County Drainage Board

Thursday, August 04, 2011

August 4, 2011

The City of Colorado Springs/El Paso County Drainage Board held its regular meeting at 3:00 PM 
on August 4, 2011, in the in the City Council Chamber, City Hall, 107 North Nevada Avenue.

MEMBERS PRESENT: Jeff Johnson, Ollie Watts, Emily Skalsky, Mike Bartusek, Kim Wright, John Schwab


OTHERS PRESENT: Tom Bonifas (City Engineering), Cheryl Callahan (City of Colorado Springs), Dan Bare (City Engineering), Mike Cartmell (El Paso County), Mary Murray (City Finance), Elizabeth Nijkamp (EDRD), Steve Rossoll (JR Engineering), Tom Taylor ( La Plata Communities, High Valley Land Co.), Ralph Braden (Development Management, Inc.), Mike Ruebenson (La Plata Communities)

Meeting called to order by Jeff Johnson at 3:02 p.m.

Item 1: Approval of the minutes from the July 7, 2011 Drainage Board Meeting 

Motion by Mike Bartusek to approve the minutes
Motion was seconded by John Schwab 

Motion passed unanimously 6-0

Item 2: Discussion of August 4, 2011 agenda

No additional changes.

Item 3: Cordera Filing No. 1 Reimbursement Request

Tom Bonifas informed the Board members this request is for reimbursement by the developer for some public drainage facilities that are not currently in the Cottonwood Creek DBPS (Drainage Basin Planning Study). This request has been brought to the staff previously but did not get to the Drainage Board because staff denied the applicants request. The applicant has since then asked for an appeal of the staff’s decision to the Drainage Board. This would be for the facilities to be reimbursable which would include an increase to the basin fee structure.

Applicant Presentation:

Tom Taylor, La Plata Communities, is representing High Valley Land Co. for this item. Mr. Taylor advised the Board that the request is only for storm pipes ranging in size between 48” to 66”. The detention pond which Engineering Development Review is recommending for denial was previously approved for reimbursement in June of 2009. The reconsideration of this item is for the additional construction costs associated with the closed conduit system within Filing No. 1. A letter from JR Engineering on December 20, 2010 states that this reimbursement request is to support funding of the remaining major storm sewer infrastructure improvements within this filing.

The reasons for the reconsideration of the reimbursement request are as follows:

• The master drainage development plan and final drainage report was approved by Engineering Development Review which indicated these facilities as reimbursable and a request would be made to revise the Cottonwood Creek drainage basin fee to account for these facilities.
• Within the drainage report there is a pond that is referred to in which there are outlet structures that feed into that pond which is what is being requested as reimbursable. In the Ayres 2009 DBPS report this is referred to as E14 sub-basin and is identified as being reimbursable under prudent line theory.
• The FDR and Master Development Drainage Plan show these as reimbursable with a request to adjust the drainage basin fee upon completion.

Mr. Taylor stated that it is believed that High Valley Land Co. is being penalized by the current DBPS in the philosophy of using the prudent line theory. In the Cottonwood Creek drainage report, the developed flows and set back development a prudent distance away from the open channels. What has been proven over time is that this theory has not addressed developed flows within the basin. There are numerous examples through the City that the Stormwater Enterprise and the Utilities Company has to make substantial repairs within the basin. Mr. Taylor gave an example of how the prudent line theory hasn’t worked: when working with the development of Wal-Mart and Home Depot at Powers and Woodmen Road Engineering Development Review expressed strong concerns about the additional flows from that site and the impacts on the prudent line. Mr. Taylor worked with Elizabeth Nijkamp and Tim Mitros and upsized an adjacent pond, Fairfax Regional Detention Pond, to address those flows. 

Mr. Taylor realizes that a restudy of Cottonwood Creek is underway with Matrix Design Group and based on preliminary information that has been received; the revised DBPS will be looking at regional detention and conduit systems. With the DBP studies to date - the URS report had regional detention and conduit systems and it was then revised by the Ayres report with the prudent line theory. Now the restudy with Matrix is looking at going back to the regional detention and conduit systems. 

Mr. Taylor also stated that when the current prudent line DBPS was approved, there was an 11.4 million dollar reduction in estimated costs from the URS study with ponds and conduits methodology to the drainage philosophy that was proven not to work. The revised study currently underway, the City will be going back a more traditional approach with regional detention including the water quality component. For many years the fee for the basin was set at an inadequate rate for maintaining and reimbursing future upstream facilities. Since La Plata constructed facilities that are more in line with the revised study, and is being limited to the amount of reimbursement based on an old study that is proven to be faulty, they believe there are issues regarding timing on a reimbursement request and equity. Mr. Taylor gave an example of a pond that was shown in the Ayres report not to be reimbursable but under the revised Matrix report it is shown and approved back in 2009 as a reimbursement after it was constructed. 

John Schwab wanted to make the connection between prudent line and the sizing of the storm sewer system, he wanted to know if this was anywhere along the main channel. Mr. Taylor confirmed and showed the Board members the main channel on a provided map which showed the outfall of the pond was in conjunction with an outfall within Wolfe Ranch. 

Emily Skalsky wanted to hear more in regards to the December 2010 letter that states that there was not sufficient coordination with the stakeholders and not having enough input for the DBPS. Mr. Taylor stated that when the Cottonwood Creek DBPS was started, there was a lot of activity including a meeting at the Cottonwood Creek Recreation Center that Mr. Taylor attended. This meeting was to show the current work product to date. At that time, a report was not released which would include the fee structures. Mr. Taylor stated that he wanted to make sure that they were kept on the mailing list as this progressed. 

Mike Bartusek asked if the pipes that are installed would accept offsite flows or if they are just for on-site storm. Mr. Taylor said that their boundary and Wolfe Ranch boundary is the basin line. There is a small amount of structure that will go into Wolfe Ranch. La Plata has worked closely with Wolfe Ranch and coordinated with them on how the developments would work together. La Plata has tried to stay within the Ayres reports sub-basin boundaries and there is a ridge that separates the two projects. 

Staff Report:

Elizabeth Nijkamp addressed the Board and stated that when La Plata went from an opened system in the prudent line theory to a closed system it gave them a lot of benefits. There are several reasons why their request was denied: La Plata did receive reimbursement a couple of years ago when they finished the project in the amount of one million dollars which when brought forward based on the DBPS was about $703,000. What they are asking for now is the additional above the DBPS. At the time, staff allowed the reimbursement for the structures built. The basin fund has been gathering funds throughout the years under a DBPS that says prudent line. Now that the development is at the top of the basin with only two property owners and about 1,450 developable acres left. To agree to the reimbursement of $335,000 would mean to increase the per acre basin fee to just over $225 an acre. Ms. Nijkamp stated that there has been a prudent line in this area for all these years and this would set a precedent for the rest of the basin to add a closed pipe system to the reimbursable requests. The DBPS that is currently being reviewed is set up for basin fees at $19,000 per acre with a closed system but the systems are not going to be reimbursable; just the channel improvements and one or two more ponds that need to be installed. To add pipe systems at this point would be contrary to the past and current DBPS as well as the future DBPS being worked on right now.

The City Staff has made the decision based on the fact that the new DBPS will allow for pipe systems in future development but will not allow for reimbursement of those systems.

Jeff Johnson asked JR Engineering to speak on the issue. Steve Rossoll, JR Engineering, stated that what should be the main issue is whether or not the pipe system is reimbursable and not so much on if the basin can afford it. The pipe system that was installed collects run-off from multiple subdivisions and it follows the basic definitions of a reimbursable conduit.

Tom Taylor followed up on some issues that Elizabeth Nijkamp brought up. Even though it is correct that the funding for the basin and fees have been gathered for a number of years, but some of the issues with the deficit within the basin goes back to the Ayres report and the DBPS and the prudent line and that the fees were not collected in the sufficient amount needed. Mr. Taylor believes that this should not be applicable when they build a system that is best for the community which in this case was a closed basin system instead of prudent line system which has had numerous problems downstream. They have also had to make revisions to detention ponds to compensate for other development and have not asked for reimbursement in those cases. Mr. Taylor pointed out again this is a $214 increase and the basin itself is looking at a $6600 increase due to the revisions.

Mr. Taylor also pointed out that with the issue of the pipe systems not being reimbursable he believes that this has not been worked out yet. The DBPS is still being worked on and the major stakeholders have not made that final decision on whether these systems will be reimbursable or not, what is needed for the basin, and what the fee structure should be set at. They built a facility that was needed because prudent line was not working and the whole philosophy has changed in three studies within 20 years within Cottonwood Creek. 

John Schwab asked a follow-up question to one of Ms. Nijkamp’s points: were higher densities achieved by not following the setbacks of the prudent line? Mr. Taylor stated that from a density stand point they are still matching the master plan approved densities. They were able to gain some development ground because they were not on the prudent line and felt this was more beneficial considering the issues downstream that were on prudent line. Even though they did get some land back, there were higher costs associated with storm system structures. 

Elizabeth Nijkamp stated that it has been allowed before where the City allowed for someone to close a system that was opened at one time, the Layton Truck Site, which had already been improved as an open channel and then went back and closed the channel into a pipe. So it has been done before but the concern in this area is that it would set a precedent for the basin and there are still a lot of acres left in that basin. Ollie Watts stated that the Layton Truck Site, there was an existing rip-rap channel that had been approved by the City and the developer wanted to enclose it. That was approved but the pipe was not reimbursable and the rip-rap was stock piled for the City to use at a different location.

Mike Bartusek wanted clarification on if the MDDP was approved with these pipes being reimbursable. Ms. Nijkamp was not sure. She will have to review the MDDP to provide an answer but believes it was reimbursable to the max that the open system was.

Jeff Johnson asked to hear from Ralph Braden from Wolf Ranch and Dan Bare from City Engineering. Ralph Braden stated that they have no objection to this request from La Plata.

Dan Bare explained that while the MDPS for this area was being worked on, the master plan and the fee study was being looked at which was wrapped up last summer. The hope for the master plan and fee study was to establish new ways to manage the program. The end result was that there were no conclusions or recommendations that came out of the studies. The DBPS has been ready for about a year and a half but have not taken it forward for various reasons and will be brought forward in the near future. Mr. Bare stated that the issue on what to include/what not to include and when it can be included is very significant and has been a big problem on how the whole program has worked over time. It has been inconsistently applied and when a fee is established, there are certain improvements that are expected to be paid for by that fee and when more is added to it, there becomes a distortion on how the program can work. The costs go up when items are added but the acres that can be charged the fee are decreasing. If this continues, the program will not work properly.

Emily Skalsky wanted to know if a precedent has been set in any other basin to allow pipe systems to be reimbursed. Mr. Bare stated that this goes back to what is expected from the fee program and what those costs represent. These fees represent shared costs where you have multiple developers and plats contributing to the area and they need to share the costs to make it fair so someone is not paying for improvements to serve other property owners when they are limited to a certain project. The approach that has been used in the new study is that everything downstream from ponds including ponds are regional improvements; that is where the development moves from a local system into a regional system and where there is a shared benefit. This is something that can be planned on when you know where the pond is going to be you can cost the channel improvements. 

Ollie Watts asked what the purpose of the pond in this area was: was it restrictions downstream or lack of carrying capacity because the pond was built in the southwest corner and reimbursed some of it. Mr. Bare stated that the ponds where put in after the previous plans were actually done as part of the MDDPS process. They were put in to restrict flows and reduce the cost of improvements downstream.

Board Discussion:

John Schwab – agrees with the logic of the storm drain systems as being more regional if they were conveying significant off-site flows through the site which does not seem to be the case in this situation.

Emily Skalsky – concerned about the comments made on whether the basin can afford it or not which is not what she will be basing her opinion on. Her perspective is more on if this is a regional improvement and if it is taken off-site flows and conveying the flows to the pond then this would make it more of a regional improvement; however, in this case, Ms. Skalsky would be supporting the staff’s position.

Ollie Watts – for as long as he has been working with drainage basins, the master basin planning study has always set forth all the criteria on which all these structures are being installed. This is a prudent line concept through the subdivision and the developer chose not to do that and received the benefit of the extra lots and land for development. If there had been a time to revise the MBPS, it would have been the time when they did the master drainage study for the development for the subdivision. Normally these collection systems might be applicable but only when they are covered by the master basin planning study. When it is under another concept, what’s allowable has to be identified in the planning study as being the concept under which the fees are originally determined. He agrees with what Mr. Bare says that it is dangerous to backtrack on individual circumstances because everybody else in the basin complied with the study and to do something else places a burden on the rest of the basin. They should not have changed from a prudent line if they had not gained that much benefit from it. He will be supporting the City Staff’s position.

Mike Bartusek – was having problems with this becoming a closed system and them already getting reimbursed for a large portion of it. Also being the top of the basin, it seems like they put in very large pipes but that may be dependent on the density and what flows are developed.

Kim Wright – will be basing her decision based on what she hears from the City since she is new to this process.

Motion by John Schwab to support City Engineering Staff’s recommendation to deny the application
Motion was seconded by Emily Skalsky 

Motion passed unanimously 6-0
Item 4: Housekeeping

Dan Bare updated the Board on the Drainage Criteria Manual process. They have been promoting the spin off projects and trying to raise the $270,000 needed to expand the scope and make it a more comprehensive effort. They have received positive support from the City of Pueblo; Woodland Park will be contributing their share; the County Commissioners had a workshop and has asked that it be brought as a formal commissioners meeting for consideration and a vote. The third chapter, chapter 9, is out for review. There has been more editing than first expected. They started out with Douglas County and what they are using but there are some things that our city is doing that need to stay in the manual so more editing is needed. 


No further business
Meeting adjourned at 3:54 p.m.