Property owner caught in water tap dilemma in Paonia

By Tamie Meck


Kraig Henry is caught between a rock and a hard place.

Henry owns vacant land in the Minnesota Creek area just east of Paonia. Henry appeared before Paonia trustees to request the purchase of two out-of-town water taps. Henry said he already owns one tap. The additional taps would allow him to create a minor subdivision with two- to three-acre parcels.

Per town code there is a moratorium on sales of out-of-town water taps. The board of trustees can approve the sale of up to five taps per year to existing water companies.

Henry, one of four members of the Jumbo Mountain Water Company, said he has tried unsuccessfully for three months to meet with the president of the water company. "He won't meet with me; he won't meet with town staff," said Henry.

Henry pointed out that having to go through the water company for a tap puts the president of that company in the position of controlling development by refusing to sell taps. "It's not his position to be making development decisions," said Kraig. "It's the county or the town."

Henry urged the town to sell him the taps. His property is located very close to town services and "would be no more burden on the town" than an in-town water tap.

The town ordinance "is very clear," said Mayor Charles Stewart. Taps can be sold only to water companies. The town simply cannot approve the request without violating the ordinance, and the board isn't willing to make an exception.

Stewart said he understands Henry's dilemma, but, "The issue really exists between you and Jumbo Mountain Water. The town, literally, cannot do what you're asking the town to do without violating its own ordinance."

In considering the possibility of annexing, Henry's property is located "right on the edge of town," but is one property, or "50 yards away," from being contiguous to the town. Without a pre-annexation agreement with one of the property owners between him and the town boundary, annexation isn't possible.

Mayor pro tem David Bradford urged the board to deny the request. "I have a very big concern with continuing to sell out-of-town water taps," said Bradford. "This town went through a lot of grief in preparing" the ordinance. In 1975, he explained, the town serviced 75 out-of-town taps. Today they service 898 out-of-town taps. Additional water taps "do nothing but create additional work and burden on this town. I know that if we head down this path that we will be inundated by requests for out-of-town water taps."

Henry said he could hire an attorney to go after the water company, "But I don't feel like that's what neighbors do to each other."

Patricia Walsh said she has attended town meetings since 1999 when a 46-unit subdivision was proposed on Minnesota Creek above Henry's property. Long story short, said Walsh, she tried for about a year to convince council to deny it, mainly for traffic reasons. It had to be resolved by a referendum, and opening that issue would be unwise. Giving water companies power to decide who receives taps "is a planning tool, and it's a beneficial planning tool, because it keeps that area agricultural."