New wastewater plant could spur more growth in Stagecoach
The area south of Steamboat has about 2,200 lots platted, but just 500 units
When the current wastewater treatment plant was put in near Stagecoach, it was done on the cheap.
The Woodmoor Corporation — a group of retired Air Force generals, according to Mike Ratliff — bought three ranches in the Morrison Creek Valley south of what is now Stagecoach Reservoir in 1972 and quickly platted hundreds of lots with Routt County near the short-lived Stagecoach Ski Area.
“In ’72 when the Olympics were coming, they came up here and started with development,” said Ratliff, who sits on the board of the Morrison Creek Water and Sanitation District. “They platted all of those lots, but they did not get the services, and there was no road, no water sewers.”
The district broke ground on a new wastewater treatment plant on Thursday, June 30, a facility that will replace the now 50-year-old plant — which lasted 20 years longer than it was initially supposed to.
“When Woodmoor did this development, they did everything kind of on the cheap, figuring that the residents, once they were in, would pay for everything,” said Tony Borean, president of the water district’s board. “Rather than building a robust plant, they put in the cheapest temporary plant.”
The new plant, which is scheduled to finish exactly a year from Thursday, is key for maintaining service to roughly 500 homes currently served in Stagecoach area. But Stagecoach is one of few areas identified for growth in Routt County and the area has about 2,200 lots, many of which are designated for multi-family housing.
Geovanny Romero, general manager of the district, said about 750 people live in Stagecoach now, and new home construction has jumped by 300% since 2019. The district’s footprint is comparable to the size of the city limits of Steamboat Springs and Romero compared its potential for housing to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s Brown Ranch.
The appeal of a home in Stagecoach over Steamboat, Romero said, is the lack of density. That also makes it harder to pay for improvements like the new plant, because there are less customers to collect fees from.
Also like the Brown Ranch, the area lacks much of the infrastructure needed for a full build out. In some neighborhoods, like Stagecoach’s South Shore, most homes are completely off the grid, with vaults handling sewage and power often coming from solar panels. Getting sewer infrastructure to this whole area could cost around $50 million, Romero estimated.
There are also hundreds of lots further south along Routt County Road 16 that were platted, but have become overgrown through the years. Romero said solar and wind can provide power, and internet service is becoming more reliable too.
But the most significant infrastructure needed for a full build out are roads, Romero said.
“There are some roads that are built, but they have been overgrown over the years, so you can’t grow there yet,” Romero said, referring to areas further south in the district. “But the potential is there.”
Another bottleneck for growth is the lack of sewer infrastructure. Many homes are not attached to the central system, rather they have a vault that is serviced by the district. Those are pumped out and are treated through the wastewater plant and this new plant will help accommodate more material.
But the number of vault permits allowed in the area is dwindling. The Morningside Subdivision is one area that is out of vaults with just 29 homes built. There are about 180 total lots in the subdivision.
To build more housing there, sewer and water lines need to be added. Like other subdivisions in the area, this would require creating what is called a Local Improvement District that would tax residents in the district to pay for the infrastructure. In 2002, those taxes amounted to between $14,000 and $18,000 per lot that could be paid up front or over 20 years.
“Lot owners essentially band together,” Borean said. “For these lots out here, that’s how it’ll have to happen.”
On the bright side, Romero said source water is not an issue. The district draws from five wells that work, there are a handful more that have been drilled but never used and about 20 more that could be drilled if needed. The district has a 9 cubic feet per second water right out of the Yampa River as well, Romero said.
But this too requires significant investment.
“Hopefully (the new plant) will lead to the further development in our area,” Romero said.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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