4.1 Description of Existing Facilities
The question of public facilities and services is particularly complex in Larimer County because there are so many entities involved in providing services.. For some services, the County is responsible for part of a system of facilities, such as transportation and the regional park and open space systems. Lastly, many services and facilities that are essential to County residents are provided by municipalities, special districts and even private associations, including schools, fire protection and central water and sewer.
Chapter 2, Growth Management, sets out a strategy to ensure that adequate facilities and services are clearly defined for different types of development and are required as part of the development process. This type of strategy is usually called a requirement for Adequate Public Facilities (APF), or Concurrency, which means that facilities must be in place concurrent to, or at the same time as, development. The growth management strategy for facilities and services also recommends that the cumulative impacts of growth on facilities be mitigated through the use of capital expansion or impact fees. The chapter also explains the need for a long-term plan for providing major facilities.
This chapter provides more detailed information about existing facilities and services and known present and future needs. It establishes principles that can be used to determine levels of service in the Land Use Code. It recommends a coordinated long-term planning approach for public facilities, including those that are not directly provided by Larimer County. Lastly, it provides principles for developing a system of capital expansion fees.
Two classifications of public supplies are recognized. The larger supplies, known as public community water systems, provide service to most of the Front Range study area. The other type of public supplies are termed non-community systems. There are 95 of these smaller systems in Larimer County. They include facilities open to the public that are connected to individual wells. Examples include schools, motels, guest ranches, camps and restaurants.
Private water wells must be approved by the Colorado Division of Water
Resources before they are drilled. In 1995 the Division made a change in
their procedures for making comments to Counties regarding the availability
of water for new developments. They no longer make comments for development
proposals that do not involve subdivision of land. Included in this category
are zone changes, special use reviews and division by exemption, including
the Minor Residential Development (MRD) process. In those cases where wells
are proposed as the water source, this change results in a gap in information
about water availability during the planning process.
Potable water is available from a community water system in most of the Front Range study area. Not all areas with domestic service are able to meet requirements for fire protection. Domestic water can often be provided through a distribution system of smaller lines, but fire hydrants usually require at least a 6-inch line diameter to ensure adequate fire flow.
The following issues are specific to water facilities and service in unincorporated Larimer County:
The operation and treatment efficiency of sewage treatment facilities are regulated by State statutes and regulations administered by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Water Quality Control Division. These regulations apply to both public sewer providers and homeowners associations operating community systems. Discharge permits are issued with requirements regarding volume and quality of effluent, and planning and construction for new capacity as plants approach their design capacities. New or expanded sewage treatment facilities are required to comply with the North Front Range Water Quality Association's Water Quality Management Plan (also known as the 208 Plan). The North Front Range Water Quality Association (NFRWQA) is a group of sewer service providers in Weld and Larimer Counties and includes representatives from the respective Health Departments of those counties. The NFRWQA employs a permanent staff person and periodically retains consultants to update and revise the Water Quality Management Plan, as required by state and federal law. The planning process and document are the principle means of coordinating planned land use patterns and expansion of treatment facilities and service areas in the County.
The diverse management arrangements for sewer service can result in inefficient service, poor treatment levels and high frustration on the part of homeowners. Experience has shown that, in general, special districts, cities and towns provide the highest level of service. Sewer systems operated by homeowners associations experience the most difficulty. Discussions with public sewer providers indicate that extension of sewer lines within municipal or district service areas is almost always a more economical solution than developing small treatment plants, and provides the best long-term service to homeowners. For development outside current sewer service areas, individual on-lot septic systems on large lots also provide adequate service.
Intergovernmental agreements for the urban growth areas of Fort Collins and Loveland require the use of public sewer for development within their boundaries. Timing development for properties within the urban growth areas where sewer service is not available is important to fully implement the County's urban land use strategies. In the past there were several categories of exceptions to the standard of required public sewer, including Minor Residential Developments and small commercial uses requiring special reviews, in addition to sewer waiver requests on all kinds of development. In some cases the result of allowing areas of development without public sewer has been to create obstacles to future expansion of public sewer systems.
On-site sewage treatment systems are regulated by the County Department of Health and Environment. Soil test data is required prior to the issuance of permits. Inspections are made during the construction phase to insure that new systems meet design standards. Approximately 15,000 on-site sewer systems are in use in the County. A discussion of the land use implication of these systems is contained in a paper written by the County Department of Health and Environment titled Technical Report and Recommendations for the Partnership Land Use System (PLUS) - On-Site Sewage Treatment Systems (December 1995). County policy and regulations specify that individual on-lot septic systems require a minimum lot size of 100,000 square feet (2.29 acres).
The following issues relate to wastewater treatment in Larimer County:
In just the Front Range Study Area, four districts and authorities have fire stations (Berthoud, Loveland, Poudre and Wellington) and two have service areas with facilities located outside the mapped area (Windsor-Severence and Livermore). Emergency medical response is an important part of the service provided by fire protection districts and authorities. All the service providers in the Front Range Study Area are trained to provide this type of service. In both the Poudre Fire Authority and the Loveland Fire and Rescue Departments, more than 60% of all calls are for medical services, compared with about 10% for fire.
Wildfire is an important issue in the foothill and mountain areas which comprise much of the County land area. In studies completed in 1992 and 1993, Larimer County was ranked the most hazardous county in Colorado with respect to wildfire hazards. According to statistics compiled by the County Wildfire Mitigation Coordinator, an average of 161 wildfires occur annually in Larimer County, burning an average of 2,209 acres each year. In 1996, an estimated 50 to 60 homes were threatened by wildfire in Larimer County.
The primary responsibility for wildfire protection within Larimer County government is with the Emergency Services Unit (ESU) of the Larimer County Sheriff's Department. The ESU provides initial attack response and coordination with twelve rural Fire Protection Districts, five rural Volunteer Fire Departments, the municipal Fire Authorities of Fort Collins and Loveland, the US Forest Service, the National Park Service and the Colorado State Forest Service. Costs of wildfire suppression continue to increase. In Colorado, counties are responsible for fire suppression costs on private and state lands.
Larimer County, the Colorado State Forest Service and the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest have jointly created and funded a Wildfire Mitigation Coordinator position within the Emergency Services Unit. The Coordinator has prepared a report, Recommendations for Improving Wildfire Safety in Larimer County, which is available in the Planning Department. The report analyzes past wildland / urban interface fires and notes common factors among structures destroyed or damaged by wildfire. Some deal with construction materials and location in hazardous areas. However, some relate directly to fire protection facilities: limited water supply, resources and personnel arriving too late, and poor access to structures.
Whether in urban, flatland rural or mountain areas, successful fire fighting requires bringing together fire fighters, equipment and water supply in adequate amounts and in a timely manner. For this reason, coordination between fire service providers and water providers is essential to developing standards for fire protection. The key elements to consider are the water supply (measured in gallons per minute) available at the site and the response time of fire fighters. In more rural areas, on-site water storage can be used. Where response time is longer than the preferred alternative, structural sprinkler systems can be an option. But while structural sprinkler systems may be effective in saving lives, they are generally less effective in saving structures.
On-site fire protection facilities can provide a reasonable alternative to public facilities in locations where public facilities are not available. However, regulations need to identify options clearly and ensure that at least one of the viable options is available to all new development. In the past, for example, where a subdivision was approved in an area remote from a fire station with a condition requiring interior sprinklers, individual home builders would sometimes request a building variance to waive the sprinkler requirement. This type of variance could lead to a potentially dangerous situation not only for that homeowner but for other adjacent property.
The following issues pertain to fire protection and emergency response:
Larimer County owns and/or manages several large regional parks and
open space areas in the eastern part of the County (see Table 4.1).
|Table 4.1 Existing Regional Park/Open Space Facilities, Larimer County|
|Facility||Owned by||Managed by||Acres||Improvements*|
|Horsetooth Reservoir||Bureau of Reclamation||Larimer County||3,900||1,2,3,4,5,7|
|Horsetooth Mtn Park||Larimer County||Larimer County||2,100||1,2,6,7|
|Carter Lake||Bureau of Reclamation||Larimer County||2,100||1,2,4,5|
|Coyote Ridge||Fort Collins||Fort Collins||757||acq'd 1995|
|Campeau/Res. Ridge||Fort Collins||Fort Collins||260||7|
|Pinewood Lake||Bureau of Reclamation||Larimer County||250|
|Flatiron Reservoir||Bureau of Reclamation||Larimer County||250||1,2,5|
|Shooting Range||Larimer County||Larimer County||110||1,2|
|McMurray Park||Larimer County||Larimer County||25||1,2,5,7|
|Lions Park||Larimer County||Larimer County||20||1,2,5|
|Sports Cycle Park||Larimer County||Larimer County||16||1,2|
|Big Thompson Parks||Larimer County||Larimer County||12||1,2,5|
|Bingham Hill||Larimer County||Larimer County||3||1|
|Strauss Cabin||Larimer County||Larimer County||2||8|
|Total, Managed by
|Subtotal, Managed by County||8,788|
|Subtotal, Owned and/or Managed by Local
|Subtotal, Owned and Managed by County||2,288|
|* Improvement codes: 1=picnic facilities,
2=toilets, 3=campground, 4=boat ramp, 5=fishing access, 6=backcountry camping,
7=trails, 8=historic sites.
Source: Larimer County Parks Plan; Larimer County Planning Department, March 1996.
In addition, similar facilities in the area are provided by the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas program and the Loveland Parks Department. These facilities are also shown on Table 4.3, categorized by type of facility. Larimer County also owns a handful of small natural areas, one historic site and two special-use recreation areas in the Front Range Study Area.
Larimer County adopted a Comprehensive Parks Master Plan in 1993. The Plan outlines four major objectives: upgrading existing facilities, extension of the regional trail system, establishment of new open space areas and provision of water-based recreation at less developed sites. Improvement of existing parks was estimated to require about half of the projected ten-year budget of $5 million. In 1995, Larimer County voters approved an eight year $0.0025 sales tax dedicated to implementing the Parks Master Plan, specifically acquisition and development of new regional parks, open space and trail sites.
State law governing county subdivisions requires the dedication of land for parks or fees in lieu thereof. Larimer County has used this provision for many years, currently collecting a fee-in-lieu of $320 for each new residential building permit in new subdivisions where the County Commissioners have attached the fee as a condition of subdivision approval. Within the Urban Growth Areas of Loveland, Fort Collins and Berthoud, the County collects a park fee equal to that collected in the adjacent city or town. Most of this UGA park fee is returned to the adjacent municipality for use in developing urban parks in the area of the approved subdivision. A portion is retained by the County for regional park facilities.
An alternative to this fee system is a capital expansion fee for regional parks, trails and open space. These fees could be applied to all new residential building permits, not only to those in some County subdivisions. Potentially, they could also be collected on residential permits issued within city and town boundaries, through Intergovernmental Agreements. County regional park facilities are used by all County residents and are also funded by all residents through property tax and the dedicated sales tax for open space. Another potential future for financing acquisition of open space is to use an open space fee as a "fee-in-lieu" of acquiring transferred development rights (TDRs). (See section 2.5 for information about TDRs.)
Larimer County has a popular and successful regional parks and open space program. The primary issue regarding the program relates to maintaining the program's quality in light of increasing demands resulting from new growth and development.
Growth and development throughout the County has a direct impact on public school facility needs, personnel and operating costs. New school facilities can also impact the County, for example, by increasing demand on the County transportation system. Larimer County is currently negotiating Intergovernmental Agreements with the Poudre, Thompson, Park and St. Vrain Districts to address these issues.
State law governing county subdivisions requires the dedication of land for schools, or fees in lieu thereof, as part of the subdivision process. For many years the County collected a fee of $8.00 per new residential building permit in subdivisions where this condition was required by the County Commissioners. Recently the Poudre, Thompson and St. Vrain Districts proposed new fees-in-lieu of land dedication, based on calculations of impacts of residential development on school land needs specific to their districts. The new fees were adopted in August 1996, and now range from $332 to $483.90 per new residential unit. Park School District is expected to request an adjusted fee-in-lieu as soon as the necessary studies are completed. These fees will be reviewed periodically by the Districts, and the County Commissioners will be requested to adjust them as necessary.6.3) and water quality and quantity issues (see Sec. 6.6).
In urban areas, the high percentage of impervious surfaces greatly increases the amount of stormwater runoff from individual lots. The provision of urban stormwater management services requires highly technical information and analysis to be effective. As with other urban-level services, municipal governments are better able to provide the more technical level of service required for effective stormwater management in urban areas. The staffing and available resources of the County are more geared toward rural areas. Larimer County will look to its respective municipalities for assistance and collaboration in the area of urban stormwater management. Also, the paths of stormwater flow do not follow jurisdictional boundaries, and thus multi-jurisdictional solutions may be needed.
Even in rural areas, the County is not able to provide more than a basic level of service. Generally, stormwater management in rural subdivisions includes conveyance via roadside ditches into a detention pond located within the development. The detention pond is designed to discharge runoff at a rate no greater than the historic rate from the property. In most cases the County does not maintain rural stormwater drainage systems. The County expects rural residents to be active in the maintenance of their stormwater systems. The County may act as a facilitator to provide assistance to rural residents wishing to form stormwater districts to retrofit stormwater facilities and provide a higher level of maintenance in rural areas.
Stormwater management facilities are also an essential part of new development. Any new development seeking the approval of the County in either urban or rural areas will be expected to provide adequate facilities for disposition of stormwater. New developments will also be expected to provide for maintenance of those facilities.
The County Recycling Center accepts cardboard, newsprint, office paper products, glossy magazine paper, aluminum cans and foil, other metal cans, glass containers and plastic type 1 and 2 containers. Some automotive products including used motor oil, transmission and brake fluid and batteries are also accepted. Larimer County also operates a household hazardous waste collection facility at the landfill for most of the common household materials which cannot be either disposed of at the landfill or recycled. This service is provided at no cost to all Larimer County residents. The County is also accepting small amounts of hazardous materials from small businesses.
The Natural Resource Department estimates current solid waste generation rates at between 6.5 and 7.2 pounds per person per day for all Larimer County residents. Although recent growth and new construction has resulted in increased demand on the landfill, it appears that per-person trash generation may be decreasing slightly, perhaps due to recycling.
The landfill has initiated a vertical expansion program for the sanitary landfill. This expansion will raise the existing site elevation approximately 20 feet and will extend the estimated life of the current landfill about 10 years. The Solid Waste Task Force is currently assessing the solid waste options for Larimer County. Policies are pending the outcome of the Task Force recommendations.Chapter 2. The APF regulation would require a detailed review of new development proposals for consistency with adopted level of service standards. There are three components to this strategy:
|ADEQUATE PUBLIC FACILITIES
PF-1 New development shall be approved only when adequate public facilities and services are available, or when necessary improvements will be made as part of the development project.
PF-1-s1. Adequate facilities and service levels shall be clearly defined in the Land Use Code and shall include standards for water, sewer, fire protection, stormwater management and transportation at a minimum. In Growth Management Areas, service level standards shall be compatible with those of the adjacent municipality, as specified in an Intergovernmental Agreement with the municipality. In other areas, standards shall be based on the density and intensity of the use.
PF-1-s2. The facilities need either to be in place or to have funding commitments made prior to completion of any project, to ensure that new residents are not left without required facilities and services. For facilities that will be the responsibility of individual property owners to develop, i.e., wells and septic systems, the Land Use Code should include provisions to ensure that the facilities can actually be provided as proposed in a development application.
PF-2 On-site alternatives for the provision of public facilities shall only be allowed where they do not potentially conflict with planned expansions of public systems.
PF-2-s1. Within designated urban areas, public sewer shall be a requirement for all types and levels of development.
PF-2-s2. Public sewer is the preferred alternative within sewer service areas as identified in the North Front Range Water Quality Management Plan (208 Plan). For Rural Conservation Development where public sewer service is not available, individual on-lot septic systems may be considered on lots of at least 2.29 acres, while maintaining minimum open space requirements. New community sewer systems will be considered only outside sewer service areas. (See Rural Land Use Guiding Principles, Chapter 3.)
PF-2-s3. Stormwater management services in rural areas will be provided by property owners through the establishment of self help programs, such as the voluntary formation of a drainage improvement district.
PF-2-s4. Larimer County shall encourage development of fire departments and fire protection districts in rural areas, where adequate services are not currently available.
PF-2-s5. The County may, where possible, expedite any land use review process for proposed fire stations and waive or reduce fees associated with the land use review process and building permits for constructing fire stations. During the land use review process, the County may look for opportunities to designate land for future fire stations and other appropriate assistance.
PF-3 The North Front Range Water Quality Management Association (NFRWQA) with its water quality planning process shall continue as the lead agency to facilitate coordination of land use planning and sewer system capital improvement programming.
PF-3-s1. The Planning Department shall seek increased participation in the NFRWQA planning process in order to facilitate coordination.
PF-4 Larimer County water service providers and fire protection districts shall coordinate domestic water service standards and fire protection standards for water supply to ensure that all County residents have adequate water supplies for domestic use and for fire protection.
PF-4-s1. Level of service standards in the Land Use Code shall be coordinated with service providers.
PF-5 Larimer County will continue to use the Parks Master Plan, the Plan for the Region between Loveland and Fort Collins and other adopted plans as a guide to acquiring and developing parks, trails and open space.
PF-5-s1. Guidelines for defining, acquiring and maintaining open lands are contained in the Help Preserve Open Space Initiative and in the Mission Statement for the Larimer County Open Lands Program, adopted by the Board of County Commissioners in July 1996.
PF-5-s2. All Larimer County acquisition of open space shall require a willing seller-willing buyer condition.
PF-6 In Growth Management Areas and Cooperative Planning Areas, the County shall collaborate with adjacent municipalities to develop and implement basin-wide stormwater management plans.
PF-6-s1. The County will work with its respective municipalities to develop urban-level stormwater management standards that are mutually acceptable to the jurisdictions.
PF-7 Larimer County shall encourage the School Districts that serve the County to coordinate land use planning and school facility expansions in order to allow cost effective services to be provided while minimizing negative impacts on the existing facilities of each jurisdiction.
PF-7-s1. Larimer County shall work with School Districts to establish Intergovernmental Agreements to facilitate coordination of land use planning, development review and provision of new school facilities.
PF-8 The location and design of new public facilities shall be consistent with the Master Plan.
PF-8-s1. Larimer County shall consider establishing Intergovernmental Agreements with service providers.
PF-9 Larimer County will encourage private landowners and local, state and federal governments to develop and implement cooperative strategies to minimize critical wildfire hazards potentially affecting life and property.
PF-9-s1. The County shall encourage cooperative planning efforts to address wildfire prevention, hazard mitigation and wildfire suppression costs as well as public and firefighter safety.
PF-9-s2. Larimer County shall address wildfire management on County owned and/or managed lands where appropriate.
PF-10 New development shall not reduce existing service below adequate levels, nor shall capital improvements to support new development be subsidized by existing residents.
PF-10-s1. Capital expansion fees shall be considered as a funding mechanism for facilities that receive increased demand or need for expansion as a result of new growth and development.
PF-10-s2. Incentive programs shall not include waivers of required capital expansion fees or facility improvements. Rather, funding mechanisms shall be created to pay required fees so that the cost of incentives is equitably shared and not directed only to adjacent properties.
PF-10-s3. Maintenance of internal subdivision roads shall be the responsibility of residents of that subdivision. Improvement districts for subdivision road maintenance will be formed in new subdivisions as a condition of approval of the development, in order to provide a predictable and secure source of funding for on-going maintenance and future replacement of subdivision roads. Residents of existing subdivisions will also be encouraged to form improvement districts to obtain more timely maintenance of their internal subdivision road system.
PF-11 The County will act as a facilitator to the construction of retrofit stormwater facilities for existing developments and it will provide stormwater management services within Growth Management Areas in cases where property owners have voluntarily formed improvement districts to pay for these facilities and services.
PF-11-s1. The County will collaborate with the respective municipality to provide stormwater management services, provided that benefited property owners have created an improvement district or other mechanism to pay for these services. The County will act as a facilitator to assist in the voluntary establishment of improvement districts or stormwater utilities.
PF-12 Larimer County shall develop a capital improvement program to address the needs of County facilities that are currently deficient.
PF-12-s1. Larimer County departments will utilize capital expansion fees to help pay for facilities that are needed as a result of growth, and will develop Capital Improvement Plans and funding mechanisms to pay for current deficiencies in those facilities.