SEVERANCE, Colo. (CBS4) – The growing pains continue to be felt in northern Colorado towns as thousands of newcomers flock to communities between Fort Collins and Greeley. While some towns like Windsor and Timnath recently experienced power issues related to increased demand, now the Town of Severance is struggling to secure clean water taps for the hundreds of new-build buyers flocking to the town.
As first reported by CBS Denver, a moratorium on new-build water taps in Severance has been issued after the water district the town contracted with was unable to build enough infrastructure to meet the demand.
The North Weld County Water District, which also serves other towns like Eaton, Nunn, Ault, Pierce, Timnath and Windsor, attributed the moratorium to delays in building out their pipeline system.
Severance Mayor Matthew Fries told CBS4's Dillon Thomas the town owns the rights to enough water for continued growth. However, they rely on the water district to cleanse the water and distribute it to their growing list of customers.
"It's been very frustrating," Fries said. "We have a handful of quality developments that are sitting half or less than half-finished."
According to Fries, the water district had setbacks associated with permits in Fort Collins and Larimer County at the end of 2021. However, Fries said he believed those issues were resolved and would alleviate the need for moratoriums. However, even after the issues were ironed out in Larimer County, the NWCWD maintained its restrictions for new tap sales.
"This is not a water supply issue, it is a water delivery issue," Fries said.
Fries, who was sworn in as mayor of the ever-growing town in 2021, said the water district's inability to provide clean water to the new population is causing economic issues for his town. Because of the lack of access to taps, Severance is no longer approving residential building permits.
Those who already applied and were approved will be allowed to continue construction. However, 37 applications which have already been received are now unable to proceed. An estimated 100 other properties are nearing the application process, which will also be placed on hold until a moratorium is lifted.
If a resolution isn't found soon, which could include contracting with third-party water providers, the mayor and town manager fear upward of 1,000 home permits could be logjammed by the year's end.
"It is affecting many lives, and it has affected our budget directly by nearly $2 million," Fries.
The town will continue to issue commercial building permits for the time being. But, as Town Administrator Nicholas Wharton noted, businesses are less likely to seek building permits in a town that can't attract new residents.
"It is a big deal," said Jon Holsten, a realtor and associate broker with Windermere.com. "Inventory is an issue already in northern Colorado. So, when you take a whole community out of the picture with new construction, that is a problem."
Holsten said the Severance community is a popular buying location for many who want beautiful new homes at a lower price point. He said his philosophy for selling in northern Colorado is "drive until you qualify." That motto comes from the concept that pricing in Fort Collins is among the highest in the region. The further east you drive from Fort Collins the more likely you are to find the home you want at the budget you have.
Severance is two towns away from Fort Collins, and just northwest of Greeley, making it a great location for many to set their roots. However, the roots cannot grow without water.
"Without water taps and without building permits you don't have new homes," Holsten said.
The NWCWD was unavailable for an on-camera interview with CBS Denver. However, they did provide the following statement in which they promised to continue working on building out their system. They also noted that there could be opportunities to potentially lift some restrictions in the coming months.
"As you may be aware, North Weld County Water District (NWCWD) is experiencing some system capacity issues that are affecting future customers within our service area. NWCWD serves some of the fastest-growing communities in the state. In order to keep up with that growth, NWCWD has made significant investments in new infrastructure to treat, store and deliver water. We have added 40 miles of new pipeline over the past 10 years, and the next phase, the NEWT III pipeline, has been in the planning stages for several years. NWCWD recognized that our ability to supply water for major new residential development is temporarily constrained based on recent evaluations of our system models and while the NEWT III pipeline goes through its approval process and then construction. The NWCWD Board of Directors in December voted to extend a moratorium on new tap sales through May of this year. While the moratorium is in place, NWCWD will not be able to guarantee water for new development. We are working on solutions that will remedy the distribution and capacity issues that are affecting NWCWD's ability to serve new customers, while also ensuring adequate supply for our existing individual and wholesale customers. We hope to have a temporary fix in place over the coming months that will allow the Board of Directors to lift the moratorium prior to the completion of NEWT III, which is a number of years away once permitting is approved. The moratorium has not stopped us from trying to find a fix to the problem. We are working with partners in the community to identify a temporary solution while the NEWT III approval process continues. We hope to be able to begin limited tap sales in the coming months and that the NEWT III pipeline project can move forward in an expeditious manner so that NWCWD's capacity issues are resolved long-term."
"We are hearing the frustration and pain of the builders and the homeowners," Fries said. "This is affecting the paychecks of framer, drywallers, framers and landscapers. Not to mention the builders themselves. This could potentially be devastating to their businesses if it hasn't been already."
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