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Afton-Lakeland gully project discussions rumble on

Ongoing problems with soil erosion and gully instability in Afton could be a step closer to resolution.

Members of the city council have decided to hold a special workshop meeting with seven homeowners in the Croixview Avenue South area of Afton whose properties are affected by the land issues.

Remedial work to stabilize the gully, which lies on the Afton-Lakeland border and has been causing problems since 2006, has been delayed owing to questions over how the city council will recoup any of the money it may spend to fix the situation.

And the issue has been complicated by the news that residents are refusing to sign over easements until they know how much they are likely to be billed for any work done.

Several options are available, with city council members meeting in a workshop session last Tuesday (May 6) to hear more information on the possibilities of special assessments or creating a special taxing district to cover homeowners' properties which will benefit from improvements.

"We talked about special assessments in March," said city administrator Jim Norman.

"There certainly are negatives. The most important negative is being able to establish benefit. Establishing the criteria is the tricky part.

"Who is to say this person receives 17 percent benefit while this person receives 25 percent benefit?"

He added that the creation of a special taxing district would be more appropriate to projects in the downtown area than to recoup costs for the gully project.

City engineer John Perotti proposed issuing homeowners with a usage charge, based on the stormwater drainage of each of the properties impacted by the improvements.

The city council has budgeted $100,000, which was required as match funding for a $75,000 grant which was secured to carry out the work.

"It's such a serious issue, it was put at the top of the list for grant funds," explained Afton Mayor Julia Welter, speaking after the meeting.

"Now we are grappling with the issue of, if we can't recoup from the property owners, are we going to go ahead and use the grant funding? Are we going to go ahead and look at a special tax area or a special assessment?"

City council members said they were reluctant to make any decision without hearing from the residents affected, and will meet with homeowners on Monday, May 19.