The north end of La Posta Road has long been considered by city and county planners as a prime location to meet the region’s need for more light industrial businesses, but access to water and sewer lines has historically stunted growth.
It appears the problem is slowly being chipped away.
“Our goal is to help the local business community and future development,” said Emily Meisner with the La Plata County Economic Development Alliance. “We’re working on a permanent solution that would open the area up to development.”
The area of La Posta Road (County Road 213) in question is the focus of a joint city-county effort. Recently, the Economic Development Alliance has joined the conversation to help.
“It’s a new approach,” said Daniel Murray, a planner with La Plata County. “We’re happy to have more energy.”
Along La Posta Road, there are some existing light manufacturing businesses, such as Ska Fabricating, StoneAge and the Animas Air Park.
But increasingly, businesses located there want to expand, or in some cases, new companies want to move in. A limiting factor, however, has been access to water and sewer services.
Matt Vincent, president and co-owner of Ska Fabricating, said the company purchased a 36-acre property in June. The idea, he said, is twofold: expand Ska Fabricating on a portion of the land, then subdivide the rest and sell it to light-industrial businesses.
“Currently, we’re located in three facilities throughout La Plata County, and ideally, we’d be consolidated in one, roughly 25,000- to 30,000-square-foot building,” he said.
But connecting to water has stymied plans, Vincent said.
“The cost to get it to our property is significant,” he said. “And we’ve been asked to foot the bill without much assistance.”
In 2013, an idea was floated to create a metro district for property owners on La Posta Road, which would pay for and slowly chip away at building water and sewer infrastructure. It was estimated at the time it would cost around $40 million for complete build-out.
While there has been some progress on expanding access to water, the issues surrounding sewer remain a major problem, Murray said.
To reinvigorate the effort to boost development on La Posta Road, the city of Durango and La Plata County teamed with the Economic Development Alliance to bring all stakeholders together to figure out how to fund the project.
Calls to the city of Durango’s planning department were not returned.
“It’s really up to property owners to decide what they want to fund when we can’t find grants,” Meisner said. “They get to decide their own fate.”
Normally, when new development comes in, the cost falls on the property owner to hook up to sewer and water, Murray said. But the price tag to connect in that area is not realistic for a private property owner, so it’s going to take creative thinking – like forming a metro or special district – to solve the issue.
And planners want to prepare for what La Posta Road might look like years down the road. Murray said a good example is Bodo Industrial Park. But unlike Bodo, planners want to anticipate needs, like sidewalks and bike trails, that weren’t in original development plans.
“Right now, there’s a temptation to just let La Posta slowly build out,” he said. “But we don’t want La Posta to grow and us to overlook glaring infrastructure needs we could have done in a more thoughtful manner.”
Aside from Ska Fabricating, StoneAge wants to expand, Murray said, though company representatives did not return a call seeking comment. And in June, Tailwind Nutrition relocated to La Posta Road from Bayfield. Representatives with Tailwind also did not return a call seeking comment.
Meisner said there is also a nearly 100-acre property for sale.
Ted Hermesman III, a property owner who has been working to bring in light-industrial growth to La Posta, was out of the country this week. But, he said earlier this year after leasing the warehouse to Tailwind Nutrition that the move might kick-start development.
“The city of Durango has been trying for 25 years to get this area going, and now people are getting frustrated and selling,” Hermesman said.
An Economic Development Alliance survey in 2017 showed a 1% vacancy rate for light-industrial space in La Plata County.
Recently, the city and county have put out a bid hoping to find a company that will develop a big-picture sewer plan, in an attempt to better understand a road map going forward. Then, all interested stakeholders will have to figure out a way to phase in, and fund, the improvements.