Thursday, March 31, 2016

Broadmoor land swap process still drawing crowds

Posted By on Thu, Mar 31, 2016 at 11:55 AM

click to enlarge A land swap proposal drew a crowd to Gold Camp Elementary School on Wednesday night. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • A land swap proposal drew a crowd to Gold Camp Elementary School on Wednesday night.
At what might be the final public informational meeting regarding the city's proposed trade of land with The Broadmoor, a vocal opponent drew cheers and a standing ovation from many Wednesday night when he lashed out at city officials for a "backward" public process.

Richard Skorman, former vice mayor who helped create the city's open space tax, blasted the city and The Broadmoor for failing to provide more information about a stable and picnic pavilion project the resort plans to build on nine acres of Strawberry Fields open space — the most contentious portion of the land swap deal.

"This is the worst pubic process I've ever been involved with," he said, nearly shouting and turning red with exasperation. "It's completely backward. We have no idea what you're going to do, and you're going to take something very special and do the master plan for the [North Cheyenne Canyon Park] a year later? Do it now. Do it now. You don't give away public land until you give the public a chance to know if they're enjoying it. We all have to stop and take a time out. Let's have a public process. This is terrible, terrible politics."

click to enlarge Broadmoor CEO Jack Damioli called the swap "a true win win for the community." - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Broadmoor CEO Jack Damioli called the swap "a true win win for the community."
Skorman noted the city had indicated it planned to disclose details of The Broadmoor's plans for the park property, such as where the buildings would be located. But the only thing that was released was a map showing the resort, as opponents of the swap predicted, wants the most accessible and walkable portion of the open space, known as the meadow.

Roughly 200 people attended the meeting at Gold Camp Elementary School where the city announced that appraisals of the city property show a value of $1,581,000 for 189-acre Strawberry Fields and $580,000 for a half acre parking lot near the Manitou Incline. (The city stated in a flier those figures total $2,257,000 but they do not.)
click to enlarge This 8.5-acre property across from Bear Creek Park, the first site chosen by The Broadmoor for its stables project but later abandoned, is worth $1.4 million, according to an appraiser. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • This 8.5-acre property across from Bear Creek Park, the first site chosen by The Broadmoor for its stables project but later abandoned, is worth $1.4 million, according to an appraiser.
The property the city would receive, based on appraisals conducted by appraisers hired by The Broadmoor, tallies at $3.3 million for 208 acres around Mount Muscoco and a 9-acre tract just east of the county's Bear Creek Regional Park, which alone was valued at $1.4 million, along with various trail easements on Barr Trail, the Incline and Chamberlain Trail. It wasn't disclosed how appraisers arrived at the $1.4 million figure, but the property is zoned for 17 residential lots.

According to values of the properties listed in El Paso County Assessor's Office records, compiled by open space advocate Kent Obee, The Broadmoor's property is valued at $1.2 million, and the city's at $2.4 million.

Obee said while the appraisals might be "technically correct," they "don't pass the common sense test."

"I think this is a bad deal," he said. "I think it's been rigged. I think it's been a tragedy for the city."
Walter Lawson, too, complained of the short public process, which began on Jan. 14 with a news release issued by the city calling the land swap "an exciting opportunity." It was the same day the city says it met with all the stakeholders involved, including trail groups, the Forest Service, El Paso County Parks and others.

He offered a "modest counterproposal" of trading Strawberry Fields for a comparable Broadmoor asset — that being Broadmoor Lake, which drew laughter from the crowd. The lake lies west of the resort's main building and is encircled by a walkway. "If you recall, the public had access to the lake," he said.
click to enlarge Mayor John Suthers' Chief of Staff Jeff Greene looked rather sour as opponents spoke against the trade. His boss supports the land swap. Greene applauded when supporters endorsed the deal. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Mayor John Suthers' Chief of Staff Jeff Greene looked rather sour as opponents spoke against the trade. His boss supports the land swap. Greene applauded when supporters endorsed the deal.
(Some 25 years ago, residents could park near the hotel and walk around the lake. Now the property is walled in, preventing such public access.)

"We suspect the Broadmoor won't want to trade the lake any more than the citizens want to lose Strawberry Hill [another name for the city open space]," Lawson said. "The matter should go to a public vote."

Missye Bonds, who wrote the city's application to have North Cheyenne Canyon placed on the National Registry of Historic Places years ago, said conveyance of public land so designated requires a cultural resource survey, and that hasn't been done. "We have a right to know our history," she said.

But the land swap wasn't without supporters. Johnny Walker, whose family has preserved ranch land in Pueblo County including Black Footed Ferret habitat, said The Broadmoor would care for the land better than the city.
click to enlarge Kyle Hybl said he lives on what could be the property to be used to extend Chamberlain Trail on the Strawberry Fields area. He supports the trade. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Kyle Hybl said he lives on what could be the property to be used to extend Chamberlain Trail on the Strawberry Fields area. He supports the trade.
A resident who lives near the hotel called the trails on Strawberry Fields "rutty" and cheered the idea of The Broadmoor taking over the land, while former developer Steve Schuck, who lives next door to Strawberry Fields, also called for Broadmoor control.

Kyle Hybl, who lives near the open space and also serves as The Broadmoor's general counsel, spoke in support of the trade as well.

Linda Hodges reminded the crowd that preserving open space can take decades, as in the case of Section 16 outside Manitou Springs, and residents should be given a chance to form groups to help with maintenance costs, if that's the problem. (In recent years, voters approved allowing the city to use Trails Open Space and Parks tax money for maintenance, not just acquisition and development, a point that hasn't been raised in response to  the city's contention it can't afford to take care of Strawberry Fields.)

click to enlarge People lined up to speak, causing the meeting, planned for two hours, to run more than an hour longer than planned. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • People lined up to speak, causing the meeting, planned for two hours, to run more than an hour longer than planned.
"Don't trade our park land to a corporation," she said.

City Council will be briefed on April 11, but will take no public comment. The Parks Advisory Board will vote on a recommendation on April 14. That meeting begins at 7:30 a.m. at 1401 Recreation Way. Council will vote either in late April or May.

For more information, check the city's website.

As of today, 3,415 people had signed an on-line petition sponsored by Broadmoor Neighbors & Wildlife.

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