City Gov

Monday, June 13, 2016

Jariah Walker converts public office dreams into city job

Posted By on Mon, Jun 13, 2016 at 8:50 AM

Jariah Walker: Trying out government on the inside. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Jariah Walker: Trying out government on the inside.
THIS BLOG HAS BEEN  UPDATED TO SHOW THAT WALKER RESIGNED FROM COLORADO SPRINGS FORWARD'S BOARD WHEN HE WAS HIRED BY THE CITY.

After two failed attempts to become an elected official, Jariah Walker has taken a job with the city.

After losing badly to Peggy Littleton in the 2014 election for the El Paso County Commission District 5 seat, Walker, a Democrat, ran for an at-large seat on Colorado Springs City Council 2015, in which he was edged out by Bill Murray, Tom Strand and Merv Bennett.

(It's worth noting that the Gazette endorsed Littleton without disclosing that Wayne Laugesen, a member of the newspaper's editorial board, is married to Dede Laugesen, who ran Littleton's campaign. The Gazette later said Wayne Laugesen didn't take part in the endorsement process for that race.)

Walker, who has been in his family's property management business, was hired by the city March 28 to be a senior analyst in the Economic Development Division.

While he won't make as much as a county commissioner elected in 2014 ($87,300), as a city worker he's paid $72,500. That beats Council pay, at $6,250 a year, all to hell.

So it would appear that Walker's political days are over, at least for now.

Meantime, though, he appears to still be a member resigned from the the board of Colorado Springs Forward, a local nonprofit formed to influence public policy, when he accepted the city job.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Council takes up shooting, walking

Posted By on Fri, Jun 10, 2016 at 12:18 PM

The proposed pedestrian bridge. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • The proposed pedestrian bridge.
A couple of items on Monday's City Council work session agenda are worth noting.

First, Council will hear a presentation from Police Chief Pete Carey, Sheriff Bill Elder and Fountain Police Chief Chris Heberer about setting up a shooting range for officer training at Pikes Peak International Raceway. The property in question is within the purview of Colorado Springs Utilities, whose Clear Springs Ranch compound sits adjacent to the proposed shooting range.

We reported on the shooting range relocation on April 20. You can read that story here.

And here's the presentation:
PPIRDeedRestrictions.pdf
Council also will hear a presentation about progress of building a pedestrian bridge from the proposed Olympic Museum to America the Beautiful Park.

Here's that presentation:
ATB_Ped_Bridge_at_Vermijo_Ave_presentation.pdf The city says it will give away contaminated property next to the park to the developer, which is Nor'wood Development Group, and relinquish all responsibility for the contamination.

We've written about this problem site several times. You can find those stories here and here.

Councilor Bill Murray objects to lumping the land giveaway with the pedestrian bridge, telling the Indy via email:
The only Master Plan is the NORWOOD master plan for downtown development. That is what this land exchange is all about. At the west end of the bridge, on either side, there will be apartments built and managed by Norwood. This property is currently owned by the city. To be traded for a trail space owned by Norwood behind the Park. One of the slides shows, on the west side, white pads left and right of the bridge. Those are building lots. [Kathleen] Kragen [city traffic engineer]/the City is deliberately combining the completion of the bridge with a requirement to trade the land. They should be two separate activities.
 
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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

City postpones "safety sizing" north end streets; Cascade a "go"

Posted By on Wed, Jun 8, 2016 at 12:38 PM

FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
The city has apparently bagged the idea temporarily of narrowing to two lanes several streets through the Old North End, but will move ahead with so-called "road dieting" through Colorado College on Cascade Avenue, according to a news release.

Eliminating lanes on other streets drew sharp criticism from residents, so perhaps the city is sensitive to public input after all.

The release:
In an effort to improve pedestrian safety, the City of Colorado Springs has been asked to modify travel lanes on Cascade Avenue between Cache la Poudre and Uintah streets in cooperation with Colorado College.

“Reducing travel lanes from four to two lanes on Cascade Avenue near Colorado College will substantially reduce the likelihood of pedestrian accidents,” said Kathleen Krager, Senior Transportation Manager for the City of Colorado Springs. “Limited visibility associated with two travel lanes in each direction creates a hazard for crossing pedestrians.”

The excess travel lane in each direction will be converted to bike lanes. Colorado College will close two median openings to increase safety and add landscaping to direct pedestrian traffic to the two remaining crossing locations. Colorado College will pay for all associated project costs.

Next Steps:
June 9: Present plan to City of Colorado Springs Parks Board
June 16: Present plan to City Planning Commission
June 27: City Council to discuss in Work Session
July 12: City Council to take first vote and hear public comment
July 26: City Council to take final vote

If approved by Council, lanes will be modified before the end of summer 2016. Previously planned lane modifications for Nevada, Wasatch, Weber and Fontanero will be delayed to allow the City to gather more public input, study bus service through the Old North End neighborhood and allow the Bicycle Master Plan Update process to analyze the need and appropriateness of additional bike lanes in the area.

In May, residents were asked to provide input on a plan to modify travel lanes on five streets near Colorado College in an effort to address safety concerns for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists on Cascade, Nevada and Wasatch avenues and Fontanero and Weber streets. Because of mixed public support for modifying travel on these five streets and given the pressing safety concern on Cascade Avenue, the City will only make modifications to Cascade at this time.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

UPDATE: City tax hike study paralleled land swap debate

Posted By on Tue, Jun 7, 2016 at 4:38 PM

Protesters of the land swap couldn't overcome the argument that The Broadmoor had the money to take care of Strawberry Fields. Now we learn a study was under way to find more money for parks, even as debate over Strawberry Fields raged. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Protesters of the land swap couldn't overcome the argument that The Broadmoor had the money to take care of Strawberry Fields. Now we learn a study was under way to find more money for parks, even as debate over Strawberry Fields raged.

UPDATE:
We just received this response to questions from the city communications office regarding the study:
The study is a phased analysis of public support of the Parks system, now entering its second phase.
We are unsure whether it will result in a ballot measure, as that is dependent on the results as related to public sentiment. The Parks department, with the cooperation of TOPS, the parks board, and a group of stakeholders are analyzing this study. It is part of an ongoing and long-standing effort to identify sustainable funding for parks. I've asked [parks director] Karen Palus to send me the full list of stakeholders. You will see some familiar names.

Also, I did read your blog, and brought it to Mayor's attention and asked about the connection to Strawberry Fields. He responded that "This study had absolutely nothing to do with the land exchange. Rather it is an effort to gauge public support and identify avenues for sustainable funding of our parks system."

The search for sustainable funding for parks has been underway for several years, and is not a new effort, according to Karen Palus.

——————-ORIGINAL POST 4:38 P.M. TUESDAY, JUNE 7, 2016———————-

Mayor John Suthers asked The Trust for Public Land last December to find ways the city could pump up funding for conservation and parks.

The report resulting from that engagement was issued last month.

This is interesting, because during debate over a land swap with The Broadmoor, much was made of the fact the city didn't have enough money to take care of its 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space, so the city might as well turn it over to The Broadmoor.

Now we learn Suthers commissioned the land trust to study how to beef up funding, including a "potential related ballot measure" cited in his letter to the trust dated Dec. 8, 2015. Here's the letter:

screen_shot_2016-06-07_at_3.33.42_pm.png
The city approved the land swap by a vote of 6-3 on May 24, with several supporters saying it was a good deal for the city because The Broadmoor has the resources to care for the land, while the city does not.

In a way, it's surprising the city does not have the resources, considering the 2016 Parks Department budget totals more than $42 million, if trails and open space funding from a special tax approved by voters in 1997 is added, along with grants and capital funding, according to the report. (The TOPS tax expires in 2025, by the way.)

In any event, the 28-page report notes that three-quarters of the conservation measures submitted to voters over the past 20 years in Colorado won approval at the polls. From the report:
Local governments in Colorado enjoy one of the highest success rates for conservation finance ballot measures in the country. Roughly 76 percent of local conservation finance measures (107 of 140) on the ballot in Colorado between 1996 and 2015 were approved. The most frequently used funding mechanisms for land conservation include sales taxes, property taxes, and bonds. 
So it would appear that Suthers might be angling for his next tax increase, having proposed and won approval of a .62 of a percent sales tax last November to fix the city's pothole-riddled roads — with contract provisions that call for them to be warrantied for two years.

In any event, it wasn't widely known that Suthers had requested the land trust study. And the fact that he's scoping out the possibility of seeking a tax hike for parks might have changed the debate surrounding Strawberry Fields, says Councilor Bill Murray, who opposed the swap.

Via email, Murray observes, "What we do know was this was never mentioned during the entire time of the land swap. It would have definitively changed the narrative to long term funding and support of the parks system. We would have had overwhelming support instead of divisive argumentation."

Here's the entire report:
TPLTaxStudy.pdf
We've asked Suthers' spokesperson for additional information about this study and will update when we hear something.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

It pays to go to court, apparently

Posted By on Wed, Jun 1, 2016 at 7:50 PM

The SDS pipeline begins at Pueblo Reservoir with this outlet. - COURTESY CSU
  • Courtesy CSU
  • The SDS pipeline begins at Pueblo Reservoir with this outlet.
Colorado Springs Utilities ratepayers will pick up the tab of a court award handed down recently that ordered the city-owned utility to pay the biggest developer in the region nearly $2 million for land used for its Southern Delivery System pipeline.

The project was largely conceived for the purpose of delivering water to the 18,500-acre Banning Lewis Ranch.

Utilities had maintained the 121 acres needed for SDS on the city's eastern flank were worth $117,500.

But Banning Lewis Holdings LLC, an entity controlled by David Jenkins, chair of Nor'wood Development Group, claimed the land was worth up to $6.4 million.

The matter went to court on May 23.

Three commissioners appointed to hear the case have ruled the land is worth $1.95 million. In addition, the city, i.e., Utilities ratepayers, will pay for Jenkins' attorney fees and court expenses, as required by law. That amount isn't yet available.

The $825 million SDS project went online in late April after more than a decade of planning.

The Banning Lewis Ranch was annexed in 1988 and passed through several ownerships before Jenkins bought it in November 2014.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Chief Carey should be retired by now, but he's not

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2016 at 12:00 PM

Police Chief Pete Carey doesn't need one of these. - RANDY NICHOLS
  • Randy Nichols
  • Police Chief Pete Carey doesn't need one of these.
Police Chief Pete Carey was due to retire in April but chose to stay on, along with permission from Mayor John Suthers, of course, under new rules of the pension plan.

Carey was participating in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP, which ended in April. DROP allows a member of the Fire & Police Pension Association of Colorado, who qualifies for retirement by reaching the age of 55 with 25 years of service, to continue working. Instead of the city and Carey continuing to contribute to his pension plan, under DROP Carey's retirement pay is funneled into a special account for five years. So, for discussion purposes, if his retirement pay is $100,000 a year, that money goes into an account during the five-year DROP period, at the end of which he can access that $500,000 and begin to collect his annual pension.

The old rules would have required Carey to retire in April. The city says via email, "Pursuant to clarification/change to the Colorado Springs New Hire Plan Rules adopted by the FPPA Board of Directors effective January 1, 2016, at the City's discretion, a sworn employee may continue employment post-DROP and transition to an FPPA defined contribution pension plan."

Under that plan, according to FPPA's general counsel Kevin Lindhal, Carey will invest 8 percent of his salary, and the city will contribute 8 percent of his salary to a defined contribution plan following the five-year DROP period. Meantime, his retirement pay that had been going into the DROP account is discontinued.

"We adopted rules that provided for situations where the employer and employee agreed to allow the member to work past the 5-year DROP," Lindhal says in an interview. "There weren't provisions in the plan for what happened in that event."

The change, effective Jan. 1, came about at the request of several jurisdictions, he says.

The DROP program was created, Lindhal says, to allow an employee and an employer to better plan transitions. "The thinking was if there was certainty about when a member would retire, that was beneficial to the employer because they could better plan their staffing requirements, which is critical in public safety," Lindhal says.

When Carey entered the DROP program in 2011, he didn't know he'd be named chief the next year by then-mayor Steve Bach.

Working past the five-year DROP period means forfeiting your pension during that work time. "For someone to do that," Lindhal says, "there would have to be another reason to do that, like they became chief."

Last we checked in March, Carey is paid $182,778 a year.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Legal opinion released; Zoo urges approval of land swap

Posted By on Mon, May 23, 2016 at 1:55 PM

This tract of nearly 9 acres across from Bear Creek Regional Park would become the city's under the land swap. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • This tract of nearly 9 acres across from Bear Creek Regional Park would become the city's under the land swap.
We're sharing a couple of new developments in the city's proposed land swap with The Broadmoor that readers might be interested in.

The first is a letter from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, established by Broadmoor founder Spencer Penrose, urging approval of the swap. 

ZooLetter.pdf
The next thing is the city's legal opinion about why it's not necessary to submit to voters the question of selling or trading the city-owned Strawberry Fields open space. It was released by Councilor Bill Murray with permission of other councilors.

LegalOpinionOnVote.pdf
City Council is due to settle the debate over the land swap at its meeting Tuesday, which begins at 1, at 107 N. Nevada Ave. The land swap item is No. 11C.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Opponents make final pitch before City Council land swap vote

Posted By on Fri, May 20, 2016 at 3:44 PM

City Councilor Bill Murray's town hall meeting drew a full house Thursday night. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • City Councilor Bill Murray's town hall meeting drew a full house Thursday night.
Momentum appears to be building against the city's proposed land swap with The Broadmoor, at the center of which is the city's 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space.

Thursday, the opposition group Save Cheyenne posted on Facebook this comment from John Fielder, open space advocate, famed photographer and one of the original board members of Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund: "Open space is important for people and wildlife. I am always suspicious of land swaps that have been initiated by commercial interests vs. open space organizations. I think the residents of Colorado Springs should be too."

City Councilor Bill Murray's town hall meeting Thursday night to hear out those who oppose the swap drew a room full of people, as well as Councilors Helen Collins, Tom Strand, Don Knight and Larry Bagley.
Richard Skorman speaks, as Councilor Murray listens in the background. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Richard Skorman speaks, as Councilor Murray listens in the background.
As Murray noted, past public meetings about the exchange have led off with a presentation by the city Parks Department, followed by The Broadmoor, both of which support the swap, and last were the opponents. At some meetings, opponents left after they became tired of waiting for two hours or more to have their say.

Commentary after Murray's opening remarks came from former vice mayor and open space advocate Richard Skorman, who serves as chairman of the Save Cheyenne effort, Sierra Club local chapter spokesman Jim Lockhart, Save Cheyenne's attorney Bill Louis, who said he believes the land can't be traded away without a vote of the people, and several citizens.

On Tuesday, City Council is slated to vote on the exchange. It's item 11C.

While Council chambers hold 100+ people, an overflow room in the basement is usually made available for big crowds, who are able to watch the meeting on TV.
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Thursday, May 19, 2016

CSPD releases use of force report

Posted By on Thu, May 19, 2016 at 5:15 PM

cspdbadge.png
With little fanfare, the Colorado Springs Police Department released a 17-page report Thursday about the CSPD's use of force, but there were few startling findings in the wake of publicity over an officer slamming a teen onto the floor and breaking a tooth — caught on video. The case was among several featured by the Independent in its "Full force" series, which began on July 15, 2015.

Police Chief Pete Carey told the media he would adopt all 11 recommendations, which ranged from providing guidance on when to investigate a use-of-force policy violation to improvements in documentation by officers and supervisors.

The mostly internal committee (there was one El Paso County Sheriff's official involved) was formed at the behest of Mayor John Suthers about a year ago to look at how police investigate complaints of excessive use of force. The benchmark, Suthers said during a mayor-City Council meeting Thursday at which the report was unveiled, is whether the officer acted as a reasonable police officer would act under the circumstances.

"This is a tough time for law enforcement in America," Suthers said. "We have a highly accredited department. I think we are attracting good quality officers."

The committee reviewed 119 cases randomly selected from 2011 through May 2015 and concluded, Carey told reporters, that only two cases involved an excessive use of force.

Read the entire report at this link.

One finding that might be of interest to the ACLU of Colorado states, "CSPD should consider additional training based on current best practices in use of force as well as traffic or pedestrian stops."

The ACLU last year pointed out a case involving Ryan and Benjamin Brown, who were pulled from their vehicle after being stopped for no apparent reason. From the report: "This is a proactive suggestion for continuous improvement in an area that has high liability for the department and is consistent with national dialogue on improved policing training."

Here's the CSPD's news release about the report:
The Colorado Springs Police Department today released findings and 11 recommendations from the “Use of Force Review,” which started in December 2015 and concluded in March 2016. During this time, a 10-member committee (eight voting members) examined 119 cases involving “use of force” by CSPD officers. Mayor Suthers and Chief Carey sat down with Springs TV to discuss the report and process in depth.

The purpose of the project was three-fold.
1. To review CSPD complaints involving use of force to determine whether the disposition was accurate.
2. To determine whether any changes or improvements in training, process and / or policy are warranted.
3. To review sustained use of force complaints for reasonableness of discipline and make recommendations for changes or improvements in training, process, and/or policy related to discipline for inappropriate use of force.

Task 1 Findings:
In reviewing 119 cases, the committee agreed with the vast majority of the original dispositions. In cases where the committee disagreed with the disposition, most of the issues found would be remedied by clearer definitions of technical terminology. There was one case of the 119 in which the committee thought the disposition should have been sustained at the lowest level of discipline, instead of “no use of force found.”

Task 2-3 Findings:
In fulfilling tasks 2 and 3, the committee submitted 11 recommendations for implementation by CSPD. Those recommendations are as follows:

1. CSPD needs to give clearer guidance on when to identify and investigate a potential use of force policy violation.

2. CSPD needs to give clearer guidance in the difference between “Unfounded” and “Exonerated”

3. CSPD needs to re-examine investigative guidance and the evidence that is necessary to arrive at a disposition.

4. CSPD needs to consider consolidation of Use of Force policies.

5. CSPD needs to find ways to improve officers’ documentation and supervisors’ documentation.

6. CSPD should consider additional training based on current best practices in use of force as well as traffic or pedestrian stops.

7. CSPD should develop a plan to publicly release this report.

8. CSPD needs more thorough investigations, particularly when the allegation is a use of excessive or inappropriate force.

9. Assaulted officers should not be involved in further interaction with the suspect (e.g. prisoner processing) once the immediate danger has passed.

10. De-escalation technique training should continue.

11. CSPD should discuss the level one and level two distinctions in internal investigations

The report and findings were shared with Mayor John Suthers via email on May 2, 2016 and were presented to the Colorado Springs City Council today at the Mayor-Council retreat. Police Chief Peter Carey gave the presentation.

“This review has confirmed that CSPD has a solid internal investigative process for complaints that will be further strengthened by the committee’s recommendations,” Carey said. “I also want to thank the committee members, both CSPD staff and our representative from the El Paso County Sheriff’s department for their time commitment, thoughtfulness and perspectives on reviewing this important topic.”

“I’m appreciative of CSPD’s efforts to take a hard look at a very difficult topic, and for its willingness to provide honest feedback and thoughtful recommendations in an effort to improve our service to the citizens of Colorado Springs,” said Mayor Suthers. “I have a great deal of faith in the men and women of the Colorado Springs Police Department, its training programs and its leadership, so it wasn’t surprising to find that in the majority of cases, the committee came to a positive conclusion as to the department’s use of force policies. I look forward to the improvements recommended and commend everyone involved for their commitment.”

In an effort to engage citizens in discussion around this report, the City of Colorado Springs and CSPD have published an online discussion board on the topic. The board can be found at www.coloradosprings.gov/speakup. The report may be viewed at cspd.coloradosprings.gov/
 

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Stormwater projects announced

Posted By on Thu, May 19, 2016 at 11:40 AM

stormwater.png
The city made a big splash Wednesday in announcing its program of work to get the city's stormwater system up to snuff. 

The $460 million deal with Pueblo County is largely responsible. 

See the list of projects here:
Stormwater_Projects_Fact_sheet_051716.pdf The city's release:

Seventy-one (71) stormwater projects will be completed over the next twenty years under an Inter-Government Agreement (IGA) signed April 28 by the City of Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Utilities and Pueblo County. Mayor John Suthers, City Council President Merv Bennett and other City and community leaders commemorated the event today at the site of a 2016 project to stabilize the channel along Sand Creek south of Platte Ave. (Project information included in attached fact sheet)

In an effort to inform residents about how General Fund dollars will be allocated to stormwater infrastructure and what projects will take place around the city to maintain a healthy stormwater system the Stormwater Division has launched an interactive map highlighting locations of all stormwater projects scheduled for 2016 and the 71 projects outlined in the Inter-Governmental Agreement. Projects range from large IGA projects, community and local projects, and grant/capital improvements. These stormwater projects are designed to enhance public safety, provide improved water detention, and reduce flows, sediment and other pollutants entering drainages and going downstream.

The City of Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Utilities and Pueblo County signed the Inter-Governmental Agreement committing the City and Colorado Springs Utilities to spend $460 million for stormwater infrastructure, maintenance/operations, and education programs over the next two decades (contingent on annual appropriations) to improve the City’s stormwater system. Included in the $460 million is funding to leverage money towards additional grant projects and to address neighborhood and local stormwater projects.

The IGA also describes the City’s responsibilities for the provision of stormwater services within the City’s jurisdiction and under the MS4 permit issued under the federal Clean Water Act and its state counterpart. The 71 IGA projects were selected based on negotiations with Pueblo County to identify and prioritize stormwater projects that would benefit both Colorado Springs and downstream communities.
Here's the IGA:
Pueblo_CSIGA.pdf
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Sierra Club opposes city-Broadmoor land swap

Posted By on Thu, May 19, 2016 at 10:49 AM

The city's Strawberry Fields open space has become the most controversial component of the land swap. - COURTESY MIKE DORSEY
  • Courtesy Mike Dorsey
  • The city's Strawberry Fields open space has become the most controversial component of the land swap.
With time running out before City Council will vote on Tuesday on the city Parks Department's proposal to trade city land for property owned by The Broadmoor, it's worth noting that the Sierra Club's local chapter has issued a letter opposing the trade.

Meantime, the Trails and Open Space Coalition has not changed its position of conditional approval, and in fact the most recent update on its website on this issue was posted on April 20. Find that update here.

Among the TOSC's conditions is a conservation easement. We wrote about that mechanism in this week's Independent.

Meantime, a meeting dedicated exclusively to opponents will be held 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.

Here's the Sierra Club's letter:
Dear City Council Members:

On behalf of the Pikes Peak Group of the Sierra Club, I wish to raise a number of questions which we believe must be clarified before City Council can make an informed decision on the proposed Broadmoor Land Swap. Because your decision on May 24th will be the final action by Council, after which the entire exchange would go forward without your further oversight or approval, it is not appropriate to decide this matter until the terms, conditions, and consequences of the land exchange are clearly known. We therefore strongly oppose the exchange proposal.

1. Is it appropriate for the Broadmoor to retain “PK Public Parks” zoning for property it owns, controls, and uses principally for the benefit and enjoyment of its guests and paying customers?
According to the City Code, the PK-Public Parks zoning classification “is intended for land set aside for use as public recreation and open space.” (§7.3.402(B)) The term “Public Park and Recreational Services” is defined in the Code’s definition of land use types and classifications as “Publicly owned and operated parks, playgrounds, recreation facilities and open spaces.” (§7.2.302(D) (13)) We note that this portion of the Code contains separate classifications for “commercial recreation” (§ 7.2.302(C)(30)) and “commercial stable” operations (§ 7.2.302(H)(5) which are defined to include activities similar to those permitted in a “public park” zone. It is therefore not clear that the Code envisions a privately-owned public park or that this continues to be the proper zoning classification once the City divests itself of ownership and the power to operate what was formerly a public park.

2. To what extent will the public be able to use the portion of Strawberry Hill parcel from which it will not be totally excluded?
The information regarding future public access to the Strawberry Hill parcel which has been provided to date is clearly conflicting. The Draft Resolution states that the Broadmoor “shall allow free and open public access to all of City Property 1 and City Property 2 except the building envelope.” However, the Draft Resolution also gives the Broadmoor management rights “including but not limited” to promulgating rules and regulations and enforcing such rules and regulations for the protection of natural resources and to deter inappropriate and illegal behavior. The City website continues to refer to the Broadmoor’s creation of a “future trail system” open to the public. The Broadmoor’s representations at various public meetings and Council sessions, including the April 25th session, likewise make it clear that the Broadmoor pledges only to permit public access (under such conditions as it, as private owner of the land, may choose to impose) to such trails as it may choose to construct. This is consistent with the Broadmoor’s grant of nothing more than “trail easements” for the Chamberlain, Hully Gully, and South Canon trail corridors. It would make no sense for a landowner to grant an easement for a particular use over a particular portion of the property if the owner in fact intended to allow “free and open access” to the remainder of the parcel for that same use. A question naturally arises as to what would happen if the Broadmoor were to elect to construct few or no additional trails, or if it were to construct more trails, but impose stringent restrictions on their use. The Broadmoor clearly has plans to develop the property for equestrian use, and therefore can be expected to construct some bridle trails on the parcel beyond the building envelope. However, it has also expressed an interest in using the Strawberry Hill parcel to create a “Five Star” resort experience for its guests. All that the public can know for certain is that it being asked to give up the “free and open public access” which it presently enjoys in exchange for a vague promise of future access, with unknown restrictions, to an undescribed set of trails which the Broadmoor may choose to construct for the use and enjoyment of its guests and paying customers.
We note that according to the City’s April 25th presentation, the Strawberry Hill site and master planning process will occur only after Council has given final approval to the land exchange. The City’s presentation states that the Broadmoor will “prepare” the draft master plan and “respond” to public comments. The Broadmoor’s only obligation seems to be to propose a plan that complies with the conservation easement and deed restrictions. This process is completely different from the usual master planning process for publicly-owned property, by which City officials and employees develop a plan with public input from the outset. A question naturally arises as to what will happen in the case of an impasse regarding the plan. If the Broadmoor proposes a plan deemed unacceptable to the City or the public, it is not clear that there is any way by which it could be required to make changes to allow additional public access. Although the City could refuse to allow activities inconsistent with the PK zoning classification, it is not clear that it could require the Broadmoor to allow other activities permissible within this classification. We note that the City proposes to retain only a right of first refusal in the event that the land is sold, not a right of reversion. Since the City proposes to grant the property to the Broadmoor with a favorable zoning classification and is transferring it at a highly discounted value based on that zoning, it is crucial that the City retain an enforceable means of assuring that the property continues to be in fact, as well as in zoning nomenclature, a “public park.”

3. To what extent do the land appraisals reflect actual value to community?
Assuming that the appraisals done to date comply with standard valuation protocols, the fact remains that the City in effect is paying the Broadmoor full “fair market value” for the Bear Creek parcel based on its suitability for residential development, even though the City will use the property for parkland; whereas the City is valuing the Strawberry Hills parcel as parkland, even though the Broadmoor plans to use a portion of it exclusively for commercial activities, and even though the remainder of the parcel will also host, and be essential to, those same commercial activities.

4. What are the cost impacts of acquiring ownership of the land parcel containing the Barr Trail and the Manitou Incline?
Although the City has expended a large amount of funds to repair and maintain the Incline, it has no legal obligation to do so in the future. The Intergovernmental Agreement between Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs states that it is terminable at the will of either party and that “neither party is obligated to appropriate or expend any funds to meet its obligations.” Acquisition of ownership of the land parcel therefore may cause the City to incur additional responsibilities. We note that the Incline was plagued with washouts and rock slides throughout its operating history, and that within 20 years of its closure in 1990, it required upwards of $4 million in restoration work. Has City staff prepared an analysis of the future costs of maintaining the Incline and of the legal and financial impacts of becoming its owner?

Finally, we would like to point out that it has been a very frustrating process for members of the public who want to become informed in this matter. Crucial information has been withheld by City officials or released at the eleventh hour after citizens complained. This matter has therefore become not only a question of open space, but also of open public process.
Although the most prominent dispute in this regard has focused on the City’s withholding of the land appraisals, other information has also been withheld or omitted. For example, as of this date, the City informational webpage “Barr Trail and Manitou Incline” makes no mention of the proposed Emerald Valley land exchange, whereby the Broadmoor would grant a permanent Barr Trail easement to the Forest Service. It thereby implies that City acquisition of the parcel is essential to protect a trail corridor which the Broadmoor is willing and intending to protect by other means. We note that this City webpage implies that nothing less than total public ownership is sufficient to protect public access rights to the Barr Trail and Incline, whereas the “North Cheyenne Canon Park/Strawberry Hill” page implies that easements and a non-specific pledge of future public access are sufficient.
To date, all public meetings regarding the land exchange have been orchestrated by City staff, who have focused on the City’s view that the land exchange is a “win-win” situation, or have been merely “listening sessions” at which the public was given only a short time to speak. This Thursday at City Hall from 6 to 8 p.m. Councilman Bill Murray has arranged a town hall meeting at which the opponents of the exchange will be given a full opportunity to present their side of the controversy. We urge you to attend and listen to these presentations.

Sincerely,

James E. Lockhart, Conservation Chair
Pikes Peak Sierra Club Group

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Use-of-force report due Thursday

Posted By on Wed, May 18, 2016 at 11:10 AM

Alexis Acker after her encounter with a CSPD officer. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Alexis Acker after her encounter with a CSPD officer.
Mayor John Suthers and City Council will hold a "workshop" at the Colorado Springs Airport tomorrow to discuss an array of topics, such as landslides in the city's southwest sector, the city's comprehensive plan, the 2007 budget outlook and economic development.

Tucked in the midst of those topics is a report by Police Chief Pete Carey about the Colorado Springs Police Department's use of force.

The Independent reported on Carey's formation of a committee, ("Forcing the issue," Oct. 14, 2015) whose members have never been identified, to assess the situation. No other media has reported about this committee.

Carey formed the panel a year ago as the Indy  was preparing its series, "Full Force," which kicked off on July 15 and continued intermittently through the year. One case involved an officer, Tyler Walker, slamming 18-year-old Alexis Acker to the floor at Memorial Hospital. The CSPD didn't open an investigation into the November 2013 incident until nearly a year later, after a lawsuit was threatened. That lawsuit is pending. Check out the video and a rundown of various cases here.

Walker reportedly has since left the department, but he wasn't fired. Although some discipline was imposed, the CSPD has refused to say what that consisted of, and Walker remained part of the force until he voluntarily left Oct. 3, 2015. at a time the CSPD has so far not disclosed.

Another case involved the CSPD setting off a bomb in the home of a former Army soldier, Ronald Brown, who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, for which we provided an update yesterday.  Suffice to say, the city hasn't been able to wiggle out of a federal lawsuit filed by Brown.

Now, Carey will deliver his report that the department previously said would comprise a "comprehensive" review of "a statistically significant sampling" of use-of-force cases. We'll report on the findings when they're made available.


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More on conservation easements; land swap opponents announce meeting

Posted By on Wed, May 18, 2016 at 10:50 AM

A view of Strawberry Fields looking west-northwest. - COURTESY MIKE DORSEY
  • Courtesy Mike Dorsey
  • A view of Strawberry Fields looking west-northwest.
As we report in this week's edition of the Independent ("Easing the transition"), a conservation easement is planned for the Strawberry Fields open space the city proposes to trade to The Broadmoor for various tracts of land. Those include portions of the Barr Trail, Manitou Incline, a residential parcel adjacent to Bear Creek Regional Park, 208 acres of rugged forested property around Mount Muscoco and Chamberlain Trail easements.

Easements have proven controversial at times in the past, and led to reforms on what's eligible for tax breaks and what's not. (Let us emphasize that the tax credit issue appears to be moot in the case of Strawberry Fields, because The Broadmoor has stated it will not seek the tax benefit available through a conservation easement. The resort does, however, plan to claim a tax benefit for "donating" the difference between the value of its property and the city property, which totals roughly $1.45 million.)

After the Indy's press time, we heard from the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies about tax credits, so we're passing along that information there in a Q&A format:

Does the state have data on how many easements there are in Colorado and how many acres are covered by them?

Since 2011, landowners who donated a conservation easement must apply to the Division of Real Estate for a tax credit certificate in order to claim a conservation easement tax credit with the Colorado Department of Revenue. The total dollar amount of conservation easement tax credit certificates is limited or capped each year. Below is a summary of tax credit cap applications and certificates.
2011
• Annual Conservation Easement Tax Credit Cap = $22 million
• Received 78 “2011” tax credit cap applications
• 78 certificates issued against the 2011 cap
• 78 certificates protected 38,816 acres
• Issued 78 certificates in the total amount of $22 million

2012
• Annual Conservation Easement Tax Credit Cap = $22 million
• Received 85 “2012” tax credit cap applications
• 85 certificates issued against the 2012 cap
• 85 certificates protected 72,661 acres
• Issued 85 certificates in the total amount of $22 million

2013
• Annual Conservation Easement Tax Credit Cap = $34 million
• Received 118 “2013” tax credit cap applications
• 118 certificates issued against the 2013 cap
• 118 certificates protected 116,101 acres
• Issued 118 certificates in the total amount of $28,240,269
• $5,759,731 still available for tax credit certificates to be issued.

Is there an estimate of how much this program costs the state annually in lost taxes, or tax credits?

​Below are the tax credit calculation rules, which come from Department of Revenue statutes.

• Conservation Easements Donated in 2000-2002: 100% of the first $100,000 donation value
• Conservation Easements Donated in 2003-2006: 100% of the first $100,000 donation value; 40% of the remainder, up to $260,000 cap
• Conservation Easements Donated in 2007-2014: 50% of the donation value; $375,000 cap per transaction.
• Conservation Easements Donated in 2015 or later: 75% of the first $100,000 of the donation value and then 50% of the remaining donation value; $1,500,000 cap per transaction.

Are there rules on how much of the value of the land can be used as a tax benefit?

Currently, the tax credit cap for gross conservation easements is $45 million annually. 

What was done following the investigations of 2007 into possible abuses of the conservation easement program?

In 2013, Senate Bill 13-221 was enacted to ensure that conservation easement donations were sufficiently examined for compliance before the Division of Real Estate issued the tax credit certificate. Senate Bill 13-221 went into effect on January 1, 2014. As a result, a conservation easement tax credit certificate application and review process was established and duties and responsibilities were aligned with the appropriate decision makers.


Save Cheyenne, a group formed to oppose the land swap is urging attendance at a meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave.

While past public meetings on the issue always began with presentations by those in favor of the exchange, this meeting will focus exclusively on arguments against it. From the meeting announcement:
The media is encouraged to attend the People's Town Hall tomorrow. For the first time in this 5 month saga, the People will have the ability to present their case, without time limits. 7 Presenters are scheduled to address everything from the appraisals, financial flaws, legality as well as a public vision for the land. This will be the People's first and last chance to present their analyses, uninterrupted. We believe this meeting will very much have an impact on the future of 1/3 of iconic Cheyenne Cañon Park — home to wildlife for over a century and generations of hikers, bikers, and outdoor enthusiasts. Council, the Broadmoor and the Parks Department have all been invited. So far, 5 Council Members have RSVPd yes.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

City denied judgment in excessive force case

Posted By on Tue, May 17, 2016 at 4:30 PM

Here's a gash in the leg of Ronald Brown caused by the police's assault on his house and him in 2012. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Here's a gash in the leg of Ronald Brown caused by the police's assault on his house and him in 2012.
U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch issued a ruling last month that keeps alive a civil rights lawsuit alleging excessive force against the Colorado Springs Police Department.

The lawsuit was filed in 2014 by Ronald D. Brown, who was injured when the CSPD set off a bomb inside his house after he refused to come out. The officers noted in their reports that they had never tried such a detonation but went ahead with it anyway.

We featured his story in our "Full force" series of stories about the CSPD's use of force last year.

The federal lawsuit names the city, Police Chief Carey, Deputy Chief Vince Niski, a commander, two sergeants and five officers as defendants in the May 29, 2012, assault on Brown's condominium.

In his order denying summary judgment by the plaintiff as well as the city, Matsch outlines the facts of the case and then arrives at this commentary: (our emphasis added)
To prove a violation of the Fourth Amendment by the use of excessive force, the plaintiff must establish that a reasonable police officer in the same circumstances would know that he was violating the plaintiff’s protections provided by the Fourth Amendment.

The defendants are correct in that there is no precedent for the claims in this case. In fact, there is no precedent in the experience of the Colorado Springs Police Department for the use of an explosive device in this manner. To be clearly established law it is not necessary that the specific acts in question have not previously been held unlawful. Officers can still be held on notice that their conduct violates the Constitution even in novel factual circumstances. McInerney v. King, 791 F.3d 1224, 1237 (10th Cir. 2015).

These are such circumstances. The reasonableness of the use of the explosive device must be considered in the full context of the case. This stand-off went for eight hours – through the night and into the early morning of the next day. The police officers knew of the vulnerability of the plaintiff and yet they were creating a war zone scene which would be expected to trigger a reaction by a veteran with PTSD. They did not wait for a person qualified to negotiate with Mr. Brown although it is questionable whether it would be reasonable to expect him to respond. What is more significant is the failure to wait for the Army robot which ultimately did what was required to enter the basement without exposing the officers. The explosive device would not have been needed. There has been no explanation for that failure.
Now the case will continue in the discovery phase in preparation for a jury trial, unless one of the parties appeals.

Read the Order Denying Summary Judgment here:
OrderDenyingSummaryJudgment.pdf
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Speaking of conservation easements, what about BLR?

Posted By on Tue, May 17, 2016 at 8:47 AM

screen_shot_2016-05-16_at_4.49.06_pm.png
The Strawberry Fields conservation easement — part of the city's land trade with The Broadmoor — isn't the only high profile parcel in Colorado Springs that involves the Palmer Land Trust.

In a Feb. 18 email sent to city Parks Department officials by PLT's executive director Rebecca Jewett, she declines an apparent verbal invitation to present at the Feb. 24 public meeting on the Strawberry Fields open space issue.
I was given clear instruction by the Land Committee today that, while they are very interested in continuing discussions about this project, it is not appropriate for Palmer to publicly represent the project at the meeting on 2/24. This is further reinforced by the fact that I cannot be present. It is fine for the City and Broadmoor to say you are in discussions with Palmer about a conservation easement, but it is simply not yet appropriate for us to speak publicly about something that the board has not approved.
Jewett, who was planning a trip out of town, goes on to say, "I'm happy to chat further about this or Banning Lewis before I leave."

Of course, it's no secret that the Jenkins family, owners of Nor'wood Development Group, which purchased the Banning Lewis Ranch in 2014, has thought about setting aside a bunch of the acreage for public use. As we reported in November 2014:
The Palmer Land Trust and the Trust for Public Land say they hope 12,000 of the 18,500 acres are set aside for trails, conservation and other public uses. One potential method of securing those acres into perpetuity, says Palmer Land Trust's executive director, Rebecca Jewett, is a conservation easement, which requires a landowner to sacrifice development rights in exchange for a tax credit that can be sold for cash, though certain restrictions apply.
The Banning Lewis Ranch has a rather complicated history, but the short version is that when Nor'wood bought the property, it assumed the position of previous owner Ultra Petroleum of Houston in a federal legal case about whether the 1988 annexation agreement can be set aside. (The agreement demands a lot of infrastructure investment by developers.) 

In June 2015, the court ruled in the city's favor, saying the agreement isn't a contract that can simply be set aside. After that, Nor'wood said it would appeal the decision, and it did.
 
Every few months, the city and developer check in with the court to let the judge know if they've reached some kind of negotiated settlement. So far, nope. According to the latest filing, the parties again want additional time. Read the joint motion here:
BLRAug.2016.pdf
One might expect there to be some progress made, considering that Mayor John Suthers' Chief of Staff Jeff Greene has been holding weekly meetings on Banning Lewis Ranch since early March.

Meantime, Colorado Springs Utilities is preparing to go to court on May 23 over land in the ranch used for its Southern Delivery System pipeline project for which Nor'wood's owners feel they're owed more than an appraisal said is due.

As we previously reported, the city paid $117,500, or $802 per acre, into an account to take possession pending a value finding. Banning Lewis Holdings LLC, an entity controlled by Nor'wood chairman David Jenkins, contends the 121 acres at issue is worth $4.1 million to $6.4 million.


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