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Chop your own tree, lawsuits on the way, solar's hot pace, and more 

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Motel coming down

The Express Inn, located near the intersection of Eighth Street and U.S. Highway 24, will soon be no more.

The Colorado Department of Transportation is tearing down the structure, which has been vacant since May 2011, in order to make room for a new interchange at nearby Interstate 25. Though it's been gutted for years now, the building was once a motel, and during the worst years of the recession it briefly served as an emergency homeless shelter, subsidized by the city.

Immediately before foreclosure, it had been low-rent housing with some rents subsidized by the C-C Boarding Home Annex, which ran two housing programs out of it. A judge ordered the quick shutdown because the motel's bills surpassed income and because the place had bed bugs, exposed asbestos, crumbling concrete on stairwells and electrical issues. — JAS

Solar sets hot pace

Calling for 20 percent of Colorado's power to come from the sun by 2025 is a goal that's achievable "if we just keep our foot on the accelerator," according to Kim Stevens, campaign director of Environment Colorado.

Reaching the 20 percent goal would reduce carbon pollution by the equivalent of emissions from 1.6 million cars per year. It also would place Colorado more than halfway to a benchmark set by the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, which calls for 35 percent reductions in power-plant carbon.

In a news release, the nonprofit says a new report by the Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center found that solar power has grown 44 percent in Colorado in recent years. It's currently the fastest-growing industry in the country, having added 143,000 jobs nationwide in 2013, the release says. In Colorado, the industry employed more than 3,600 people in 2013.

"Our strongest clean energy economy will be one that allows participation from utilities, homes and businesses alike," Jessica Scott, regional manager with Vote Solar, says in the release.

The state has more than 500,000 residential and commercial rooftops that are conducive to solar panels, Environment Colorado says. Colorado Springs Utilities has had a residential solar program for years, and in recent years has sanctioned construction of community solar gardens totaling 3.5 megawatts. — PZ

Lawsuits on the way

In this month's elections, voters turned down a plan to create the Pikes Peak Drainage Authority and fund it with $40 million in annual fees for stormwater maintenance and capital projects.

That didn't please the folks south of us, who say they're tired of being on the receiving end of Colorado Springs' stormwater problem. In fact, some entities say they plan to sue the Springs, because they believe the city agreed to manage stormwater as a part of the permitting for Colorado Springs Utilities' Southern Delivery System water pipeline.

Pueblo County commissioners are making noises about legal action, and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District has already sent Colorado Springs city officials a letter declaring its intent to go to court. For more, see City Sage. — JAS

Chop your own tree

There's something about the approach of the holidays that taps into our woodsy side. You want to chop wood, build fires, and even saw down your Christmas tree. If comedy films have taught us anything, the urge to do the latter leads to frozen toes and wrenched backs at best ... but hey, it's Christmas!

So if you still want to give it a try, bring $10 for a permit to the Pikes Peak Ranger District at 601 S. Weber St. between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, Dec. 1 through 17. Or, if you live in Woodland Park, you can buy your permit on Dec. 6, 7, 13 or 14, between 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. at the east parking lot of the Woodland Park Middle School.

The rangers will explain where you can cut your tree (in 10,000 acres located northeast of Woodland Park on Rampart Range Road) and what kind of trees you can cut. Just don't count on a big, bushy type like the ones at the tree lot; Colorado's natives are a little on the sparse side. — JAS

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