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Morley family developers shovel dollars to City Council candidates

click to enlarge Dave Martin is school board president in Falcon 49, a - district with heavy development.
  • Dave Martin is school board president in Falcon 49, a district with heavy development.

City Council candidate Dave Martin says Colorado Springs is a "construction junkie." Development should pay its fair share, reads his campaign literature, with city government serving "the interests of the people who already live here."

But Martin's smart-growth platform clashes with his campaign finances. At least $15,000 in donations to Martin lead back to Jim and Mark Morley. As one of Colorado Springs' most powerful developer families, the Morleys are best known for their efforts to create an alternative to the city's Southern Delivery System plan to bring water from the Arkansas River north to Colorado Springs.

Jim Morley says his family has spent $75,000 on the municipal election so far about half of all the money reported by the nine at-large candidates and the Morleys may not be done yet.

Martin was linked to the Morleys before his run for City Council. Martin, a general contractor, serves as board president for Falcon School District 49, one of the fastest-growing districts in El Paso County.

Last spring, the Morleys attempted to rezone as residential about 357 acres southeast of Barnes and Marksheffel roads in D-49. That land could support more than 1,100 homes.

But when the so-called "Mountain Vista Property plan" went before Colorado Springs City Council, District 49 representatives said new homes could add thousands of students and little tax revenue to support them. Citing the school district's concerns, Council members denied the rezoning plan.

Then, in January shortly before Martin started his campaign for City Council D-49 changed its mind. In a letter sent to Council members, the Martin-led board of education detailed its backing for the Mountain Vista plan. The Morleys had promised to pay the Falcon school district $2.2 million for its support, but only if City Council approved the rezoning at a later date.

That cash would be supplemented with a $1,500-per-house impact fee to the district. According to Martin, the $4 million total would pay two-thirds of the price of constructing one new elementary school. But it still would not offset the cost of the added students.

Martin sees no conflict between the Mountain Vista scenario and his current campaign funding from Morley.

"That is something I am very proud of, the amount of money I have been able to get for our schools," Martin says. "I cannot be defensive over something I am very proud of."

On City Council, he says, he would "abstain" from voting on the proposed rezone, should it come up again. Jim Morley had been pushing for the city to reconsider, but now he says he might try once more in a couple of years.

In the meantime, Martin has also received $8,200 worth of radio advertising, paid for by the Morleys. The donation will be itemized later this month.

As of March 13, Martin had reported $33,152.26 in monetary contributions, second-most of the nine candidates. He gave $13,352.26 to his own campaign. A $5,000 donation came from Robin Morley, Jim's wife.

"It is right there in the public," Jim Morley says. "My name is on it."

Other people connected to the Morleys also have given to Martin's campaign. James Hamel a former employee of Pro Sports MVP, a sports marketing firm that counts Mark Morley as its vice president and Jim Morley as a consultant and his wife Ceanne gave another $5,000. The last $5,000 donation came from Stacey Vandivert, who co-owns a house with Corwin Vandivert, a Morley employee.

The Morleys also gave $14,000 to incumbent City Council candidate Tom Gallagher for billboards. (Gallagher reported that the Morleys gave him $32,059.70 in total, but Jim Morley says Gallagher overestimated the amount.) Gallagher a surveyor for Engineering and Surveying, Inc., a division of Morley Companies Family Development, owned by Jim Morley has promoted the Morleys' SDS alternative.

Jim Morley says he will support any at-large candidate except for incumbents Randy Purvis and Larry Small.

Morley helped to create the Committee for Transparent Government, which has sponsored KVOR 740 AM radio ads attacking Purvis and Small. One ad slams Purvis for his support of the city's recently imposed stormwater fee.

"I guess I am a little flattered," Purvis says of the radio spot. "Nobody attacks people who are behind."

  • Morley family developers shovel dollars to City Council candidates

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