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Don't ask, don't tell

To the Editor:

Forget about takings! Big Johnson is all about givings! Public-funded open space: down $8.1 million; private developers: ahead untold millions; nature preserve: zero.

After reading the "not me" quotes from our City representatives and pleadings of innocence from the deeply involved developer ("Time to Deal," May 24), I have to wonder if our regional land-use policy is merely another version of "don't ask, don't tell."

The seven-year contract with Janitell and Colorado Springs Utilities covers people (not) recreating on reservoir water while acknowledging full property use rights for owners. Nothing about shoreline development. Duh. Who misrepresented this reality to City Council?

The choices we citizens have at this point are ugly. We must give back the GOCO monies if we ever expect to receive from them again. Maybe the City should sell all of the Big Johnson open space preserve to developers. The citizens could do the leaders' job and pass an initiative to keep the agricultural zoning in perpetuity around Big Johnson, if that would even be possible.

I have two other suggestions for the long term. Fast track regional planning laws that put teeth in zoning for open space and natural preserves. Could this happen in the City of Colorado Springs? Maybe. We must have a countywide land use policy that protects community resources and enforces cost accountability.

Secondly, take a look at the City's legal department. Do we have qualified land-use attorneys on staff? I'm tired of seeing the same attorneys represent a developer at one Council [meeting] and City interests at the next.

Yes, it'd be interesting to follow the money. Nobody likes to get caught with his or her pants down, but it's time to fess up and take the medicine.

-- Max Eisele
Colorado Springs


What the TOPS program believed

To the Editor:

Cara DeGette's "Time to Deal" article last week on plans for an upscale 200-home development on the shores of Big Johnson Reservoir surrounded by land recently purchased with Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) funds told only part of the story. Her article completely ignored why the TOPS program believes such a development will almost certainly never occur.

The main reason is that for development to take place on the proposed 150 acres, that land has to be rezoned from its current 5-acre tracts to 1/2-acres tracts by the County Commissioners. The obstacles to that zoning are numerous. Much of the 150 acres proposed for development is in a flood plain. Most of the property is in the "Sound Contour" zone of the Colorado Springs Airport where homes would experience severe noise problems when planes fly overhead. The soil around the reservoir is geologically unstable, contaminated and would be hazardous to build on. There is only one access in and out of the property for utilities and fire protection because the 1997 TOPS Initiative forbids building roads or utility lines through TOPS purchased land. The list goes on.

Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) has an agreement with the owners of the property (the Fountain Mutual Irrigation Company) that prohibits contact with the water for 5 1/2 more years. The reason why is that most of the "pristine" Big Johnson Reservoir water advertised in the developer's brochure comes from discharged wastewater from treatment plants all over the county. That water is acceptable for irrigation only and has a slight sewage odor. The cows that have been grazing and defecating on Big Johnson's shore for decades don't help the water quality or the smell either. Not exactly water that you would want to swim, fish or jet ski in, as advertised by the developer. The Feds would also have something to say about a development up against the shores of Big Johnson Reservoir because of the Clean Water Act, the Migratory Birds Act and Wetlands Protection legislation.

The TOPS program never asked the owners of the property about their plans to sell for development because they believed that development would never occur. For Ms. DeGette to imply that TOPS purchase didn't involve due diligence simply isn't true. It is Ms. DeGette's reporting that lacks due diligence.

--Richard Skorman
City Councilman
Colorado Springs

Ms. DeGette's article reported the discrepancy between what the TOPS committee and city government believed and what is actually being proposed on and around Big Johnson Reservoir. We stand by her story. For a follow-up on last week's story can be accessed here.. -- Ed.


Seeking neutrality

To the Editor:

What is so hard to understand about separation of religion and government? Taxpayers' money should not be used to promote, endorse, proselytize or help any religion in or by any branch of government. Plain and simple. Religion is very divisive, as can be witnessed every day in this country and the world.

The absence of religion does not mean atheism, secular humanism, etc. is taught or endorsed. The government is just being neutral, thoughtful and considerate to all taxpayers.

City Councilperson Judy Noyes, the ACLU in the Grand Junction case, the Freedom From Religion Capitol Hill case and Colorado Springs firefighter-paramedic Bruce Monson are all correct in their fight.

Judy Noyes is my type of Christian, one who realizes there are many different religious and nonreligious taxpayers to respect and represent, and wants to be neutral. Good for her.

Grand Junction correctly backed down in the last couple of days. Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions should have told the city to quit wasting tax money. In the Denver Capitol Hill case, our state Supreme Court stated in 1995 that the Ten Commandments are not religious and do not endorse a specific religion. Excuse me -- how can anyone in their right mind say that? Perhaps this case will be taken on again.

Fire chief [Manuel] Navarro should never have let one person have to fight for so long for their constitutional rights. The city fire department policy should have been straightened out by Navarro a long time ago: no use of tax money to proselytize a certain religion.

We need democracy, not theocracy. Fascism seems to be just around the corner and those who ignore history are bound to repeat it.

--Jacqueline Marquis
Colorado Springs


Stand up and be counted

To the Editor,

I have been so encouraged by Senator James Jeffords' decision to break with the Republican Party on the grounds that the current Bush administration and the Republicans who are in power are not responsive to the needs and wishes of moderate Republicans. I am not a Republican, but I now have hope that there are moderate Republicans who love the nation as a whole and will not automatically genuflect to "Christian Coalition" masters. This "Christian Right" has been getting all the press lately, but they don't have all the hearts and minds.

I know that there are Republicans out there who do not approve of the "Christian Right" dictating Republican policy. I know there are such Republicans, even in Colorado Springs! Stand up and be counted. Contact your representatives, and your senators and, even the White House and let them know that you care and you vote.

-- Shannon C. Davis
Colorado Springs


Looking for middle ground

To the Editor:

Yes, Boulder has managed to keep much of the undesirable sprawl and big-box retailers out, and Boulder is definitely one of the most (if not the most) livable, beautiful cities in the state -- if you can afford to live in Boulder, where, if I recall, the average home price is greater than $350,000 (Outsider, May 3).

The clich of the "balloon effect" is quite true with Boulder's policies -- you squeeze one area, keeping out sprawling residential development, strip malls, etc., and it, like the air in the balloon, simply moves to the closest available area. In Boulder's case, it is Superior, Louisville, Longmont, unincorporated Weld County, etc., that are getting the thousands of Highlands Ranch-like, cheap, cookie-cutter tract homes, strip malls, convenience stores, etc. These areas get their prime farm land replaced by miles of residential development, while Boulder manages to continue to increase its open space and keep and create very lucrative jobs and attract big-money, "clean" business.

Again, Boulder is a great place, with great schools, parks and people. I would head up there in a second to live and raise my kids, if I could increase my salary by a factor of five! Which ain't gonna happen! I do understand how Boulder managed to evolve into what it is today. I also am aware of the realities of basic economics, big money and how the "real world" works. Issues such as to how to avoid creating Boulder-like (or Aspen-like, or Vail Valley-like) areas that benefit from the desirable money and development, while suffering few negative effects, are extremely complex and difficult to analyze.

I realize I'm identifying some obvious issues and problems, and not offering any great solutions! I don't know the answer to how to reach a happy medium between the Academy Boulevard scenario and Boulder, but I do think that there must be some middle ground somewhere.

-- Jason Wilson
Pueblo


Subject search: something to do

To the Editor:

I just have to tell you that I love your events listings. I had the worst luck trying to find out what was going on in the Springs, but after I found your Web site, I get to do fun things, and my kids do, too.

Thank you for having your site on the Internet; it is the best thing I have found on the Net.

--Ashley Porter
Fountain

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