History has been kind to the 43-acre west side property known as White Acres.
Even as Colorado Springs grew up next door, White Acres (which borders Red Rock Canyon Open Space and Section 16) has remained a wild place, its peace interrupted only briefly when it was quarried for rock years ago. Developers, and most other humans, have left it alone since. The rough hogback off 26th Street, with its treasure of fossils, forests and scrub brush is inhabited by one caretaker, and a lot of wild animals.
It might have remained like that forever. But a series of events has changed the forecast for White Acres, and now houses may pop up on its lonesome landscape.
Bethany Baptist Church was given the property decades ago by members of its congregation. The church didn't intend to develop White Acres until recently, when Bethany's aging building started needing repairs the church couldn't afford.
Bethany began working with Infinity Land Corp. on plans to develop the plot. But with one stipulation: The church first wanted to give the city a chance to buy the land and maintain it as open space.
Infinity vice president Todd Evans says his company followed that instruction. For the past year, it worked with the city's Trails, Open Space and Parks program, which decided to buy the land for $1.3 million. The developer and church were on board. TOPS just needed approval from City Council but didn't get it.
"That isn't going to happen in the current environment," Councilman Jerry Heimlicher says, noting TOPS is already shelling out millions for Corral Bluffs and the upcoming purchase of Section 16.
Nevertheless, Heimlicher says he hopes at least part of White Acres will be preserved as open space.
"We were fine with the whole thing being open space," Evans says. "We spent a year trying to make it work for everyone."
But with the city out of the picture, Evans says Infinity now might build 27 single-family homes, and 16 to 20 townhomes, on the lower part of the property. The upper half, where the hogback sits, could also be developed, or it could be left as open space. Evans says it's too early to say for sure.
In the meantime, the developer is exploring getting the county-owned land annexed by Colorado Springs.
All this hasn't exactly pleased the neighbors.
Don Ellis owns two properties in the vicinity, including the house where he grew up. He played in White Acres as a child. He and other neighbors say developing White Acres would be a disaster for the environment, and would mar the magnificent view for everyone.
The neighbors have a strategy for fighting the development: They're asking the city not to annex, therefore making it difficult, if not impossible, to get utilities to the proposed homes.
City senior planner David Litzelman says if the property isn't annexed, it could still be developed, likely with septic tanks and wells (assuming water is accessible). But houses would have to be more spread out, meaning the current plans wouldn't work.
The city's decision on annexation will likely take up to 12 months.
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