Friday, April 8, 2016

UPDATE: Opponents to land swap deal begin email protest

Posted By on Fri, Apr 8, 2016 at 11:08 AM

click to enlarge Looking west over the Strawberry Fields meadow. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Looking west over the Strawberry Fields meadow.
UPDATE:
Last Friday afternoon, the city communications office got back to us saying the Mayor's Office has not received any emails in support of the land exchange. "However," the spokesperson added, "most people will send letters to voice their opposition more often than sending emails in support."

Over the weekend, another round of opposition emails flooded in from different people.

City Council is due for a briefing on the land swap today at 1 p.m.

——ORIGINAL POST FRIDAY, APRIL 8, 2016, 11:08 A.M.———————
Opponents to the city's exchange of land with The Broadmoor are taking to email to make their wishes known at the behest of Save Cheyenne, a group that opposes the land swap.

Here's the message from its Facebook page:
"Mayor John Suthers has said, "This is a win-win for the city." Why don't we flood his email inbox asking him why he doesn't demand the Parks Department release the appraisal assumptions? There's only one buyer and one seller in this transaction; so, any claims that they need to protect the data from a multitude of buyers is inapplicable. While you are at it, ask him why he allowed Strawberry Fields to be put on the table in the first place. It's about time he step out and answer questions to the public who put him in office - especially since this department reports to him." 
Dozens of residents have responded by sending emails to Mayor John Suthers and/or the City Council expressing their concerns about plans to give the resort 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space in North Cheyenne Cañon and a half-acre parking lot near the Cog Railway in exchange for 371 acres of trail easements and steep terrain around Mount Muscoco, and other property.

The protests follow our story about the city refusing to release the appraisals of the land involved as requested by the Independent under the Colorado Open Records Act, although CORA doesn't mandate they be withheld. Rather, CORA says the records custodian "may deny the right of inspection of the following records [including land appraisals], unless otherwise provided by law, on the ground that disclosure to the applicant would be contrary to the public interest."

The city didn't say in its denial what public interest it relied on to withhold the appraisals, saying simply, "Pursuant to Colorado Revised Statute § 24-72-204 (2)(a)(IV), the City denies your request for appraisals."

We've asked the mayor's communications director, Jamie Fabos, how many such messages have been received, as well as how many have come in from supporters. We'll circle back if and when we hear from her.

Meantime, here's a sampling of excerpts from the emails: 
Janis Frazee: Why was a CORA request denied? This makes me feel even more suspicious and concerned. With all the concerns from the public regarding transparency, I feel this is not a situation in which appraisals should be kept secret. There are inconsistencies in the response that CORA denials are valid in real estate transactions with multiple buyers to keep an appraisal secret when the City of Colorado Springs released the Jones Park Appraisal. Which I understand had multiple buyers. If there is only 1 seller and 1 buyer in the Broodmoor Land Swap, then to me, this adds more confusion and a veil of secrecy to this whole deal. 
John Moore: Though you gave a "win-win" endorsement at the beginning of this process, we have not heard much from you since. Are you aware of the outrage over the Broadmoor Land Swap? What do you think about this widespread discontent?

Though there are many questions, the most pressing one is that the Parks Department, who reports to you, seems unwilling to release the appraisal assumptions regarding the Broadmoor Land Swap. Do you believe this supports transparent governance, which I assume you wholeheartedly endorse? In fact, they are so opposed to releasing the data that a CORA request was denied which I would assume made it to your office given the gravity of that call. Was this your decision? What are your thoughts regarding this decision?
Brian Maslach: As a local outdoor enthusiast and business owner, I ask that you put a stop to the Broadmoor Land Swap.

At minimum, the failure of the Parks Department to release all appraisal assumptions give a strong appearance of impropriety. The lack of independent appraisals only furthers this. If this is such a good deal for the people of Colorado Springs, why isn’t all relevant information available to us? As much as appreciate The Broadmoor in our community, they don't need charity from the people of Colorado Springs.
Jack Rocks: It is my understanding that the City paid for the appraisals on the land it is giving up and the Broadmoor paid for the appraisals on the land the City is to receive. This is backwards, the City should pay for what it is getting to make sure it has fair value. Since the City will not make the appraisal’s public I can only speculate on how these values were determined. The appraisal should be valued at how the land will be used after the swap not how they are currently zoned. I cannot believe the Bear Creek property was appraised as park land to receive such a high amount. Strawberry Hills should be appraised taking into account the commercial use of the 8.5 acres, which again I find it hard to believe that was done.
Elizabeth Feinsod:  It is unconscionable that the Parks Department and City Council would not value it enough to stop the rush to relinquish a treasure owned by the citizens to a for-profit entity in exchange for land that is essentially less valuable.

Although the appraisals offered by the City and the Broadmoor refute this last statement regarding its value, it is clear that the appraisal process has been skewed to convince the public that the city is getting more in the trade than the Broadmoor is acquiring. Some members of our City Council and the Parks Department have tried to convince people that it is in the best interest of the citizens of Colorado Springs. In each of the public meetings discussing this subject an overwhelming majority of citizens have been awed by the lack of transparency and arrogant and patronizing attitude of those who disagree with the opposition. Where were the “detailed plans” promised by Mr. Damioli of the Broadmoor, for which we waited two weeks, only to be disappointed by the repetitive and nebulous “not sure yet”, “something of that sort” explanation of the Broadmoor 's intentions. 
Larkin Flora: I am writing to urge you to please stop the Broadmoor land swap. It's a bad deal for the city, the majority of citizens are against it, and the Broadmoor has not upheld any of the conditions requested by TOSC when they gave their approval. I'm also extremely concerned by the lack of transparency from the city regarding the appraisals. Why has this not been released? Is the city hiding something? Also, why has the city not conducted an independent appraisal of the Broadmoor's proposed properties, instead relying solely on their own appraiser? 
Jackie Bonneville: I am a proud Colorado Springs resident and very concerned about the land swap between The Broadmoor and the city. I know I am not alone in wanting more information and answers. I never get involved with politics, I don't have the stomach for it. I do my homework and make educated decisions when voting. This land transaction is beyond upsetting. Why would we let a private entity own such a beautiful and pristine open space so it can be destroyed for their profit? I don't understand how that benefits citizens. 
Barbara Bowen: I am writing to ask you to stop the swap of Strawberry Fields to the Broadmoor. The Department of Park and Rec reports to you. You have the power to stop the swap.

Please don’t allow the bottom line of the Broadmoor to interfere with the beauty of the city and the enjoyment of a beautiful spot accessible to the public.
Jo Ann Schneider Farris: Those who live in our city should always feel welcome in Cheyenne Canyon. The possibility of losing it feels like a tragedy is about to happen.

As a family, we've enjoyed the beauty of Colorado Springs and have especially enjoyed Cheyenne Canyon. The Strawberry Fields Open Space is a true gift and that gift must continue to stay open to the public.  
Doug Carter: Please oppose any transfer of title that lessens potential public parking near the Barr Trail.
Please consider:
1) Barr Trail and/or the Manitou Incline are community assets that are unique nationally and possibly worldwide.
2) Scarce parking is the prime detriment to enjoyment of both experiences by your citizens and our visitors.
3) Creating more public parking enhances these treasures. Deeding away (forever) potential public parking damages these community amenities (forever).
Further:
Please oppose any lease of City lands that limits public parking near the Barr Trail.
In my opinion, the Broadmoor and the Cog Railway have not acted as "good neighbors" relating to the creation of and solution to the parking problems.
In my opinion, a primary responsibility as residents is to preserve and protect (and enhance) for future generations what makes our community special. Barr Trail is special. Deeding away future public parking violates our responsibility.
THANK YOU!
Read the entire proposal here:
 
The city's Parks Advisory Board is slated to vote April 14 on a recommendation to City Council, which takes up the issue on May 10.

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