Monday, April 25, 2016

UPDATE: Council action on land swap delayed two weeks

Posted By on Mon, Apr 25, 2016 at 4:11 PM

click to enlarge This photo has been photo-shopped by opponents of the land swap to identify the Strawberry Fields area by the tag applied by the city to it during the appraisal process, which called it the North Cheyenne Cañon Park Disposal Project."
  • This photo has been photo-shopped by opponents of the land swap to identify the Strawberry Fields area by the tag applied by the city to it during the appraisal process, which called it the North Cheyenne Cañon Park Disposal Project."
We were just provided a copy of an appeal of the Parks Advisory Board's recommendation to City Council to approve the land swap. Here's a copy:

———ORIGINAL POST MONDAY, APRIL 25, 2016, 4:05 P.M.—————-

City Council will delay action on the exchange of city open space to The Broadmoor until May 24, it was stated during Council's informal meeting today.

Council had planned to act on May 10, one day after an appraisal review is due on appraisals conducted on the city's 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space and a half-acre parking lot at the base of Manitou Incline. The city hasn't released those appraisals and has said it won't until the deal is done. It's unclear if appraisals done by The Broadmoor of its 400+ acres of land involved in the trade will ever be released.

Meantime, comments provided to the city during its public process over the exchange show that nearly 70 percent are against the proposal, although Parks Advisory Board Chair Jackie Hilaire told Council today that "the minority is being very vocal" and that she's heard from more people who are in favor of it. (The board has recommended Council approve the deal.)

That prompted City Councilor Bill Murray to say, "My emails are 40 to 1 against it. We’re losing a lot of good will in this process."

More on Hilaire later.

The city's refusal to release the appraisals prompted attorney Bill Louis to tell City Council he plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of those opposing the Broadmoor land exchange to seek disclosure of the appraisals. He said the Colorado Open Records Act doesn't prohibit their release but rather says they may be withheld if it's in the public interest to withhold them.

Louis also threatened to mount legal challenges to the deal based on The Broadmoor's plan to shut off 8.5 acres of Strawberry Fields for the exclusive use by its guests at a stable and picnic pavilion.

"Fencing off 8.5 acres for use by exclusive guests of a five-star resort is not use by the public," he said, which is what park zoning requires. "Use by the public is right down here in Monument Park where a man or woman working in any business in Colorado Springs at minimum wage can afford to reserve a pavilion. That’s open to the public. Open to the public doesn’t mean open to the six-figure incomes."

Several Council members countered with other existing park zone uses that allow commercial operations to regulate who uses the facilities, such as the Switchbacks soccer team's field in northeast Colorado Springs.

Louis, who served as El Paso County attorney for at least eight years before resigning a few years ago, also urged Council to simply put the issue to a vote of the people.

But mostly, the hours of discussion came from city officials and people associated with The Broadmoor speaking in favor of the exchange, such as Gary Butterworth, who works for El Pomar Foundation, which offices at The Broadmoor and was established by The Broadmoor's founder, Spencer Penrose.

"I don’t take lightly the fact they [parks staff] worked on this proposal," Butterworth said. "They’ve got to be thinking what’s in the best interest of this community."

Now, as for Hilaire, some have raised questions about why a non-city resident sits on the city parks board.

Here's the answer, as provided by Parks Director Karen Palus via email: 
We have had several Boards members and TOPS Committee members who have resided outside the City over the many years. Jackie does live outside the City limits but is adjacent to City owned Corral Bluffs. We have had members who have lived in Manitou Springs, in the county and Monument. This was allowed by our ordinances. We have recently updated our ordinances to require all board and committee members to reside in the City. All future members of the Parks Board and the TOPS Working Committee members will be required to be City residents. Jackie is one of our last folks to transition out her term ends this summer.

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