Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Broadmoor to Council: land swap is "a public gain"

Posted By on Wed, May 4, 2016 at 10:54 AM

This week's edition of the Independent includes a story about the city's proposed land swap with The Broadmoor.

The most controversial component is the city's 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space, which would slip into the resort's hands and be placed under a conservation easement, with about eight to nine acres used for The Broadmoor's stables and picnic pavilion.
click to enlarge Someone makes an editorial comment on the Strawberry Fields trade. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Someone makes an editorial comment on the Strawberry Fields trade.
The email traffic between The Broadmoor and the city included this letter written by Broadmoor Chairman Steve Bartolin to certain City Council members. (Helen Collins and Bill Murray were not included, apparently. Murray has been an outspoken skeptic of the exchange.) Here is the letter (the emphasis is ours):
February 19, 2016
Keith King/Don Knight/Jill Gaebler/Tom Strand/Merv Bennett/Larry Bagley/Andy Pico
RE: City Land Exchange
Dear ____:

First of all, your time to discuss this proposal was much appreciated. I want to give you an update since we visited. I think the public forums are really good because it allows the facts to get out and deflate the misinformation that floats around on social media and the gossip circles.

The only controversial piece of this exchange is the property we would acquire, 189.5 acres formerly known as Strawberry Hill and nicknamed Strawberry Fields. Originally, we agreed to maintain the park zoning if we were to acquire this property. There was concern that zoning can get changed so we agreed to place park zoning as a deed restriction. There was some public concern that, although difficult to change, deed restrictions can be changed. Therefore, we met with the folks at the Palmer Land Trust and we will be pursuing a conversation easement on the property. The Palmer Land Trust suggested that we carve out a small parcel that we identify for potential picnic grounds or stables and the remaining acreage would be placed in the conservation easement, which will assure park zoning and open space in perpetuity. We are good with this and I think it demonstrates to the public what our
intentions are. I discussed this with Richard Skorman and he feels that this is something that he and other current opponents can support. Of course, Richard wants to know exactly how much property we would carve out and where it is so we are working on identifying that.
Initially, we discussed ongoing public access through the property via the newly created Chamberlain Trail. Since then, we have added the public will have access to the remainder of the property and any other trails we would potentially develop. This would include mountain biking access on the trails as well, and this will be reflected in the conservation easement. We do not want to develop bike racing tracks which would damage the property and be disruptive.

We will announce this at the next public meeting, which is February 24, at Goldhill Elementary School, between 6 and 8pm.

By making these compromises and assurances for a conversation easement, continued public access, the development of and maintenance of trails, and fire mitigation and cleanup of the property, it becomes a public gain. I predict we will have more public usage then the very sparse usage it has today.

I should mention, in my ongoing discussions with Richard Skorman, before he learned of our intent to put the property in a conservation easement, he said he intended too slow down or slow roll the project. Richard realized that when the facts get out and people begin looking at the exchange in broad versus narrow terms that many of the opposition arguments don’t hold water, so slowing down or stalling the process was their secondary strategy. I think we will be able to win a lot of folks over with these concessions and compromises we have made but there will continue to be some that push the slowdown strategy.

All the best.

click to enlarge Mount Muscoco overlook is one parcel the city would get as part of the trade with The Broadmoor. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Mount Muscoco overlook is one parcel the city would get as part of the trade with The Broadmoor.
We asked Skorman about this characterization of his exchange with Broadmoor folk as stated in the letter and here's what he told us, via email:
He didn't mention the context. When we had the conversation, he told me that they may just want one acre for a picnic pavilion, there would be no horses on the property and a conservation easement would be placed to prevent any building on the other 188.5 acres.

I did tell him that some opponents at the time had concerns that the Broadmoor wanted to build condos or expand the hotel on Strawberry Fields and that a conservation easement on the 188.5 acres would ease their fears. I also said others would be reassured by no horses and just a one acre footprint. What he didn't mention is that I have always stuck to my guns about the Broadmoor would have to be willing to lease, not own, and there would have to be a site plan and Canon Masterplan first to see if the Broadmoors plans fit. Yes, I did say we want to slow this down, as I have from the beginning. 
The controversy over the city withholding appraisals of the parcels involved in the trade apparently is about to end. Word is, the city plans to post the appraisals on its website as part of the backup materials for the Monday agenda for the City Council meeting. Nevermind that several people, including yours truly, went to the trouble of submitting a Colorado Open Records Act request through official channels to obtain these, to which the city told people to go pound sand. (Opponents of the exchange even hired a lawyer who filed a lawsuit trying to achieve disclosure, for which a hearing is set for 10 a.m. on Friday.) Then, when the city decides to reverse that position, the records are simply thrown up on the website without notification to those who sought them via an official CORA. We believe ours was the first, submitted on March 31.

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