Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Tancredo bows out of governor's race

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 11:10 AM

Tom Tancredo with Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Tom Tancredo with Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs.
Citing a lack of campaign cash and media enemies undermining his candidacy, Republican Tom Tancredo dropped out of the Colorado governor's race on Jan. 30.

He told 9NEWS he'd hoped to raise $150,000 by Jan. 15 but fell short by half. A former U.S. congressman, Tancredo has run for governor in the last three election cycles, as an American Constitution Party candidate in 2010 and as a Republican in 2014 when Bob Beauprez won the Republican nomination.

Tancredo also blamed the media — 9NEWS, the Denver Post and the Colorado Springs Gazette, in particular as well as the fact he didn't want to win the primary only to lose in the general election.

"You guys hate me as much as the Democrats," Tancredo told 9NEWS. "You in particular, this station in particular... Let's face it, I know, believe me, this ain't my first rodeo. I know exactly where my opponents are. And you guys, especially at Channel 9, are at the top of the heap."

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, also running for governor, issued this statement:
I’m grateful to Tom Tancredo for highlighting issues that don’t always get the attention they deserve, particularly educating the public on the dangers of unchecked and unaccountable sanctuary cities.

Tom's unique voice has been crucial in the debate over issues important to many Coloradans. He has a genuine concern for his state and is a steadfast champion of individual rights. I wish Tom all the best as he looks ahead to his next venture.
The Colorado Democratic Party noted new polling shows President Trump's approval at 37 percent in the state, which would seem to make it difficult for a Republican to win in a state that has long favored Democrats in the governor's mansion.

"Even former front-runner Tom Tancredo knows there is no path to victory for Trump-style politics in Colorado," Democratic party spokesperson Eric Walker said in a statement. "Tancredo might not be on the ballot, but his ideas will be. Robbing the middle class to reward the rich, ripping health care away from hardworking Coloradans, and attacking immigrants and communities of color are still the guiding principles of the Colorado Republican Party. There are simply no moderates left in the Colorado GOP, and whichever right-wing candidate emerges from their primary will be way too far to the extreme right fringe for Colorado voters."

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Mayor Ken Jaray gives departing Manitou city administrator severance pay

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 10:58 AM

Ken Jaray: Looking for a headhunter firm. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Ken Jaray: Looking for a headhunter firm.
Manitou Springs Mayor Ken Jaray says the city will pay departing City Administrator Jason Wells a quarter of his annual pay of roughly $104,000, or about $26,000, in accordance with an agreement.

Jaray hadn't returned the Independent's phone call by presstime, so we were unable to include his comments in our newspaper this week. But we did speak with him late morning on Jan. 30.

The city will also spend up to $26,000, he says, on a consultant to help find candidates to replace Wells, who served for nearly four years.

Jaray says he and City Council members are currently in the process of interviewing search firms and hope to settle on a choice in the next 10 days.

Asked why Wells is leaving, Jaray says, "We just decided to take a little different direction." Asked to elaborate, he said, "to have new leadership more consistent with the master plan."

He declined to go into further detail.
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Colorado Springs wrestles with Banning Lewis Ranch development rules

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 9:12 AM

This portion of the Banning Lewis Ranch, on its north end, was developed by Oakwood Homes in accordance with the existing annexation agreement. - PHOTOS BY PAM ZUBECK
  • Photos by Pam Zubeck
  • This portion of the Banning Lewis Ranch, on its north end, was developed by Oakwood Homes in accordance with the existing annexation agreement.
In this week's issue, we explore the proposed new annexation agreement for the 20,000-acre Banning Lewis Ranch, which forms the city's eastern border.

Since the current annexation agreement was adopted by City Council in 1988, not much development has occurred, so Mayor John Suthers wants to change the requirements to encourage developers to build there.

After the Independent went to press on Jan. 31, a new schedule of approval emerged that afternoon, showing City Council will consider the new annexation agreement on first reading on April 10, followed by final approval on April 24. That's another month's delay, after Council already delayed final approval from late February until March 27.

And the push back to late April is fine with Council President Richard Skorman.

"There’s lots of answers we needed that we weren’t getting answers for," he tells the Indy. "We were getting fired lots of questions [from citizens]. We just felt it was being rushed. There was an interest in getting this moved forward quickly because of some of the smaller land owners who have been waiting and waiting for this to happen, and it’s been a financial problem for them."
This is a view of the Banning Lewis Ranch back in the days when it was a working cattle operation. - COURTESY, SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, PIKES PEAK LIBRARY DISTRICT
  • Courtesy, Special Collections, Pikes Peak Library District
  • This is a view of the Banning Lewis Ranch back in the days when it was a working cattle operation.
This is how the ranch looks today, which isn't much different than 50 years ago.
  • This is how the ranch looks today, which isn't much different than 50 years ago.
Skorman says the biggest landowner, Nor'wood Development Group, has said it will spend a couple of years with urban planners to devise a master plan and what that means for "green infrastructure."

Skorman would like to look at the master plan for Banning Lewis Ranch in tandem with the city's comprehensive plan, now underway, and the transportation master plan. (At present, there is no plan to provide transit service to the ranch.)

"We need to look at this [the ranch] in a bigger context," he says. "The issue for me is how it connects to everything. We’ve built trails to nowhere. We haven’t required certain developers to pitch in. Otherwise, we’re just going to have another suburban sprawl island out there."

If you're interested in a deep dive into the issue, we've provided some key documents for your perusal. First, the 1988 annexation agreement, which is in force today:
Here's the new proposed agreement:

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the two agreements produced by the city:

Lastly, Tim Seibert, with Nor'wood, gave a statement at a Jan. 16 City Council meeting that is provided here in full. That's followed by the press release issued by Nor'wood upon buying the Banning Lewis property in 2014.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Old North End to see traffic-flow changes

Posted By on Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 4:24 PM

Big changes to traffic movement in the Old North End are coming soon. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Big changes to traffic movement in the Old North End are coming soon.
Motorists, be aware that things will soon change in the Old North End under a new plan of "road dieting" in which four-lane streets will be converted to two lanes to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians, but still move traffic, according to the city.

The city announced in a Jan. 30 news release that changes are under way after a series of public meetings designed to delve into transportation and safety concerns. We wrote about the traffic concerns in April 2016.

In general, the changes include reducing traffic speeds, reducing the number of vehicle lanes and creating bicycle lanes.

Speed limits for arterial streets will be cut from 35 mph to 30 mph on Nevada and Cascade avenues; Weber, Uintah, Wahsatch and Fontanero streets. The maximum on Wood Avenue and Tejon Street will be 25 mph, down from 30 mph. New signs will be posted soon, the city says.

"In addition to reducing the speed limits throughout the area, the City will continue to review engineering best practices that can be implemented to redesign the roadways to encourage motorists to drive the new speed limit, thereby increasing safety for all roadway users and better managing traffic flow," the release said.

Nevada's truck route will be removed in efforts to reduce noise and heavy trucks. Changing a truck route requires City Council approval, which is slated for this spring.

Uintah between Weber and Corona Street will see a center turn lane added sometime this summer to "improve thru-traffic flow and reduce congestion," the release said.

The city has installed "vertical delineators" to block illegal left turns onto Wood at Uintah.

To accommodate bicycles throughout the Old North End, these corridors will see changes:
• Cascade will be restriped with one through lane, a buffered bike lane, and parking in each direction between Boulder and Jackson streets this spring. Goal: Improve pedestrian safety and provide a bicycle link to downtown. The City is also plans to redesign the Cascade and Uintah intersection in summer 2019.

Colorado College will trim the number of crosswalks on Cascade from four with flashing lights to two standard crosswalks this spring.

"Reducing travel lanes to one in each direction will facility a safer crossing with less delay for drivers using standard crosswalks as opposed to replacing the flashing automated crosswalks with the pedestrian activated mid-intersection street lights required for streets with four travel lanes," the release said.

• Weber between Colorado Avenue and Jackson will be restriped to narrow four lanes on Weber to two and a center left turn lane, bike lanes and parking. The bike lane will be next to the vehicle lanes, unlike Weber south of Pikes Peak Avenue where bike lanes run parallel to the curb line. This change has no specific date.

• Fontanero between El Paso Street and Wood will be restriped to include two travel lanes, a center turn lane and bike lanes sometime in 2019.

In addition to all that, Mountain Metro Transit and city traffic engineering is reviewing routes and usage to see if modifications are necessary.

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Police K-9 named Tank fitted with protective gear

Posted By on Mon, Jan 29, 2018 at 5:10 PM

  • Photos courtesy CSPD
Everyone loves a dog story, and this is a great one.

A nonprofit in Massachusetts, Vested Interest in K9s, Inc., has provided a protective vest for K-9 Tank, a Hungarian born police dog that's part of the Colorado Springs Police Department.

From a news release:
The non-profit was established in 2009 to assist law enforcement agencies with this potentially lifesaving body armor for their four-legged K9 officers. Since its inception, Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. provided over 2,700 protective vests in 50 states through private and corporate donations at a cost of over $2.3 million.

The program is open to dogs actively employed in the U.S. with law enforcement or related agencies who are certified and at least 20 months of age. New K9 graduates, as well as K9s with expired vests, are eligible to participate.

The donation to provide one protective vest for law enforcement K9 is $950.00. Each vest has an average weight of 4-5 lbs., is valued between $1,744. – $2,283., and comes with a five-year warranty. There is an estimated 30,000 law enforcement K9s throughout the United States. For more information or to learn about volunteer opportunities, please call 508-824-6978. Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. provides information, lists events, and accepts tax-deductible donations of any denomination at or mail to P.O. Box 9, East Taunton, MA 02718.
Tank is the newest member of the CSPD K-9 squad and arrived a year ago. The unit has 10 dual purpose handler teams, nine officers/handlers supervised by one sergeant/handler. All 10 are now equipped with vests.

Here's more about Tank, via Lt. Howard Black at the CSPD:
K9 Tank was born on August 24, 2015, in Hungary. K9 Tank was later brought to the United States by Shallow Creek Kennels located in Sharpsville, PA. In January of 2017, two members of the CSPD K9 Unit flew to Pennsylvania; and after a rigorous selection process, selected K9 Tank as the next member to join the CSPD K9 Unit.

Upon K9 Tank’s arrival in Colorado Springs, CO, he was partnered with Officer Timothy Donovan, a five-year veteran of the K9 Unit and a 12-year veteran of the Colorado Springs Police Department. K9 Tank was added to the team to fill a void left by the retiring of Officer Donovan’s first partner, K9 Max. K9 Max has since been trying to enjoy retired life at home with Officer Donovan.

K9 Tank and Officer Donovan successfully completed the Colorado Springs Police Department’s 600-hour in-house K9 Academy, as well as receiving certification through the National Police Canine Association (NPCA). K9 Tank is a dual-purpose canine, meaning he is trained in all areas of patrol work to include locating and apprehending violent and dangerous felony suspects at large in the community. K9 Tank’s primary purpose is as a locating tool. K9 Tank is also a certified to detect illegal narcotics and is one of two certified non-marijuana detection canines.
Officer Donovan and the Colorado Springs Police Department K9 Unit are extremely grateful for the very generous members of our community who have made it possible to not only vest K9 Tank, but the entire unit as well. We are all also very appreciative and supportive of the mission that Vested Interest in K9s has set out to accomplish.

When asked what this means to Officer Donovan, he stated, “I am just overjoyed that this was made possible. We, as handlers, realize that these dogs have a purpose and a job to do, but we still want to give them the most protection possible so they can come home safely at night. We form a bond and an attachment with our partners and they become members of our families. We don’t want to see anything happen to them and this vest gives Tank the opportunity to come home after every shift.”

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Friday, January 26, 2018

North Cheyenne Cañon: No vehicles allowed?

Posted By on Fri, Jan 26, 2018 at 1:31 PM

The city's master plan for North Cheyenne Cañon drew a crowd on the night of Jan. 25. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The city's master plan for North Cheyenne Cañon drew a crowd on the night of Jan. 25.

A session to discuss the North Cheyenne Cañon Park Master Plan drew more than 200 people to Cheyenne Mountain High School the night of Jan. 25, and it's no mystery as to why.

The city Parks Department has come up with several options to better manage vehicle traffic through the park, including prohibiting vehicles altogether, in which case a shuttle service might be the answer.

  • City of Colorado Springs
One plan would actually add parking spaces, growing them from the current 497 to 524, a 5 percent increase. In addition, under one scenario, 42 pullouts would be reduced to 12. There's also talk of charging fees for vehicles to drive through the park if vehicles continue to be allowed, although no figures were disclosed.

Driving the master plan are concerns over access, including vehicles, climbing, cycling, interpretation for nature walks and the like, management of maintenance and enforcing rules such as off-leash dogs and horse waste disposal, fire mitigation, public safety, special events and regulations dictating the use of trails.

The master planning process, which began in July, will end with final approval by the Parks Advisory Board in May.

The next meeting is at 6 p.m. on Feb. 1 at Cheyenne Mountain High School. Its focus will be trails and interpretative programs.

On Jan. 25, parks official Priscilla Marbaker said the goal of adopting a new master plan is to enhance the visitor experience, ease traffic congestion, reduce dust and erosion and ease parking conflicts, fumes and noise, while also improving safe passage for visitors.

"Doing nothing," she said, isn't an option because of increased vandalism of the park, impacts on natural resources, accidents and projected increases in visitation.

"Our parks are being loved to death," she said, noting an 8 percent increase per year of visitors using city parks.

As for fees, possibilities include an "all year drive through pass" and parking passes. The park might be closed at night, as is Palmer Park located near the center of Colorado Springs.

If shuttle buses are deemed a viable alternative, a separate study would be necessary "to figure out how it would work," she said.

In the midst of Marbaker's presentation, one citizen called out, "Why don't you give the whole Cheyenne Cañon to The Broadmoor?" To which Marbaker replied, "If that's something you want to do, put it on your feedback card."

The Broadmoor owns Seven Falls, which is located in Cheyenne Cañon. It runs shuttles from The Broadmoor Hotel just east of the falls. The resort also acquired the 186-acre Strawberry Fields open space, which lies on the south side of the park and near Seven Falls, via a land trade with the city finalized in late 2016. The land swap remains tied up in litigation, and a ruling from the Colorado Court of Appeals is expected in coming weeks regarding a citizen group's argument that voters should have been consulted on the trade.

Learn more about the master plan process by going here.


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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Douglas Bruce challenges motion to dismiss in sheriff's tax case

Posted By on Thu, Jan 25, 2018 at 4:42 PM

Bruce, right, speaking with reporters in September about his opposition to ballot measures. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Bruce, right, speaking with reporters in September about his opposition to ballot measures.
In his typical bombastic style, Douglas Bruce argues against El Paso County's motion to dismiss his lawsuit over what he considers the illegal collection of about $900,000 for the sheriff's tax in 2013.

Bruce calls government officials "lying politicians" and says there's no ambiguity in the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, which he wrote, "except in [county commissioners'] latest dreams."

At issue is the ballot language and TABOR notice for the sheriff's tax, saying "approximately $17 million" would be raised in its first year. TABOR requires a specific dollar figure. After voters gave a nod to the tax, the county collected nearly $17,900,000 in 2013. The excess above $17 million must be refunded to voters, Bruce argues, because no subsequent election was held to get permission to keep the extra money.

Read about the case here.

Bruce says in the answer, filed on Jan. 25, that he "could have given governments a 'weasel clause' of 'good faith,' which is easy to allege and impossible to disprove, but he did not. He could have given lying politicians leeway by excusing false statements of up to 5% (here, up to $850,000, which was truly $900,000), but he did not. During the campaign and in later testimony, he told voters and legislators that the only option was to tell the truth."

Referring to the county's motion to dismiss, Bruce writes:
On page 6, defendant strikes a noble pose and says it is is “upholding the will of the electorate—” the electorate DEFENDANT DECEIVED. If this court buys a TV for for the advertised price of $400, but the salesman enters a credit card invoice for $500, and keeps the extra $100 for himself, was that transaction “the will of the consumer?”
Read Bruce's motion, which seeks a hearing for oral arguments, here:

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State of the Rockies project shows growing concern for the environment

Posted By on Thu, Jan 25, 2018 at 2:52 PM

  • Slides courtesy Colorado College State of the Rockies Project
Colorado voters are more likely to identify as a conservationist today than two years ago, with similarly significant increases in every Western state, according to the State of the Rockies Project from Colorado College.

"You wouldn't expect that to change much year to year," project specialist with the State of the Rockies Project Jonah Seifer tells the Independent. "Over the past two years we've seen a 13 percent rise in voters who identify as conservationists.

"We've always asked, 'Do you visit national public lands?' Earlier, we got a resounding 'yes.' In the past year, we noticed a strong uptick in people who visit public lands repeatedly, people who have made a commitment to public lands and visit them often and develop a relationship with them. A culture that repeatedly visits public lands is a trend for us."

Past year's reports have been cited by politicians and last year was referenced during debate on the U.S. House floor during debate over national monuments.
The poll, conducted by Lori Weigel with Public Opinion Strategies, and Dave Metz with Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associations, found:

• 65 percent of Coloradans identified as a conservationist in 2016, compared to 75 percent this year. Respondents in the seven other states also showed an increase. The biggest change came in Utah, which went from 57 percent in 2016 to 76 percent in 2018. Other states included Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona.

• 74 percent consider themselves an outdoor recreation enthusiast.

The poll is in its eighth year and surveys citizens on their views of the most pressing issues involving public lands.

The poll comes at a time when President Trump and his administration are taking steps to block public access to some national public lands through reducing the size of public monuments and allow commercial use of public lands.

On Monday, the Denver-based Center for Western Priorities reported that a draft of Trump's infrastructure plan, first reported by Axios, includes a call for the “Disposition of Federal Real Property” by executive order, suggesting an intent to sell the country's public lands.

"This plan calls for the disposal of federal lands, it’s right there in black and white," the center's Executive Director Jennifer Rokala said in a statement. "Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has said time and again that he would oppose any attempt to sell off America’s public lands. Once again, the secretary is telling the public one thing while doing another behind closed doors."

The Colorado College report also notes that "96 percent of Coloradans surveyed view the outdoor recreation economy as important for the economic future of their state." Eighty-seven said their state's outdoor lifestyle attracts good jobs and innovative companies.

"Overall, Colorado voter approval for President Donald Trump and his administration’s handling of issues related to land, water and wildlife sits at 36 percent, with 55 percent disapproving," the report said.

Here's more from a news release:
Asked where the Trump administration should place its emphasis between protection and development, 68 percent of respondents said they prefer protecting water, air and wildlife while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on national public lands. That is compared to 21 percent of respondents who said they prefer the administration prioritize domestic energy production by increasing the amount of national public lands available for responsible drilling and mining.

Coloradans hold national monuments in high regard. Eighty-six percent described them as helping nearby economies, 93 percent as national treasures, 94 percent as important places to be conserved for future generations, 91 percent as places to learn about America’s history and heritage, and 96 percent as places they want their children to see someday. Twenty-six percent said national monuments hurt the local economy and 26 percent said they tie up too much land that could be put to other uses.

Seventy percent of Colorado voters view the Trump administration’s recent decision to remove existing protections and reduce the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah by 2 million acres as a bad idea. A Trump administration decision to alter or eliminate additional national monuments would be unpopular with 73 percent of respondents across the state.

“Over the eight-year history of the Conservation in the West Poll, a passion for the outdoors and strong support for American public lands have remained constant in the Mountain West,” said Dr. Walt Hecox, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Colorado College and founder of the State of the Rockies Project. “Nearly all of the people surveyed said they visited national public lands in the past year and plan to go to a national park in 2018. Public lands drive our economy and define our way of life. A leadership agenda that does not recognize that reality is going to be met with strong disapproval in Colorado.”

Specifically, several actions recently undertaken or currently under consideration by the Trump administration are unpopular with voters in Colorado:

• 40 percent of respondents support [44 percent oppose] raising fees to enter some of the country’s largest national parks during peak season;

• 30 percent of respondents support [53 percent oppose] privatizing the management of campgrounds, visitor centers and other services provided at national parks and other national public lands;

• 27 percent of respondents support [63 percent oppose] expanding how much public land is available to private companies which pay for the ability to drill for oil and gas on public lands;

• 24 percent of respondents support [60 percent oppose] expanding how much public land is available to private companies which pay for the ability to mine for uranium and other metals on public lands;

• 17 percent of respondents support [72 percent oppose] allowing mining on public lands next to Grand Canyon National Park, where new mining claims are currently banned;

• 26 percent of respondents support [67 percent oppose] changing current plans to protect habitat for threatened sage-grouse in Western states; and, conversely, 74 percent of respondents support [18 percent oppose] requiring oil and gas producers who operate on public lands to use updated equipment and technology to prevent leaks of methane gas during the extraction process and reduce the need to burn off excess natural gas into the air—a regulation the Trump administration is seeking to overturn.

With the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show beginning this week in Denver, after the Outdoor Industry Association ended its 20-year partnership with Salt Lake City as a result of Utah politicians’ hostility toward land conservation and U.S. public lands, the impact of the Trump administration’s recent actions on local outdoor economies is top of mind for the outdoor recreation business community:

“Protecting public lands is a bipartisan issue with constituents across the West agreeing that public lands and waters should remain open and accessible for all to enjoy,” said Travis Campbell, chairman of the board for the Outdoor Industry Association and President of Smartwool. “Unfortunately, the current administration’s actions are not lining up with voters’ desires. We need people from both sides of the aisle to express their dissatisfaction with their legislators and let their voices be heard.”

The poll showed strong support for cleaner forms of energy in Colorado. Forty-two percent of respondents in Colorado pointed to solar as the source of energy that best represents the future of energy in their state. Wind was the second-ranked choice.

With record-low snowpack in parts of the West, the drought remained a top concern this year, as low levels of water in rivers and inadequate water supplies were identified as serious issues facing Colorado by 81 percent and 80 percent of respondents respectively. Eighty percent of respondents prefer addressing the water shortage by using the current water supply more wisely through conservation, reduction and recycling rather than by diverting more water from rivers in less populated places to communities where more people live. Seventy-nine percent of respondents in Colorado view the Colorado River as “at risk.”

This is the eighth consecutive year Colorado College has gauged the public’s sentiment on public lands and conservation issues. Idaho was added to the survey for the first time this year. The 2018 Colorado College Conservation in the West Poll is a bipartisan survey conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.

The poll surveyed 400 registered voters in each of eight Western states (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, UT & WY) for a total 3,200-person sample. The survey was conducted in late December 2017 and early January 2018 and has a margin of error of ±2.65 percent nationwide and ±4.9 percent statewide. The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the State of the Rockies website.


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Monday, January 22, 2018

Banning Lewis Ranch plan includes two additional public meetings

Posted By on Mon, Jan 22, 2018 at 4:35 PM

Much of the Banning Lewis Ranch looks like this. It's never been developed. The city proposed to change the rules so that the land can be converted into homes and businesses. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Much of the Banning Lewis Ranch looks like this. It's never been developed. The city proposed to change the rules so that the land can be converted into homes and businesses.

So far, nobody's saying why the schedule of Banning Lewis Ranch approvals has been extended by two months.

Originally, Mayor John Suthers' administration proposed a series of meetings that would conclude with City Council's second reading (final approval) on Feb. 27.

As of this morning, Jan. 22, things have changed. Now, two townhall meetings have been added, one in February and one in March.

Under the revised schedule, Council would approve the new annexation agreement on April 24.

Asked about the change, the city's economic development officer Bob Cope says in an email, "The BLR schedule has been revised based upon City Council input."

Some City Council members have asked for more time to digest the sweeping agreement that will replace the existing annexation agreement adopted in 1988. The current document requires developers to pay for nearly all public infrastructure, both onsite and in adjacent areas, which carries a price tag of about $1 billion.

Suthers argues the city has lost a lot of revenue by seeing the 20,000-acre property sit idle over the years, and it's time to reap the rewards of development.

But Councilor Tom Strand tells the Independent, "I want to take the time it takes to make sure we have all of our questions answered. I’m not ready to vote on this. The initial schedule showed us voting by end of February. I’m not ready to vote by the end of February."

Here's the new schedule going forward:
Friday, Feb 2: Town Hall w/ Public Comment, Pikes Peak Regional Development Center Hearing Room, 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM

Monday, Feb 5: City Council Closed Session- Regarding BLR Annexation Amendment and Restatement Agreement, City Council Chambers

Wednesday, Feb 21: City Council Closed Session- Regarding BLR Annexation Amendment and Restatement Agreement, City Council Chambers

Monday, Mar 12: City Council Work Session, BLR Annexation Amendment and Restatement Presentation and Proposed Code Amendments, City Council Chambers, 1:00 PM

Thursday, Mar 22: Town Hall w/ Public Comment, Pikes Peak Regional Development Center Hearing Room, 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM

Tuesday, Mar 27: City Council Meeting, Resolution to Amend and Restate the BLR Annexation Agreement

Tuesday, Apr 10: City Council Meeting, First Reading of BLR Code Amendments Ordinance, City Council Chambers, 1:00 PM

Tuesday, Apr 24: City Council Meeting, Second Reading of BLR Code Amendments Ordinance, City Council Chambers, 1:00 PM

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Friday, January 19, 2018

City of Colorado Springs settles female police officer lawsuit for $2.5 million

Posted By on Fri, Jan 19, 2018 at 5:31 PM

Here's a statement from the female officers' attorney, Donna Dell O'lio:
On January 19, 2018 the City of Colorado Springs settled a sex discrimination lawsuit brought by twelve women police officers. The women claimed that the City’s physical abilities test discriminated against them and was not related to their jobs.
Last July federal District Judge Richard Matsch agreed with the women finding that the Colorado Springs Police Department’s physical abilities test violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal anti‐ discrimination law.
The settlement ends two and one‐half years of litigation.
Donna Dell’Olio, attorney for the women, said that “ The Judge’s ruling and the size of the settlement should discourage other police departments from adopting similar tests that discriminate against women.”
“These 12 police women have made great contributions to the City of Colorado Springs and the Colorado Springs Police Department and will continue to do so.”
“The women have acted bravely to stop a practice that demoralized them and discouraged the retention of women in the police department.”
“Their purpose was always to stop a discriminatory practice from gaining a foot hold and spreading to other police departments. With Judge Matsch’s ruling and the substantial settlement they have achieved a great victory for women.”

————————ORIGINAL POST 5:30 P.M. Friday, Jan. 19——————-

The city of Colorado Springs has settled a federal lawsuit with a dozen current and former female police officers over a physical abilities test the officers alleged was unfair to women.
  • Illustration by Dustin Glanz
The settlement comes after a key decision in the case was issued in July. That's when U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch ruled that a Physical Abilities Test (PAT) used by the Colorado Springs Police Department in 2014 to determine officers’ fitness for duty discriminated against women.

The city asked the court to reconsider the ruling, a necessary step before appealing it to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Now we learn the city has decided to have its insurance carriers pay nearly $2.5 million to settle the case. Of that, $882,054 will be paid to the officers' attorneys at Cornish & Dell O'lio of Colorado Springs. The remainder will be split among the dozen plaintiffs, meaning that if divided equally, each would receive $132,441.

As of 2015, the city had paid dearly to defend against the lawsuit, as we reported here. And that tab didn't include court time for hearings along the way.

Here's the upshot of why the city settled:
... defending the lawsuit is a drain on City resources. After considering numerous factors, including the tremendous amount of sworn and civilian employee time involved in a U.S. District Court jury trial in Denver, the length of appellate processes, and the existence of insurance coverage for monetary amounts paid to the Plaintiffs and their attorneys, it was determined that settlement was in the best interests of the City.
The lead attorney for the female officers, Donna Dell O'lio, could not be reached for comment.

Here's the city's full press release:

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Frontier Airlines lifts COS traffic upward

Posted By on Wed, Jan 17, 2018 at 5:02 PM

Frontier Airlines passengers are helping Colorado Springs Airport build traffic numbers. - NATE LAVIN
  • Nate Lavin
  • Frontier Airlines passengers are helping Colorado Springs Airport build traffic numbers.

We've all done it — driven a friend to or from Denver International Airport, gnashing our teeth all the way.

Well, it appears those anxiety-laden trips are giving way to Colorado Springs residents looking for a more convenient way to fly.

The Colorado Springs Airport reports a 31 percent increase in passengers through November, for a total of 1,532,822 passengers, compared to the same time in 2016. In the month of November, 145,573 passengers departed or arrived at COS, an increase of 18.8 percent over November 2016.

Part of the surge was due to Frontier Airlines adding numerous destinations in the last year, including Chicago O'Hare; Los Angeles; San Diego; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; Fort Myers, Florida; and Tampa Bay, Florida. Before those additions, Frontier already flew from COS to Las Vegas, Phoenix and Orlando.

Thus, Frontier reported 209,562 passengers in year-to-date traffic through November, an increase of 291.2 percent from the previous year.

From an airport news release:
November’s year-to-date load factors (the percentage of seats filled with paying passengers) remained steady. Delta reported a 93.0 percent load factor, followed by American at 86.8 percent, United at 85.9 percent, Frontier at 84.7 percent, and Allegiant at 79.7 percent.

COS currently serves 13 nonstop flights with 5 airlines. Service to Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas begins April 8, 2018, with new routes to Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota and San Jose, California beginning April 9.

COS encourages residents in southern Colorado to “look before you book,” and offers simple parking, easy check-in, and a short drive home.

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Maketa, Presley dismissed from federal lawsuit

Posted By on Wed, Jan 17, 2018 at 3:34 PM

Maketa pictured during his last term in office. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Maketa pictured during his last term in office.

As prosecutors gear up for a retrial of former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court ruling in a civil case brought by five sheriff's personnel accusing Maketa and others of taking illegal "adverse employment actions" against them.

A three-judge panel ruled in a decision filed Jan. 17, that Maketa and then-Undersheriff Paula Presley, also named in the lawsuit, are entitled to qualified immunity from the claims.

The 2015 lawsuit was filed by Commanders Mitch Lincoln, Rod Gehrett and Rob King, and Lt. Cheryl Peck and Sgt. Robert Stone. Here's an account of their claims before the lawsuit was filed.

They also named the Board of County Commissioners, Sheriff's Office, current Sheriff Bill Elder and current Undersheriff Joe Breister. The Sheriff's Office, Elder and Breister have since been dismissed.

Andrew Ringel, a Denver attorney who represented Maketa, says the ruling means Maketa and Presley have qualified immunity against all claims so the claims have been dismissed. He declined to comment further.

Maketa, who served as sheriff from 2003 to Dec. 31, 2014, faces criminal charges filed in May 2016 alleging he threatened to end a jail contract if the contractor didn't terminate an employee who wasn't Maketa's political ally, among other allegations. A trial in July ended in acquittal on witness tampering, conspiracy to commit witness tampering and official misconduct charges. Several other charges ended with a hung jury. A new trial begins Jan. 23.

As for the civil case brought by the employees, U.S. District Court Judge Christine Arguello originally ruled in March 2016 that claims in the lawsuit would be dismissed except:
a. One consolidated claim for relief for retaliation related to the EEOC
complaint and the BOCC request for investigation by Plaintiffs Lincoln, King, and Gehrett against Defendants Maketa and Presley;

b. Plaintiff Peck’s Third Claim for Relief for retaliation asserted against
Defendant Maketa;

c. Plaintiff Stone’s Fourth Claim for Relief for retaliation asserted against Defendant Maketa; and

d. Plaintiffs Lincoln, King, and Gehrett’s Sixth Claim for Relief for Title VII retaliation asserted against Defendant Board of County Commissioners of the County of El Paso. 
That meant that the plaintiffs could have pursued those claims in court and possibly prevailed, but since Maketa and Presley appealed that ruling, and it was reversed, the plaintiffs can't be pursued for those claims because they have governmental immunity.

The five employees (the plaintiffs), all of whom remain employed at the Sheriff's Office with the exception of Stone, who retired, variously claimed Maketa and Presley punished them for:

• favoring a sheriff's candidate the two didn't support,
• for not giving a scripted account regarding a so-called missing internal affairs file for Elder during his tenure in the 1990s,
• for making complaints about Maketa that indicated the sheriff showed favoritism to employees based on sexual favors
• and creating a hostile work environment based on that favoritism and other actions.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled:
The assertion of qualified immunity imposes a heavy burden on the plaintiffs, requiring them to point to existing precedent or the clear weight of authority establishing the existence of a constitutional violation. None of the plaintiffs has met that burden. Lt. Peck has not demonstrated that her statement to the media was clearly made as a private citizen rather than as a public employee. Nor has Sgt. Stone or the Commanders shown that the defendants’ alleged conduct would clearly constitute adverse employment actions. Accordingly, Sheriff Maketa and Undersheriff Presley were entitled to qualified immunity on all of the claims.
El Paso County spokesperson Dave Rose sent the following response on behalf of the county:

El Paso County is still studying the ruling and evaluating its options going forward.

The county applauds the court for clarifying the complex legal concept of “qualified immunity” as it relates this case. The county also notes that in its decision the court affirmed the county’s employment related actions to ensure that these individuals were placed on administrative leave so they would not lose pay and benefits pending the outcome of an outside legal review of facts and circumstances in the Sheriff’s Office during that difficult time period.

Local attorney Ed Farry who represented the five sheriff's personnel did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Read the ruling here:

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Archer Park drainage plan given go-ahead by the city

Posted By on Wed, Jan 17, 2018 at 1:16 PM

A development in the Broadmoor area can move forward after the city approved a drainage plan last week that remains a point of contention with neighbors. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • A development in the Broadmoor area can move forward after the city approved a drainage plan last week that remains a point of contention with neighbors.
Back in August, we reported on the development of 4.7 acres dubbed Archer Park in the Broadmoor area. Neighbors of the proposed development had a litany of complaints, chief among them that the developer's drainage plan — still in limbo — would be inadequate and lead to stormwater flowing onto their properties.

Dr. James Albert, who lives just east of the proposed development, filed a lawsuit in July to try to reverse the city's approval of the subdivision.

The developer, Richard Delesk, on the other hand, said he has a long reputation of developing quality homes in the neighborhood and that he was upset by what he viewed as outrageous opposition by a group of neighbors intent on ruining his project simply because they wanted the land next to them to remain undeveloped.

Now, the subdivision's drainage plan has been approved by city of Colorado Springs' engineers, clearing the way for development to begin.

In the way of a little more background, from our earlier story:
At issue is a pasture in the Broadmoor area that soon could give rise to a verdant enclave of million-dollar homes called Archer Park, or, as some neighbors see it, a flood-water and traffic nightmare.

While it’s not unusual for City Council to encounter citizen outcry over developments of hundreds of homes or apartments, Archer Park covers only 4.7 acres. But the small development has drawn outsized opposition from dozens of neighbors who’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on studies, consultants and top environmental engineers to refute the developer’s claim the plan won’t flood adjoining properties and adjacent streets.

As Les Gruen, a consultant hired by the neighbors, says in an interview, “I thought this was going to be a pretty straightforward deal, and I ended up working on it for a year.”

Even the developer himself, Richard Delesk, acknowledged in an email to the Independent, “I have never seen anything like this opposition. This is well-funded NIMBYism against a development that is rigorously documented, thoughtfully planned and which has passed all regulatory hurdles with flying colors.”

But that’s not really the case. Although City Council OK’d the subdivision 7-2 on June 27, a final drainage plan remains in flux, and Council specified it must be approved by city planners before the final plat is recorded.
The Indy asked Delesk for a comment on Jan. 17 about the city's approval of his drainage plan and his next steps, Delesk says via email:

Yes we have been informed of the approval and are thrilled as you might imagine. As far as a start date on the project we don’t currently have a schedule. There is a lot of utility work that has to be designed and installed prior to starting any building. That said we are currently keeping ourselves busy with a fantastic Parade Home we’re starting construction on in our Marland Park Subdivision.

Regarding an IM maintenance plan – According to City Code §7.7.1527(C)(1), an inspection and maintenance plan “shall be developed by the owner concurrently with the design of the facility and submitted with the erosion and stormwater quality control plan for approval by the City Engineer.” So you see, one is not due yet nor is there a deadline for the erosion and stormwater quality control plan.

As far as neighbors’ concerns to future flooding, I maintain the belief that the City Engineers that strenuously reviewed and subsequently approved our plan know what they are doing. We’re going to be adding drainage infrastructure where none currently exists. I think that’s a huge positive to the neighborhood. Since the Albert's are suing the City (and City Council and myself and my company) I'm sure the validity of their concerns will be evaluated in our court system.
Albert wrote a Jan. 17 email to the Independent, saying he was not backing down.

"The city approved changing a plat underhandedly without a public process," he wrote. "They called a 250 yard by 7 foot wide by 3 foot wide concrete trench a 'minor change.' No safety fences no discussion. They are not requiring drainage easement which would allow each buyer to fill in the trench making the proposed system unless."

In a Jan. 16 letter to the neighbors' attorney, Jonathan Steeler of Denver, Assistant City Attorney Anne Turner says, "The drainage swale constructed on the property will be private infrastructure that will be the responsibility of the owner."

She also says that it "was not feasible" to grant a request from the neighbors to meet with city officials prior to the drainage report's approval.

Read Turner's letter here:
The drainage issue dates back several months as the drainage report was drafted, submitted, returned to the engineer with suggested changes and then approved.

In September, neighbor Diane Matsinger wrote to the city noting the drainage plan as initially proposed didn't contain a maintenance agreement. "At the City Council hearing," she wrote, "we were assured by the applicant’s attorney that the agreement was being drawn and would be submitted with the final drainage plan. Now he is still saying that he will do so at the time of 'permitting.' Maintenance is a serious concern and the City Drainage Criteria REQUIRES that a maintenance agreement be submitted WITH a final drainage plan."

This concern also was addressed by Turner's letter:
The maintenance plan for the storm water infrastructure is not yet due. According to City Code § 7.7.1527(C)(1), an inspection and maintenance plan (“TM plan”) “shall be developed by the owner concurrently with the design of the facility and submitted with the erosion and stormwater quality control plan for approval by the City Engineer.” There is no deadline for the erosion and stormwater quality control plan. The maintenance plan will be publicly available once it is received by the City.
In an interview last month, developer Delesk said his plans have complied with all city requirements and pointed to his long-time success record in developing housing projects that date back more than three decades. He declined to elaborate on plans to develop Archer Park at that time.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Outdoor fires pose danger in dry spell

Posted By on Fri, Jan 12, 2018 at 11:17 AM

  • Jeff Souville via Flickr
If you've glanced at TV news over the past few weeks, you've probably noticed the uptick in creekside fires. It's a scary sign of the underlying conditions: Lots of people are camping outside because there's not enough shelter space, let alone housing, for the growing homeless population during one of the warmest, driest winters in memory.

Brian Vaughan, the new spokesperson for Colorado Springs Fire Department (CSFD), reports that the number of homeless-related illegal fire incidents grew about 50 percent last year, from 186 in 2016 to 275 in 2017. "Because of the way these get categorized, those could be any type of outdoor fire — a grass fire, trash, even smoke," he told the Indy. "And when you've got combustibles around, no water source and maybe people aren't monitoring it closely, that's when we say, 'Look, this is unsafe."

Propane-based heaters, like the ones Blackbird Outreach has been distributing to homeless people, can be a safer alternative, Vaughan says, provided they're at least 10 feet from, say, nylon tents or other flammable materials. Even still, wind and radiant heat can lead to fire danger.

"Today [Jan. 12], fire risk is low because of the rain, but this afternoon we're expecting strong gusts, so it'll probably go back to moderate [fire danger]," Vaughan says. The last "red flag" level risk was about a month ago, but "fuel moisture is low, even up in the mountains."

Those basic laws of physics have got residents and business owners near popular homeless hangouts worried for their property, so much so that over 120 people showed up to a westside meeting on the matter, according to the Gazette.

But it's not just people experiencing homelessness that pose the risk, it's also housed people with recreational fires or inadvertent sparks. For example, a grassfire was lit recently when a resident on East Platte Avenue flicked a cigarette butt onto his dry lawn. The flames crept up the side of his house pretty quickly.

"This goes for cigarettes, barbecuing, starting a lawnmower — anything that throws sparks, you've got to be cognizant," Vaughan says.

For unsheltered folks trying to stay warm this winter, this is the fire code that applies to outdoor fires, provided by CSFD. Included as a link at the bottom is the fire code pertaining to other types of burns. 

When the CSFD Engines or Trucks respond to an outside fire investigation, the parameters our Company Officers work from are as follows:

Fire Code 302: Recreational Fires are extinguished if the fire falls outside of the following guidelines established by the 2009 National Fire Code

Fires which are not contained in a permanent fixture (incinerator, BBQ, outdoor fireplace)

·         Fire cannot be larger than 3 feet in diameter

·         Fire cannot be higher than 2 feet in flame length

·         Fire cannot be within 25 feet of any combustible (homes, tents, trees, bushes, trash)

·         Fire cannot be unattended: sleeping next to the fire is considered “unattended”. Person must be lucid and awake during burning

·         Fire must have means of extinguishment (water, sand, dirt)

·         Fire cannot burn any other fuels except wood or charcoal

Fires contained in an approved fire appliance (store-bought) have the following guidelines:

·         Fire cannot burn any other fuels except wood or charcoal

·         Fire cannot be unattended: sleeping next to the fire is considered "unattended".  Person must be lucid and awake during fire

·         Must have means of extinguishment (water, sand, dirt)

·         Fire cannot be within 15 feet of combustibles or structures. Exception: when the fire is on the premise of one and two-family dwellings the code allows it to be within 15 feet of combustibles or structure

The Colorado Springs Fire Department is partnering with the Colorado Springs Police Department and City of Colorado Springs on the issue of recreational fires in the City.  Collectively, we continue to educate all involved parties to the 2009 National Fire Code and its guidelines surrounding recreational fires, how the CSFD responds, and what occurs when companies arrive on the scene.

The CSFD also urges everyone in our community to carefully read the following link containing specific guidelines and code for all types of burning: 

The following link is a simple, quick reference guide with pictures:

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

CBI finds "no evidence" to substantiate intimidation of sheriff's notaries

Posted By on Thu, Jan 11, 2018 at 5:07 PM

  • Courtesy El Paso County Sheriff's Office
An investigation by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation into problems with notarizing deputy affidavits of oath at the El Paso County Sheriff's Office found "no evidence existed to substantiate that threats and intimidation took place" against Rick Dietz and Dave Mejia, who worked in the sheriff's human resources department in 2016, when it was discovered that hundreds of deputy oaths and deputy signatures had not been properly witnessed by a notary public and timely filed with the Clerk and Recorder's Office.

Dietz told the Indy that Sheriff's Administrator Larry Borland ordered he and Mejia to go ahead and notarize all the documents as if they had witnessed the signatures. Dietz said they did not witness the signatures but went ahead and notarized the documents as if they had when they felt their jobs were in jeopardy if they refused. He said Chief of Staff Janet Huffor then filed the documents, all in the same day in April 2016, up to a year after the oaths of office had been administered.

After the Independent published "Law and Error" on Nov. 8, 2017, the Fourth Judicial District Attorney's Office asked the CBI to investigate. "Our Office asked for an outside, independent investigation of these allegations, which the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) agreed to conduct," the DA's office said in a statement released Jan. 11. "They have completed a comprehensive investigation and have released an overview of their findings, which is attached."

The CBI's investigation, which they called "comprehensive," didn't include interviewing a key independent witness to the incident, a lieutenant who's now retired and living in another state.

Contacted by the Indy after the DA issued the statement containing the CBI report on Jan. 11, the lieutenant was surprised at the finding, saying, "Nobody ever called me from there." He says he finds that odd, "considering I was the only lieutenant on that floor [at that time]," meaning that while the Indy did not name him in our coverage, it would have been easy to deduce who we were quoting. "It wouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who that is," the lieutenant said. "That's pretty self evident."

We've asked the CBI for a comment on not interviewing that witness and will circle back if we hear something.

Dietz tells the Indy he was interviewed for about 45 minutes by two people from the CBI in December. They told him it wasn't something they usually would look into, but because of "the weight" and "importance" of the issue, they took on the matter.

"I'm disappointed, but I'm not surprised," Dietz says. "I don't know how they can say there's no evidence." He noted that he told the investigators about the retired lieutenant, so he was disappointed the investigators wouldn't have touched base with him.

Then he added, "Nothing surprises me with this anymore, quite honestly. I did what I thought I had to do, and I'm comfortable with that."

Dietz says Mejia also spoke with the CBI and gave an account similar to his own. Mejia has refused to comment on the episode to the Indy.

The original story prompted Sheriff Bill Elder to call a news conference on 20 minutes notice the day of publication. At the news conference, his office requested none of the television news teams set up their cameras. He then lashed out at this reporter and the Indy repeatedly for 45 minutes. Elder called the report "crap" and denigrated me and the Indy. He later stopped responding to my questions and issued responses only to the Indy's editors. That practice has ended after First Amendment attorney Steve Zansberg took issue with that in a letter on the Indy's behalf to the Sheriff's Office.
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