Friday, April 20, 2018

Nor'wood pledges "Vision Plan" for public spaces in Banning Lewis Ranch

Posted By on Fri, Apr 20, 2018 at 1:27 PM

click to enlarge Undeveloped Banning Lewis Ranch, east of Colorado Springs, has been annexed for 30 years but not much has happened. Mayor John Suthers wants to change the agreement to motivate developers to build homes and businesses, rather than see that development leap frog into El Paso County. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Undeveloped Banning Lewis Ranch, east of Colorado Springs, has been annexed for 30 years but not much has happened. Mayor John Suthers wants to change the agreement to motivate developers to build homes and businesses, rather than see that development leap frog into El Paso County.
Controversy over the amended annexation agreement for Banning Lewis Ranch has given rise to a resolution, which is non-binding, that would "recognize the unique natural characteristics" within the ranch.

The resolution is on tap for consideration by City Council at its April 23 meeting, and approval at the April 24 meeting, along with the annexation agreement itself.

The resolution states that Council "finds there is significant community interest in preservation of certain areas of that part of the City of Colorado Springs commonly referred to as the Banning Lewis Ranch, particularly in the vicinity of the Corral Bluffs Open Space and Jimmy Camp Creek Regional Park noted within the Park System Master Plan...."

It also states that the owner of most of the ranch, Nor'wood Development Group, "Has acknowledged its desire to create a meaningful open space system that improves connectivity of existing City-owned parks, trails, and open space, provides multi-use trail access, integrates into future development patters, and protects sensitive landscapes and creek corridors."

The resolution goes on to say Nor'wood agrees to invite Council reps to participate in a planning effort that would yield a "Vision Plan" for the property.

Read the resolution here:
The resolution materialized after an April 11 meeting for public comment at which at least a dozen residents expressed concern about the lack of public open space, parks and trails built into the new annexation agreement.
 
Bill Koerner, with the Corral Bluffs Alliance, calls the resolution "a good step" and hopes the city follows up.

"We do need to do some visioning. We need to understand the resources, how Banning Lewis is going to develop and the time frame," he tells the Independent. But he's concerned there's no explicit timeline for the vision plan.

"We've got to start on it now," he says.

With the city's Trails, Open Space and Tops sales tax expiring in 2025, and the possibility of a renewal ballot measure in 2019 or 2021, Koerner wonders if certain areas of the ranch could become the poster child for passage of an extension of the tax.

"Nor'wood is a good partner," he adds, but says he wants to see some specific dates for getting the vision plan under way and completed.

Nor'wood has expressed interest in selling portions of the ranch to the city for open space and said when it purchased the property in 2014 for $28 million:

Nor’wood Development Group is pleased to announce that after careful consideration and much due diligence, the purchase of the Banning Lewis Ranch has been finalized. As a locally owned multi-generational business operating in the Pikes Peak Region for more than 40 years, we consider it a privilege to be the stewards of this great community asset and will ensure that the property’s long term potential is discovered and achieved. Responsible development, recreation and conservation will be foundational principles of the vision for Banning Lewis Ranch, which will take decades to fully realize.

We have previously outlined and restate our commitment to promote the stewardship of environmental resources, quality neighborhood and commercial design, support efficient public services and facilities, leverage opportunities for the long-term viability of our local Air Force installations, protect the property’s world-renown natural formations with a signature conservation effort, and encourage meaningful outdoor educational and recreational opportunities.

We will continue and expand our work with a knowledgeable and experienced team of local and national professionals, municipal leaders, conservationist, community stakeholders and citizens to develop land use and development strategies for the property. We look forward to sharing periodic updates, timelines and additional details when appropriate. 

Not everyone was thrilled with the resolution. Sustainable growth advocate Dave Gardner tells the Indy via email the measure seems "worthless."

"Looks like a resolution to somehow appease open space advocates and get them to back off on Banning Lewis Ranch. But this resolution is worthless," he says. "It is just words and vague promises. No guarantees at all. I will be sorely disappointed if this is all it takes for open space advocates to accept the current BLR amendment. We need to set the bar higher!"

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