Local government

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Banning Lewis Ranch: Residents weigh in with letters to City Council

Posted By on Tue, Feb 13, 2018 at 11:42 AM

The north portion of the Banning Lewis Ranch is being developed by Oakwood Homes, but the biggest sections remain prairies. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The north portion of the Banning Lewis Ranch is being developed by Oakwood Homes, but the biggest sections remain prairies.
Rewriting the annexation agreement for the 20,000-acre Banning Lewis Ranch has been characterized as one of the biggest decisions City Council will make regarding future development of the city.

But the citizenry isn't very engaged, judging from written comments to Council obtained by the Independent via a Colorado Open Records Act request.

Council has received letters and email messages from 21 citizens, most of whom oppose the proposal to change the agreement, which would ease costs associated with development.

That's only a fraction of the comments Council received from hundreds of citizens about its land swap with The Broadmoor, which saw the city cede ownership of Strawberry Fields open space.

The ranch was annexed in 1988 but not much has happened, because the cost of development discourages developers from moving forward, according to Mayor John Suthers. Instead, developers have "leapfrogged" over the city into territory just outside the city in the Falcon area, taking tax revenue with them.

Suthers wants to stop that outflow, citing a study by TischlerBise financial analysis firm that predicts the city would see a net gain of $49 million in revenue over 30 years if 6,000 acres of the ranch is developed.
Most of the ranch remains undeveloped, and Mayor John Suthers sees that as lost opportunity. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Most of the ranch remains undeveloped, and Mayor John Suthers sees that as lost opportunity.

Here's a sampling of comments Council has received:

Adrian Vinke: "Taxpayers should not be required to pay for issues caused by developers. We the citizens are taxed for everything as it is. The developers are the ones who make the money from developing, let them pay the way."

Esther Mueller: "We, the citizens, cannot afford to subsidize this or any development. We have been repeatedly told by the City that we need to provide additional money in order to afford the development currently in place, as funding from existing citizens has been approved for roads backlog (won’t complete without a renewal for at least another 5 years), some police officers (but not the full amount), and stormwater now as a separate cost."

Neil Talbott: "Changing the initial BLR agreement is chicanery of the highest sort and we should not support it for the simple reason that it puts taxpayers on the hook for things developers previously agreed to."

Walter Lawson and Dave Gardner: "What is the projected cost for capacity enhancement of all arterial roads (and construction of new arterials) to serve the residents of BLR? Is it included on the cost side of this study? What is the projected level of service on I-25 in town, and north to Denver, once BLR is built-out? Are any of the costs of required I-25 or major arterial roadway capacity expansion included in the study? If not, who will be paying for these items?"

Leon Skatberg: "I recall then mayor, Robert Isaac insist[ed] that the annexation agreement be written the way it was to ensure current taxpayers and ratepayers not be stuck with infrastructure costs. I believe he witnessed (he served five four-year terms as mayor) what everyone knows now, that developers did not pay their fair share on development costs and subsequently things like storm water drainage weren't built. I would not like to see us return to the good old days."

William Escovitz: "A small error in the estimated benefits by TischlerBise, or the costs, would totally wipe out the benefits and put the City into the red, at least regarding the budget.
Any change [of] the development agreement would have to be compellingly beneficial to the City, not marginally or doubtfully beneficial."

If you want to read all the comments provided to the Indy, here ya go:

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Friday, February 9, 2018

Broadmoor developer loses lawsuit

Posted By on Fri, Feb 9, 2018 at 5:18 PM

Property in The Broadmoor area will be developed for homes. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Property in The Broadmoor area will be developed for homes.
A skirmish arising from a small development in The Broadmoor area has concluded in favor of the resident.

District Judge David Shakes ruled in favor of Dr. James Albert, awarding him attorney fees of $49,196 from the Newport Co. and developer Richard Delesk.

The "abuse of process" case arises out of Delesk's plan to develop about five acres known as Archer Park next door to Albert.

Albert and a contingent of neighbors have opposed the development of high-end homes, arguing, among other things, that the drainage plan is insufficient to protect their neighborhood from flooding. (Delesk — and the city — says they are sufficient. Delesk says  that Albert and other neighbors simply want to prevent the land from developing.) Despite Albert's and other neighbors' protests, which included technical reports by engineers hired by the neighbors, the city approved the drainage plan recently and development can begin.

But the court case at hand stems from Delesk's lawsuit alleging that Albert interfered in his attempt to get financing for the project, a charge Albert denies.

Asked for a comment on the outcome, Albert writes via email, "We are very pleased with the decision!"

Delesk had more say. He says in an email:
Mr. Albert was well represented by good counsel and I congratulate him on the ruling. The outcome of the case hindered on the testimony (or lack thereof) of [a key witness], who was the sole reason I filed a contract interference case in the first place. Unfortunately, when asked to verify the information he had originally given me, [that witness] changed his story during deposition and never showed up to testify during the trial hearing even though he was under subpoena. This left me without any corroboration of my original claim.

All this aside, we are excited to move forward with the development of Archer Park as we have several perspective clients interested in building with us!
Here's the judge's conclusion:
Albert has proven by a preponderance of the evidence that Delesk abused process by initiating this litigation. Albert has proven that the litigation was initiated for an improper purpose- to silence the opposition of Albert and Gruen to the Archer Park Project. The improper purpose of the litigation is evident in Delesk’s offer to dismiss the case in return for $5,000 and silencing Albert’s opposition to the Project just days after threatening Albert and his wife with damages in excess of $3,000,000. The litigation initiated by Delesk had no basis in fact. Albert has incurred damages in defending the claims asserted by Delesk. Albert has proven his claim for abuse of process. In this case and under these facts, the abuse of process was the initiation of the litigation itself. The damage incurred by Albert is $49,195.58, plus interest.

The claims asserted by Delesk were substantially groundless and vexatious. Attorney fees are awarded in favor of Albert. Delesk has the option a requesting a hearing on the amount of attorney fees to be determined separately pursuant to C.R.S. 13-17-103. The award of attorney fees pursuant to statute shall merge into the award of attorney fees as damages such that the monetary judgment shall be not be duplicated.

Read the court's order here:
In a separate case, Albert has sued the city to try to reverse City Council's approval of the subdivision, which came before a final drainage plan was approved by city staff.

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

UPDATE: Strawberry Fields decision supports city land swap

Posted By on Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 2:37 PM

Save Cheyenne has picketed some city meetings to oppose the land swap. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Save Cheyenne has picketed some city meetings to oppose the land swap.

Kent Obee, spokesperson for Save Cheyenne, tells the Independent, "We're looking to go to the Supreme Court."

Mayor John Suthers, an attorney, counters by saying the unanimous decision by the Court of Appeals gives him a high level of confidence that the city's legal position is sound.

"I thought the trial judge's opinion was very thoughtful and well-written, so I'm no the least bit surprised that it was upheld by the Court of Appeals," he says in an interview. "The only surprise was it that it ruled within a month."

——————ORIGINAL POST 10:52 A.M. THURDAY, FEB. 8, 2018———————-

The Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled in the city's favor in its land exchange with The Broadmoor resort, turning away arguments by the nonprofit Save Cheyenne that the trade of the city's Strawberry Fields open space should have gone to voters to decide.

The city issued this statement:

The City of Colorado Springs today released the below statement in response to the opinion issued by the Colorado Court of Appeals.

“Today the Colorado Court of Appeals issued a unanimous opinion, upholding the lower court’s ruling that the City of Colorado Springs acted within its authority as a Home Rule City in the land exchange. We are confident that any reviewing court will continue to find in the City’s favor.”
We've asked Save Cheyenne to comment and will update when we hear back.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

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
  • 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 www.vik9s.org or mail to P.O. Box 9, East Taunton, MA 02718.
tank_1.jpg
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.
tank_3.jpg
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
  • 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.

screen_shot_2018-01-26_at_12.17.54_pm.png


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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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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

UPDATE:
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
  • 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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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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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
  • 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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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

UPDATE: Strawberry Fields case argued before the Colorado Court of Appeals

Posted By on Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 3:03 PM

The case of Strawberry Fields open space made it to the Colorado Court of Appeals on Jan. 9. A decision is expected in coming months. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The case of Strawberry Fields open space made it to the Colorado Court of Appeals on Jan. 9. A decision is expected in coming months.

UPDATE: This blog post has been updated to reflect a correction to which Court of Appeals judge is nearing retirement.

———————ORIGINAL POST 3:03 P.M. TUESDAY, SEPT. 9, 2018———————

DENVER — Opponents of the city of Colorado Springs' land exchange with The Broadmoor, finalized in December 2016, showed up in force on Jan. 9 for arguments of their case before the Colorado Court of Appeals.

Save Cheyenne, a nonprofit formed amid debate over the land swap in early 2016, sued the city later that year arguing that 186-acre Strawberry Fields open space in North Cheyenne Cañon park couldn't be disposed of without voter approval. They argue the land was purchased from a bank in 1885 after voters approved the acquisition, meaning it was dedicated park land, which can't be sold or traded without voters having a say.

The city counters that there's no deed restriction, and the city's home rule powers enable City Council to dispose of city-owned land as it sees fit for the betterment of the city.

In addition, Save Cheyenne asserts that land received by the city isn't worth as much as the land it ceded to The Broadmoor, which is unconstitutional if the exchange constituted a "gift" from the government to a corporation. The city, and The Broadmoor, which has intervened in the case, argue otherwise, saying there was no gift.

The land exchange gave The Broadmoor the open space and a half-acre parking lot at the foot of the Manitou Incline. The city received more than 400 acres of wilderness property, easements for various trails and a roughly 9-acre tract immediately east of Bear Creek Regional Park. According to appraisals, The Broadmoor's land far exceeded the value of the city's land, but an appraisal of Strawberry Fields came into dispute when the Colorado Board of Real Estate Appraisers ruled, in response to a complaint, that the appraisal fell short in following standard appraisal practices and ordered the appraiser, Kyle Wigington, to pay a fine and take classes in such things as highest and best use and other appraisal skills.

The city has argued the land swap was good for the city, because it provides key trails connections and offloads care of Strawberry Fields from a Parks Department that's strapped for money to maintain the lands it oversees. The Broadmoor is planning to build a horse stable and picnic pavilion on about 8 acres amid the open space for use by its guests, while placing the balance under a conservation easement overseen by the Palmer Land Trust and opened for public use.

After a District Court judge dismissed Save Cheyenne's case, it appealed to the Court of Appeals where attorneys for both sides squared off on Jan. 9.

Charles Norton, a Denver attorney, represents Save Cheyenne, while City Attorney Wynetta Massey appeared on the city's behalf.

Their 15-minute arguments were confined to issues of law previously outlined in court briefs. The three Court of Appeals judges who heard those arguments interjected questions, such as one challenging the authority argued by Save Cheyenne for asserting a vote of the people was necessary for the Strawberry Fields transfer, and another asking Massey if the word "dedication" in the 1885 ordinance has a meaning.

After the brief hearing, attended by about a dozen Save Cheyenne supporters, Norton said questions surrounding the legitimacy of the Strawberry Fields appraisal aren't relevant to the appellate case, which pivots only on the law that dictates what the city can and can't do in disposing of property.

"The city is arguing that none of that makes any difference," he said, "that the court has no power to review the transaction or the appraisal."

However, if the court agrees with Save Cheyenne's arguments, it could send the case back to the District Court for trial, at which, Norton said, information about the appraisal would become pertinent.

Norton's take on the hearing was that the court "is wrestling with the issues."

Both sides have promised to appeal an unfavorable ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court, so the case could persist for months. The Court of Appeals ruling will be handed down "in due course," according to appeals Judge John Webb, but Save Cheyenne supporters hope for a decision sometime in February noting Webb's one of the judge's imminent retirement. (Jon Sarche, spokesman for the Colorado Judicial Department says  Judge Dennis Graham plans to retire effective Feb. 12.)

Among those attending on Save Cheyenne's behalf was supporter Donna Strom. "This could affect every city in Colorado," she told the Independent. "I feel like I'm standing in the shoes of those people in 1885 [who voted to acquire the open space], and I will never give up."

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Banning Lewis Ranch amended annexation agreement released

Posted By on Fri, Jan 5, 2018 at 2:03 PM

Here's a view of the vastness of the Banning Lewis Ranch as viewed from Highway 24 looking to the west. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Here's a view of the vastness of the Banning Lewis Ranch as viewed from Highway 24 looking to the west.
The "Amended and Restated Banning Lewis Ranch Annexation Agreement" has been released to the public ahead of a City Council work session on Jan. 8 at which time it will be fully explained.

The amended agreement is a rewrite of the original 1988 annexation agreement, which has been deemed too onerous for developers in its requirements for infrastructure. Hence, developers and Mayor John Suthers argue, development has hopscotched over the city and into El Paso County to develop homes and commercial property. The city estimates it's lost billions of dollars in economic activity due to those moves into the county.

An economic impact analysis unveiled recently showed the city would gain $49 million in taxes over the next 30 years if Banning Lewis Ranch is developed.

The property has been owned by a series of owners/developers through the years and was sold via a bankruptcy auction to Ultra Petroleum of Houston in 2011. When test wells showed little signs of economic extraction of oil and gas, Ultra sold the land in 2014 — minus the mineral rights — to David Jenkins, owner of Nor'wood Development Group, the region's biggest developer, for $28 million. Nor'wood also is deeply involved in ambitious development plans in the lower downtown area.

Read the entire amended agreement here:
A few notable portions of the agreement:

• Property owners will pay the city $1,631 per acre as a “Fire Protection Fee," which will be considered the owners' share of "capital costs of new fire stations and the initial apparatus purchases required to service the Property as well as adjacent areas of future annexation." Initially, property owners will continue to pay taxes to the Falcon Fire District and Cimarron Hills Fire District until those portions of the ranch lying in those districts are excluded from the districts.

• Property owners also will pay the city $677 per acre as a “Police Service Fee,” which will fund "capital costs of new police stations and the initial equipment purchases required to service the Property as well as adjacent areas of future annexation." Both the fire and police fees will be subject to a "yearly escalation factor, as determined by the City," the agreement says.

• Easements for land required for extension of utilities by city-owned Colorado Springs Utilities must be dedicated by the owners to the city. According to the agreement, "the availability of Utility Services is contingent upon the terms detailed herein and the dedication of real and personal property, public rights-of-way, private rights-of-way, or easements that CSU determines are required for the extension of any proposed Utility Service from CSU’s system facilities that currently exist or that may exist at the time of the proposed extension." This is important in light of a condemnation case in recent years that resulted in Utilities paying the biggest owner of land in the ranch, David Jenkins, some $2.5 million for land needed for the city's Southern Delivery System water pipeline.

• An owner can seek zoning changes as it's developed. "When large acreage ownership is involved (300 or more contiguous acres), the minimum acreage to be considered for a rezone request shall be approximately 300 acres. When an ownership interest is less than 300 contiguous acres, the entire contiguous ownership interest must be included in any initial rezone request," the agreement says.

If you're interested in learning more, here is the line-up of public meetings regarding the new annexation agreement.

Dec 11th— City Council Closed Session—Banning Lewis Ranch (BLR) Annexation Amendment and Restatement Negotiations

Jan 3rd – City Council Closed Session - Banning Lewis Ranch (BLR) Annexation Amendment and Restatement Negotiations (Continue presentation from Dec 11) – 3:00 to 5:00 PM

Jan 9th —City Council Work Session BLR Annexation Amendment and Restatement Presentation

Jan 11th—Parks Board—BLR Annexation Amendment and Restatement Presentation

Jan 11th—Informal Planning Commission Meeting—BLR Annexation Amendment and Restatement Presentation and Proposed Code Amendments

Jan 16th – Town Hall – City Auditorium, Lon Chaney Theatre

Jan 18th—Formal Planning Commission Meeting—BLR Annexation Amendment and Restatement Presentation and Proposed Code Amendments

Jan 22nd—City Council Work Session—BLR Annexation Amendment and Restatement Presentation and Proposed Code Amendments

February 2nd – Town Hall – City Auditorium, Lon Chaney Theatre

Feb 13th —City Council Regular Meeting—Consideration and Reading of Resolution to Amend and Restate the BLR Annexation Agreement and First Reading of the Ordinance regarding the Proposed BLR Code Amendments

Feb 27th— City Council Regular Meeting—Second Reading of the Ordinance regarding the Proposed BLR Code Amendments 

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