Backed out of a corner 

Local View

Walking into the neighborhood meeting at Front Range Alliance Church, I expected a full house. After the fight Kum & Go lost in Old Colorado City, I thought for sure the residents of Mountain Shadows would be prepared for battle upon learning that the Iowa-based chain planned to build a store at 30th Street and Centennial Boulevard.

As a resident of lower Mountain Shadows, I've watched my neighbors take on all comers to that corner. Proposals for a car wash (in 2006; it was not approved) and an indoor sports facility (approved in the last couple years, but never built) met with equal resistance.

The fierce protection of property values in this neighborhood is hardly limited to that corner, which is zoned as a planned business center. We are equal-opportunity NIMBYists. From retail to residential, development is looked upon by the neighborhood organizations and individual residents with skepticism. The very church hosting this meeting even faced its own struggles when building here.

Certainly, if Old Colorado City fought Kum & Go and won, Mountain Shadows would be ready for its bout.

But last Wednesday, only about 10 residents showed up. And even those who started the meeting with their boxing gloves on seemed to throw in the white towel by the end.

Perhaps the representatives from Kum & Go had a lot to do with it. Honestly, before the OCC skirmish, I didn't think much of the company except to giggle at the name. After OCC, I was skeptical. But as Traci Rodemeyer, the company's marketing and communications manager, told me during a telephone conversation last week, "We have a great story to tell."

The chain has aggressive growth plans — right now, it has more than 425 stores in 11 states — but it's still family-owned and privately held. It's the only convenience store chain to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for its buildings. And it employs around 4,800 people, with another 20 hires predicted for the Mountain Shadows store.

Also, Rodemeyer notes that in both August and September, Kum & Go made a $15,000 donation to the American Red Cross Pikes Peak Chapter. It also sent $18,000 to the Colorado Springs area through a Toys for Tots program. "We welcome requests for schools, causes, charities ... we consider all of them," she says.

Last week's public meeting was not required of the company. According to Lonna Thelen, a city planner, the project is in the pre-application phase, with residents having until Friday, Nov. 1, to provide comments or concerns for initial review. It will not require City Council approval to proceed.

But my guess is that while all this is nice, none of it has won residents over. Instead, I think that 15 months after the Waldo Canyon Fire tore through here and left the threat of floods behind, we're just tired.

Our battles now are against Mother Nature. Our energy has been put into rebuilding what we lost and worrying about future threats. We can live with a few gas pumps on the corner as long as our homes and families are safe.

Jeanette Givens, president of the Pinon Valley Neighborhood Association, says she was surprised by the lack of response. "Initially it seemed like there was going to be issues around the hours" — Kum & Go is a 24-7 operation — "but even that was not as important as the meeting went on."

Members of the board of the Mountain Shadows Community Association did not attend Wednesday's meeting, though they met with company representatives beforehand. Givens said she spoke with representatives from other neighborhood organizations and with her own neighbors, but didn't get a sense of much opposition.

If Kum & Go decides to move ahead, a four-week internal review starts with the city. "During that time I have internal agencies review the project and I also send a postcard to the neighborhood and ask for comments on the project," Thelen explains via email. She then compiles a review letter for the applicant, who resubmits for a two-week re-review. Assuming everything is addressed, the project gets administratively reviewed.

The doors could open sometime in 2015. And, though I can't believe I'm saying it, I think they will.



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