Not many choose to donate their land to the city of Colorado Springs 

Gaining ground

click to enlarge David Jenkins donated a small tract with a bridge on Cowpoke Road to the city. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • David Jenkins donated a small tract with a bridge on Cowpoke Road to the city.
IIn the coming weeks, the Colorado Springs City Council will work to amend an onerous 1988 annexation agreement that’s all but made it impossible to develop the 18,500-acre Banning Lewis Ranch on the city’s east side, leading to a building boom just over the county line.

Outdoorsy types, fueled by statements made by those close to the negotiations, are speculating that the ranch’s major developer, Nor’wood Development Group, might sweeten the pot by giving the city a large chunk of land for an open space park.

With that in mind, we wondered how much land the city has received as gifts within the last five years. The answer: not much.

Since 2013, only 228 acres — a tiny fraction of the city’s total landmass of 124,800 acres — was donated, according to records obtained by the Independent. If the property traded by The Broadmoor as part of the controversial Strawberry Fields land swap is eliminated (The Broadmoor’s property had an assessed value higher than the city’s), only 46 acres have been handed over to the city free of charge due to citizens’ and corporations’ generosity.

The gifts, given between 2013 through mid-December, came from 13 donors.

And that doesn’t surprise Councilor Andy Pico. “When people have land,” he says, “they probably want to do something with it other than give it away.”

If the past is any guide, Nor’wood Chair David Jenkins will want to sell, not give, acreage to the city. (Such a purchase could be funded with money from the city’s Trails, Open Space and Parks tax.)

In 2016, Jenkins went to court to get more money than the $117,500 the city offered for 121 acres of the ranch needed for Colorado Springs Utilities’ Southern Delivery System water pipeline from Pueblo, a project conceived, in large part, to serve Banning Lewis Ranch. The court action led to a judgment in Jenkins’ favor — $1,954,861 for the property and another $480,598 in interest, for a total payment of $2,435,459. Jenkins also was paid $169,407 in attorney fees, about half of the amount he sought.

Since 2013, Jenkins has donated only one 1.65-acre tract of land to the city, records show. That parcel is near Cowpoke Road in northeast Colorado Springs and was donated in May 2014. Nor’wood employee Ralph Braden, who has announced he’ll retire soon, told the Indy at that time, “The reason we’re donating it is, that bridge was actually built by the county 50 to 60 years ago on land that the county didn’t own. It was on private property. Subsequently, Mr. Jenkins acquired it. Then it got annexed into the city. The city wanted to do some work on it, so we said, ‘Why don’t we just donate it?’”

Today, the site still has a bridge, which hasn’t been improved by the city, and the adjacent land has been reshaped into a detention pond area.

David Jenkins’ son, Chris, president of Nor’wood, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment on a rumored gift of Banning Lewis Ranch land.

But, beyond its use as a bargaining chip, a gift to the city could conceivably make some financial sense. Land donations likely could be declared by the donor as a tax deduction via IRS Form 8283 for non-cash charitable contributions. It’s apparently up to the donor to determine value. According to the city’s Procedure Manual for the Acquisition and Disposition of Real Property Interest, “No City Staff shall offer any opinion or advice to any property owner as to the tax consequences of any transaction or donation. ... The City does not approve or suggest a value for the donation. The value of the donation for tax purposes is a matter between the IRS and the donor.”

Recreation aside, the city needs land for road, stormwater and other construction projects. The city paid about $10.2 million for 516.75 acres of land in the last five years. It doesn’t ask land owners for gifts, city spokesperson Kim Melchor says. Nevertheless, the city’s Water Resources Engineering Division, which oversees the stormwater program, “anticipates more of these types of conveyances in the future as the city conducts more of these channel stabilization projects.” The city plans to spend upward of $400 million on stormwater projects, including land acquisition, in the coming 18 years, funded with stormwater fees adopted by voters in November.

The city does get lucky sometimes. For instance, two landowners gave a total of 17 acres along Sand Creek south of Platte Avenue and east of Babcock Road in recent years. And Norris Properties LLC gave Colorado Springs Utilities about 3.4 acres in January 2017 for SDS.

Before that, in 2013, Norris Properties was paid $7.5 million for 791 acres of land for the proposed Gary Bostrom Reservoir, part of SDS. The payment was part of more than $53 million Utilities paid for land alone for SDS.

Steve Norris, owner of Norris Properties, tells the Indy he decided to donate the small parcel because it consists of a strip of land a few feet wide along the boundary of the proposed reservoir. “I just thought it would be a good gesture, basically, and that’s the only reason,” he says.

Who gave what?

Here’s a list of donations, in chronological order, made over the last five years:
  • 1.15 acres (two separate tracts) along Mesa Road from Alinda H. Wikert in July 2013.
  • 2.2 acres in Garden of the Gods along Rampart Road from Donald F. and Betty Jo Hanes in August 2013.
  • 6.9 acres northeast of Stratton Open Space from Stratton Preserve Home Owners Association in February 2014.
  • 1.65 acres along Cowpoke Road by David Jenkins in May 2014.
  • 9.46 acres adjacent to Northgate Open Space by FirstBank in July 2015.
  • 1.88 acres for Sand Creek Police Substation from 123 Cascade Associates LLC in August 2015. (The same entity sold 8.7 acres to the city for the substation for $760,000.)
  • 10,130 square feet near Stone Mesa Point for a city road project from Belvedere Properties LLC in July 2016.
  • 181.7 acres of forest land, a tract near Bear Creek Regional Park and trail easements as part of The Broadmoor land exchange in December 2016. (While some of this is considered a trade, The Broadmoor’s property was worth considerably more
  • according to appraisals.)
  • 2.07 acres adjacent to Highway 24 in Cascade for use by Colorado Springs Utilities from Mark E. Cusack in December 2016.
  • 3.4 acres for the Southern Delivery System from Norris Properties LLC in January 2017.
  • 4.14 acres along Sand Creek south of Platte Avenue bridge for a stabilization project from Dynamic Sciences, Inc., in November 2017.
  • 12.87 acres along Sand Creek south of Platte Avenue for the same project from Cloud Family Partnership LLP in December 2017.

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