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Vote delayed in massive development 

Outstanding bill, sewage questions raised in Banning Lewis Ranch plan

City Council unanimously decided this week to delay the first phase of a massive project after learning of an unpaid bill that could represent as much as $1 million owed by the developer.

Last week, the Independent reported that between 2002 and 2004, the developer of the Banning Lewis Ranch property in eastern Colorado Springs racked up nearly $700,000 in unpaid fees, mostly for police and fire protection. Additional unpaid fees also have accrued, and the property's owner, California-based Capital Pacific Holdings, Inc., is contesting the fees.

In addition, the city-owned utility has not yet reached an agreement with Capital Pacific over a wastewater treatment plant and a reservoir to be built on the property.

The unpaid bill for fees, which top city officials were not aware of until last week, caught Council members by surprise.

"I don't like finding out about past-due bills owed to the city by reading about it in your newspaper," says Councilman Jerry Heimlicher. "Nothing is going to happen with [the development] until they pay their bill or we agree to something different."

Capital Pacific officials hope to gain approval to move forward with the first phase of development, which would include 785 single-family homes, 50 duplexes, 172 townhomes, a park, a charter school, trails and mini-parks.

If the 24,000-acre Banning Lewis Ranch property is completely built out over the next 30 years as developers envision, Colorado Springs would double in size.

Council consideration over the development has been postponed four times since Nov. 8. The matter now has been rescheduled for Jan. 24. According to Capital Pacific's "Builder Opportunity Package," an April 18, 2005 booklet obtained by the Independent that describes the project, the developer had planned its grand opening of completed models as soon as May of this year.

Finally having learned of the outstanding bill for city fees, Heimlicher says, "In all honesty, I'm glad it was postponed three times. We should not have been considering going forward without that knowledge."

-- Cara DeGette

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