Waiting for Manitou marijuana, probing the Black Forest Fire, more 


Soccer coming in '14 or '15

A professional men's soccer franchise could play in city-owned Sand Creek Soccer Stadium (next to Security Service Field) for a few games in 2014, says Bob Cope, principal analyst with the city's Economic Development Division. The first full season for the as-yet-unnamed team is scheduled to start the following spring.

Cope says about $250,000 worth of improvements will be needed to add facilities and seating in 2014, before another $750,000 in improvements for '15. Team owner Martin Ragain and Ragain Sports, LLC, will contribute, but will need help; the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation and other groups will be meeting to discuss possible funding.

Eventually, the team could play at the downtown stadium planned as part of the City for Champions proposal, assuming "C4C" attracts the funding to get off the ground. The state Economic Development Commission will reveal next week whether it qualifies for state sales tax rebates.

The new team, which will get a name and logo through a contest in the coming months, will be a part of the United Soccer League PRO, which has 13 U.S. teams and supports Major League Soccer. — JAS

Wait continues for local pot

Those looking at Jan. 1, 2014, as the beginning of something magical in Manitou Springs marijuana will have to wait a little longer, says City Clerk Donna Kast. Kast said Monday that Manitou City Council would likely extend the moratorium on recreational-marijuana stores until Jan. 31.

"From what I understand, they're going to be discussing it again at the next meeting on Dec. 17 — discussing how they're going to move forward," she says. "And if they do move forward, then the ordinances will be considered in January."

There's currently one medical-marijuana store operating in Manitou, with a second in the application phase. — BC

Black Forest Fire probed

An investigation of the Black Forest Fire's early hours is underway, following a unanimous vote from the Black Forest Fire/Rescue board.

It stems from El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa's Nov. 21 statement that Black Forest Chief Bob Harvey mishandled the June fire, not knowing homes were burning when some were engulfed and failing to order evacuations as flames grew out of control. The fire claimed nearly 500 homes and two lives.

Board Chair Ed Bracken says David Fisher will investigate and Peter Webb will handle public communications. Both are from the Denver area. Fisher will look only at the few hours when the fire started, Bracken says: "The accusations are flowing with respect to mismanagement and leadership, and we want to establish that's not the case."

Bracken says he's unsure of the investigation's cost, and that he expects a report in a couple of weeks. Its success "depends on how cooperative the county is in giving us access to the tapes," he says. "If they don't give them to us, that's a message in itself."

He adds that Black Forest firefighters, with other departments in the county's north end, are generating a separate after-action report, likely finished in February or March. — PZ

Record year for building

The Pikes Peak Regional Building Department has set a record for value of building permits issued this year, but a good chunk is due to public projects.

Building permits issued through November total $2 billion. The previous high mark for 11 months, year-to-date, was $1.7 billion.

The aggregate total for new single-family residential was $1 billion in November, 34 percent higher than for the same time last year. New commercial construction valuation came to $537.4 million, a 59 percent gain. (Alterations and remodels in both commercial and residential realms saw more modest changes.)

Much of the commercial valuation was represented in public buildings, including $118.1 million for a water treatment plant for the city's Southern Delivery System.— PZ

Lowderman in for treasurer

Term-limited El Paso County Assessor Mark Lowderman, a Republican, has announced he will run for county treasurer in 2014. The office is currently held by Bob Balink, whose plans are unknown.

In a press release, Lowderman, who has been assessor since 2007, says, "During my time as the Assessor, I've been able to reduce staffing levels by over 20 percent while the number of parcels increased by about 30 percent. Smaller, more efficient local government doesn't need to be just a campaign slogan."

David Kelly, another Republican, has also filed paperwork to run for the office. — JAS


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