Colorado Springs — The El Paso Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved a Lorson South Land Corporation and Babcock Land Corporation petition Thursday morning.
Developer Jeff Mark, president of the Landhuis Company, representing the landowners, wants to develop the 140-acre parcel located on the northeast corner of Constitution Avenue and Marksheffel Road.
The BOCC rejected his 2016 request for rezoning from industrial to residential and commercial to allow about 300 houses and 500,000 square feet of commercial development.
The development, called “The Sands” is directly across Constitution Avenue from existing residential and commercial development to the south.
Mark says of the county’s denial, “Access for commercial [development] was the major sticking point.” Other county concerns included the proximity of homes to the industrial areas on the eastern and northern boundaries of the property that Mark says are “resolvable.”
After the 2016 denial Mark began the process of annexing the property to the city. Annexation rules require that all city properties use Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) services. However, the property is within the Cherokee Metropolitan District (CMD), which provides water and sewer to roughly 18,000 customers.
The landowners appealed to the CMD in August 2017 to exclude the property from the District to avoid double taxation and overlapping of services and to save money. The CMD board turned them down.
The predicted costs of utilities from the city would save future residents “in excess of $3.2 million” according to the landowners’ attorney Pat Hrbacek.
The landowners appealed to the BOCC to overrule the CMD and grant the petition for exclusion.
In an August 8, 2017 meeting Mark told the CMD board, “We’re here because we’re annexing into the city. We’re way down the road on our annexation, and this is part of the process that we are mandated to undertake, because CSU mandates that we go on CSU utilities.”
But CMD Board President Janet Cederberg said, “I’m not going to vote for that. Why would I try to destroy my district for something for you because you don’t like an access point, and you don’t like the zoning? So no, you can’t deal with it, then that’s your problem, not mine, and no. The answer is no. Did that sum it up?”
David Hacker, a CMD Director said, “We’ve got 18,000 people in our district, and I hate go and tell them that we have to raise the rates because we lost a section in our district to the city… We’ve just got to keep this district intact and in one piece.”
CMD Director Larry Keleher agreed, saying, “My answer is no, basically because of the lost revenue and the increased burden it would put on the current residents to make up for the lost tap fees and water.”
At Thursday’s BOCC hearing Hrbacek disputed the claim that CMD would have to raise rates. He said that because the property is vacant CMD is not collecting any money now that there would be no net loss in revenue because there would be no investment in infrastructure required.
He said, “Annexation will result in a significant savings that will benefit all of the future owners and residents…A denial of the exclusion would have a significant negative financial impact on the viability of the development.”
The Commissioners voted 4-0 in favor of excluding the property from the Cherokee Metropolitan District with Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez excused. The exclusion was conditioned on the property being successfully annexed by the city. If the annexation fails, the property will revert to its previous status under the Cherokee Metropolitan District.