Business/Economy, Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Environment, Featured, Land Use, Original Report, Scott Weiser, Zoning

Air Force Academy seeks Northgate annexation to Colorado Springs for tourist development

COLORADO SPRINGS–The U.S. Air Force Academy (AFA) filed a petition with the City Clerk on Nov. 23 for Colorado Springs to annex more than 180 acres of Academy property on both the east and west sides of I-25 for commercial development associated with the City for Champions Academy visitor’s center.  City Council has approved the petition, but the development plan still needs to go through an approval process.

A hearing before the Planning Commission is scheduled for January 17 at 8:30 a.m. at the Colorado Springs City Hall Council Chambers, 107 N. Nevada Ave. Notice was posted on the property on January 7, and comments are due by January 17.

City Planner Katie Carleo is in charge of the application. Maps and other documents are available on the city’s website or by contacting Carleo at Kcarleo@springsgov.com, or (719) 385-5060.

The plan includes 58 acres and a maximum of 590,000 square feet of commercial/ office/ retail/ hospitality space located between the Santa Fe Trail and Monument Creek straddling Northgate Blvd. west of I-25.

This could include hotels, restaurants, office space and other uses that would cater to visitors to the AFA.

One of the potential amenities is an indoor skydiving center for use both by the public and AFA personnel.

Additional acreage in the Master Plan on the south side of Northgate Blvd. running east from the visitor’s center access road across I-25 to the city limits just west of Bass Pro Shops and the Mining Museum connects the parcels to Colorado Springs, a requirement for annexation. This area is designated as undevelopable open space, preventing commercial development between Bass Pro Shops and I-25 in the future.

Called “True North Commons,” the development is being managed by Blue & Silver Development Partners, LLC of Colorado Springs.

Criticism of the development by Kellie Kuhn, an associate professor at the AFA, has shown up on Facebook. Kuhn wrote in a Jan. 10 post, shared by the El Paso County Democratic Party group, “Both of these developments will likely have substantial negative ecological impacts.”

Kuhn writes that she uses these areas as “natural laboratories for my ecology classes and student research projects,” and is concerned that the development may have a negative impact on the  Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, which is federally-listed as an endangered species.

The mouse is found primarily along waterways east of the Front Range and occupies brushy habitat, including stands of willow commonly found along Monument Creek and the grass uplands outside the riparian zone, which it uses for feeding.

Any development will have to comply with Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations that often require mitigation if the mouse’s habitat is impacted.

The Master Plan PDF is available here.

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