Strawberry Fields open space lies at the center of controversy over the city's proposed land swap with The Broadmoor.
As The Broadmoor land swap with the city is put through the rinse cycle over and over again, there's been a few things that have popped out that don't seem to add up.
Most especially the value of the land at issue.
Setting aside Strawberry Fields, the city's 189.5-acre open space The Broadmoor wants, Michael Chaussee, a frequent hiker in the North Cheyenne Cañon area, checked in with the El Paso County Assessor's Office and found some of this land is on the books for really cheap. As in $117,000 for the 208 acres the Broadmoor is willing to give up around Mount Muscoco, instead of the allegedly millions of dollars as described by the city.
As he writes in an overview of the swap:
The Parks Department (Karen Palus and Chris) stated to me on 2/17/16: “appraisals have not been completed on any of the parcels” and no appraisals have been provided to Council. Parks stated that it would be two weeks before the appraisals were completed. Parks did not have any other evidence of value.
Our concern is that [the public] is being misled by the claims that “appraised value” supports this proposal. Is there any evidence that the values stated are correct?
In response to that specific question from Chaussee, Palus tells the Independent
via email: "The information reported is the best ESTIMATE at this time."
We asked Palus about the appraisals and here's what we found out:
Q. Can you tell us on what data the original values of the property in question were based?
A. The original property value estimates were based on information received by the Broadmoor for their parcels as well as a preliminary estimate received by the City for the City owned parcels.
(Wait, we thought she said no appraisals had been received and that parks had no other evidence of value.)
Q. When will the formal appraisals will be completed?
A. Three formal appraisals have been received for five of the parcels owned by the Broadmoor. We have not received the appraisals for the proposed trail easements yet. We have only started one appraisal for the City properties and expect to receive that by next week. We have not started the appraisal for the 0.5 acre City property controlled by CSU at this time.
Q. If they're available now, can you provide the values assigned to these parcels?
A. The appraisals that have been received are being reviewed by our Real Estate Division. Once all of the appraisals have been prepared by the licensed independent appraisers we will provide the complete value information. At this time the dollar values reported are an accurate estimate based on the three appraisals and the preliminary figures we have received thus far. The information reported is the best ESTIMATE at this time.
Perhaps more information will be forthcoming at the next public meeting on the land swap: 6 p.m. Wednesday at Gold Camp Elementary, 1805 Preserve Drive.