UPDATE: Parks Board approves land swap


This Broadmoor land, about 9 acres, located near Bear Creek Park, is said to be worth $1.4 million. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • This Broadmoor land, about 9 acres, located near Bear Creek Park, is said to be worth $1.4 million.
The city reports in a news releases:
 Following an extensive discussion and public input today, relating to the proposed land exchange between the City of Colorado Springs and the Broadmoor, the City Parks and Recreation Advisory Board voted 6-3 in favor of a resolution authorizing a land exchange between the City of Colorado Springs and the Broadmoor. To learn more about the proposal, please visit https://www.coloradosprings.gov/proposedlandexchange

———ORIGINAL POST THURSDAY, APRIL 14, 2016, 2:09 P.M.—————-

Mayor John Suthers was busy on the phone on Wednesday. He was making calls to the nine Parks Advisory Board members, urging them to vote in favor of a city land swap with The Broadmoor.

Strawberry Fields, at 189 acres, appraised at $1.6 million. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Strawberry Fields, at 189 acres, appraised at $1.6 million.
Board member Alex Johnson tells the Independent he got a call at 10 a.m. on Wednesday on his cell phone from the mayor's office number. During the call, Suthers told him the trade was good for the community and that he should support it. Suthers also noted to Johnson that The Broadmoor and its owner, billionaire Philip Anschutz, are good corporate citizens.

It's curious that Suthers should take this step, considering he has nothing to say about the Parks Board, whose members are appointed by City Council and make recommendations to City Council, not the mayor. We've asked the mayor why he reached out to the board like he did and will circle back when we hear something.

(Via email late Thursday, Suthers said this: "I wanted to let them know why I felt the exchange was in the best interests of the city and its citizens. I believe that is entirely appropriate.")

The land swap deal, which includes the city giving its 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space to the resort, was initiated during Mayor Steve Bach's regime and was continued by Suthers when he took office last June. It was introduced to the public in mid-January and now is careening toward a Council vote on May 10.

At today's Parks Board meeting, where action had not been taken when this blog was posted, city staff spent two hours reading slides to the board — word for word — in a presentation that was for the most part a duplicate of several prior presentations. After that, The Broadmoor's President and CEO Jack Damioli spoke for another 20 to 30 minutes, saying the resort plans to seat 100 people in the picnic pavilion on 8.5 acres of Strawberry Fields as well as build a horse stable, while converting the rest to public use under a conservation easement.

He showed some drawings of the pavilion and suggested the development would be sited on about half of the 8.5 acres The Broadmoor wants to develop. Damioli also vowed that the larger open space would not be fenced.

Land appraisals done by The Broadmoor and the city, respectively, concluded the various Broadmoor tracts — which include trail easements, portions of Barr Trail and the Manitou Incline and a steep rugged acreage for only the most fit near Mount Muscoco, are worth $3.6 million, while the city's Strawberry Fields and a half-acre parking lot at the base of the Cog Railway are work under $2.2 million.

The city argues the deal is worth it because it provides land used by the city but not owned by the city (the Incline and Barr Trail) as well as opportunities to close gaps in other trail systems, including Daniels Pass Trail and Chamberlain Trail.

While the city has ordered an appraisal review, after opponents cried foul over the values and the city refused to release the appraisals, the city's real estate services person told the Parks Board that the point of such a review is to determine credibility, not to revalue the land.

It's worth noting that the proposed resolution that would seal the deal calls for the city to "recognize the difference between the value of the Broadmoor Property and the City Property as a donation."

So The Broadmoor would receive a tax benefit of $1.5 million, not to mention whatever tax credits accompany the conservation easement to be imposed on Strawberry Fields.

We'll update when we get word of the Park Board's decision. Council is due for another briefing prior to taking action in May.

Here's the proposed resolution.

See related PDF LandSwapResolution__1__2.pdf
As a foodnote, Johnson noted he did a little research and found that about 250 Springs citizens voted in an election in 1885 to buy Strawberry Fields and other Cheyenne Cañon land, and 88 percent voted in favor. The several hundred acres were purchased for $5,500, he said.

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