Colorado Springs wrestles with Banning Lewis Ranch development rules

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This portion of the Banning Lewis Ranch, on its north end, was developed by Oakwood Homes in accordance with the existing annexation agreement. - PHOTOS BY PAM ZUBECK
  • Photos by Pam Zubeck
  • This portion of the Banning Lewis Ranch, on its north end, was developed by Oakwood Homes in accordance with the existing annexation agreement.
In this week's issue, we explore the proposed new annexation agreement for the 20,000-acre Banning Lewis Ranch, which forms the city's eastern border.

Since the current annexation agreement was adopted by City Council in 1988, not much development has occurred, so Mayor John Suthers wants to change the requirements to encourage developers to build there.

After the Independent went to press on Jan. 31, a new schedule of approval emerged that afternoon, showing City Council will consider the new annexation agreement on first reading on April 10, followed by final approval on April 24. That's another month's delay, after Council already delayed final approval from late February until March 27.

And the push back to late April is fine with Council President Richard Skorman.

"There’s lots of answers we needed that we weren’t getting answers for," he tells the Indy. "We were getting fired lots of questions [from citizens]. We just felt it was being rushed. There was an interest in getting this moved forward quickly because of some of the smaller land owners who have been waiting and waiting for this to happen, and it’s been a financial problem for them."
This is a view of the Banning Lewis Ranch back in the days when it was a working cattle operation. - COURTESY, SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, PIKES PEAK LIBRARY DISTRICT
  • Courtesy, Special Collections, Pikes Peak Library District
  • This is a view of the Banning Lewis Ranch back in the days when it was a working cattle operation.
This is how the ranch looks today, which isn't much different than 50 years ago.
  • This is how the ranch looks today, which isn't much different than 50 years ago.
Skorman says the biggest landowner, Nor'wood Development Group, has said it will spend a couple of years with urban planners to devise a master plan and what that means for "green infrastructure."

Skorman would like to look at the master plan for Banning Lewis Ranch in tandem with the city's comprehensive plan, now underway, and the transportation master plan. (At present, there is no plan to provide transit service to the ranch.)

"We need to look at this [the ranch] in a bigger context," he says. "The issue for me is how it connects to everything. We’ve built trails to nowhere. We haven’t required certain developers to pitch in. Otherwise, we’re just going to have another suburban sprawl island out there."

If you're interested in a deep dive into the issue, we've provided some key documents for your perusal. First, the 1988 annexation agreement, which is in force today:
See related PDF 1988AAPart1.pdf See related PDF 1988AAPart2.pdf Here's the new proposed agreement:

See related PDF BLRDraftAnnexAgmt.pdf Here's a side-by-side comparison of the two agreements produced by the city:

See related PDF BLRComparisonTable.pdf Lastly, Tim Seibert, with Nor'wood, gave a statement at a Jan. 16 City Council meeting that is provided here in full. That's followed by the press release issued by Nor'wood upon buying the Banning Lewis property in 2014.
See related PDF TimSeibert1-16-18.pdf See related PDF NORWOODSTATEMENT.pdf

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