Banning Lewis Ranch: Residents weigh in with letters to City Council

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The north portion of the Banning Lewis Ranch is being developed by Oakwood Homes, but the biggest sections remain prairies. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The north portion of the Banning Lewis Ranch is being developed by Oakwood Homes, but the biggest sections remain prairies.
Rewriting the annexation agreement for the 20,000-acre Banning Lewis Ranch has been characterized as one of the biggest decisions City Council will make regarding future development of the city.

But the citizenry isn't very engaged, judging from written comments to Council obtained by the Independent via a Colorado Open Records Act request.

Council has received letters and email messages from 21 citizens, most of whom oppose the proposal to change the agreement, which would ease costs associated with development.

That's only a fraction of the comments Council received from hundreds of citizens about its land swap with The Broadmoor, which saw the city cede ownership of Strawberry Fields open space.

The ranch was annexed in 1988 but not much has happened, because the cost of development discourages developers from moving forward, according to Mayor John Suthers. Instead, developers have "leapfrogged" over the city into territory just outside the city in the Falcon area, taking tax revenue with them.

Suthers wants to stop that outflow, citing a study by TischlerBise financial analysis firm that predicts the city would see a net gain of $49 million in revenue over 30 years if 6,000 acres of the ranch is developed.
Most of the ranch remains undeveloped, and Mayor John Suthers sees that as lost opportunity. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Most of the ranch remains undeveloped, and Mayor John Suthers sees that as lost opportunity.

Here's a sampling of comments Council has received:

Adrian Vinke: "Taxpayers should not be required to pay for issues caused by developers. We the citizens are taxed for everything as it is. The developers are the ones who make the money from developing, let them pay the way."

Esther Mueller: "We, the citizens, cannot afford to subsidize this or any development. We have been repeatedly told by the City that we need to provide additional money in order to afford the development currently in place, as funding from existing citizens has been approved for roads backlog (won’t complete without a renewal for at least another 5 years), some police officers (but not the full amount), and stormwater now as a separate cost."

Neil Talbott: "Changing the initial BLR agreement is chicanery of the highest sort and we should not support it for the simple reason that it puts taxpayers on the hook for things developers previously agreed to."

Walter Lawson and Dave Gardner: "What is the projected cost for capacity enhancement of all arterial roads (and construction of new arterials) to serve the residents of BLR? Is it included on the cost side of this study? What is the projected level of service on I-25 in town, and north to Denver, once BLR is built-out? Are any of the costs of required I-25 or major arterial roadway capacity expansion included in the study? If not, who will be paying for these items?"

Leon Skatberg: "I recall then mayor, Robert Isaac insist[ed] that the annexation agreement be written the way it was to ensure current taxpayers and ratepayers not be stuck with infrastructure costs. I believe he witnessed (he served five four-year terms as mayor) what everyone knows now, that developers did not pay their fair share on development costs and subsequently things like storm water drainage weren't built. I would not like to see us return to the good old days."

William Escovitz: "A small error in the estimated benefits by TischlerBise, or the costs, would totally wipe out the benefits and put the City into the red, at least regarding the budget.
Any change [of] the development agreement would have to be compellingly beneficial to the City, not marginally or doubtfully beneficial."

If you want to read all the comments provided to the Indy, here ya go:
See related PDF Emails_Redacted.pdf

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