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Red Rock Canyon developers quietly cozy up to Colorado Springs

After stirring up controversy in Manitou Springs, the Santa Fe, N.M.-based development company Zydeco has turned to Colorado Springs for annexation and is proceeding very quietly with plans to develop Red Rock Canyon just west of the city limits.

Consultant Parry Thomas has made several invitation-only presentations of a "concept plan" to selected open space advocates and city personnel.

Some open space activists are expressing concern over the closed-door meetings. "The entire process should be open-door and subject to public input," said Joe Fabek, who heads up the Red Rock Canyon Committee, a citizens group formed to preserve the canyon as open space.

"They're going at it more subtly this time," agreed Ken Andrew, chair of the Trails, Opens Space and Parks (TOPS) working committee. "Zydeco is avoiding the kind of grand unveiling that ended so disastrously in Manitou" ("Zydeco casting its lot with Colorado Springs," Sept. 21).

Zydeco spokesperson Kyle Blakely -- who served as Colorado Springs Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace's campaign manager in her 1999 re-election effort -- insists that the closed-door presentations are no cause for alarm, however. "Our sole intent is to get some opinions on a few very preliminary thoughts and concepts," he said.

Mark Cunningham, a member of the Red Rock Canyon Committee and a board member and past president of the Trails and Open Space Coalition, reports that Zydeco seems to be considerably scaling back its development ambitions this time around.

He reports that Zydeco is now considering preserving 225 to 250 acres of open space on the property, which would include a number of scenic easements that would protect the spires and hogback areas, and an open space area in Sand Canyon that would front Section 16 and forestall any further development there.

Plans also apparently include 35 to 60 "very high-end" single family homes, a resort and golf course, and some commercial development fronting Highway 24.

Pat Musick, a member of the TOPS working committee, says that Zydeco president Richard Yates also told of plans to mine methane at the former dump site on the property.

According to Parks and Rec Director Terry Putman, open space negotiations involving Red Rock Canyon are now being handled for the city by the Trust for Public Land.

Suit targets cement plant

The smoke still hasn't cleared around the proposed cement plant just south of Pueblo. The proposed Rio Grande Portland Cement Plant has been extremely controversial because of fears about declining air quality, and because area officials were highly secretive about their plans to lure the plant to town ("Proposed Pueblo cement plant kicks up dust," Aug. 10).

At the same time, critics of the proposal, who packed public meetings this summer, claimed that the State's Air Pollution Control Division (the branch of the state health department that regulates air pollution) did not play fair with residents during the public hearing process.

Earlier this week, the Citizens for Clean Air and Water in Pueblo filed a lawsuit challenging the state's handling of the affair, alleging that state regulators violated their own regulations in numerous big and small ways to the detriment of citizen participation.

According to the suit, state air-quality officials were late in posting information on the permit application, they allowed the cement company to make significant amendments to its application even after public hearings had been completed, and they gave citizens far less than the required amount of notice for public hearings.

The suit also alleges that the state did not require the cement plant operators, Grupos Cementos de Chihuahua, to explore the best available smoke-cleaning technology as called for under state law.

"We have been concerned about these things since the issues were raised six months ago and we deserve our day in court on this," said Alvin Rivera, vice president of the citizens' group.

For it's part, officials from the state's Air Pollution Control Division would not comment on the suit, saying they had not yet been served with papers and could not respond. "At this point we're going to reserve comment, except to say that we stand by the permit that we issued," said Christopher Dann, public information officer for the division.

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