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Battle brewing at Bear Creek

Neighbors, Junior Achievement clash

Randy Reynolds says it's a good use of property that would benefit thousands of kids. Neighbors say it would bring increased traffic and noise near their homes and a county park.

A divided Colorado Springs Planning Commission sided with the neighbors last week, denying a rezoning request for a piece of land off Eighth Street that is surrounded by Bear Creek Park. The property is owned by Junior Achievement of Southern Colorado, which offers leadership training to children.

The battle isn't over. This week, Junior Achievement appealed the decision to City Council. The elected body will consider the plan Dec. 13.

Junior Achievement had asked the city to change the zoning of the 2.1-acre west side property, currently earmarked for office buildings, to allow retail businesses on the now-vacant land. The nonprofit organization bought it in 2001 for $368,000, with plans to build new headquarters there. However, it subsequently decided to set up office elsewhere.

Looking to resell the property, Junior Achievement has asked for the rezoning to increase the land value -- which would mean more money for its charitable programs, says chairman Reynolds.

"We're not trying to ruin the neighborhood," he says. "We're just trying to look at what's the best use for that property and maximize our return."

Neighbors, meanwhile, note that if rezoned, the property could become home to restaurants and shops that would bring increased noise and traffic congestion.

Office buildings would be more appropriate, serving as a buffer between the park and busy commercial areas nearby, they argue.

"I think we should have the least intrusive use of that property," says Ken Jaray, who owns a nearby law office.

Ed Alyn, another neighbor, says there's already too much retail development in the area. "If you go down Eighth Street, both directions, you can see how Eighth Street has been junked up."

A 3-2 majority of the Planning Commission voted Nov. 3 to deny the rezoning. Four commissioners were absent.

"I felt there were issues that had not been fully addressed with regard to traffic, and that retail was not, perhaps, the highest and best use of that property," says Mark Cunningham, one of the commissioners who opposed the rezoning.

-- Terje Langeland

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