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Dry spell:

Fort Carson's buffer-zone deal further worries waterless Rancho residents

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Fort Carson and El Paso County officials are a step away from finalizing a mile-wide buffer zone for a stretch of the military outpost's eastern border. Lauded by environmentalists and defense experts alike, the piecemeal open-space barrier will preclude residential development adjacent to the Army post.

But some say that when the transaction's completed Feb. 28, it also will doom water prospects for people living on the outskirts of Fort Carson. Residents of Rancho Colorado, a tiny, dusty community adjacent to the buffer zone and just north of the Pueblo County line, fought the plan from the beginning. About 90 households a third of the people in Rancho rely on water delivery, or truck in their own water. (See "Hung out to dry," csindy.com/csindy/2006-10-12/cover.html.)

The land in the buffer zone originally belonged to Rancho developer Cary Carpenter, who will receive more than $2 million from the federal government for 55 plots. He and his partners also control the small amount of water that flows to about 180 homes in Rancho. Now that a large chunk of their community has been blocked out as open space, Rancho's waterless residents fear the developer will never extend his pipeline to them.

County Commissioner Dennis Hisey has tried to secure a reliable water source for people in Rancho, but to no avail.

"I don't have any leads at this time," he says.

Newly elected state Rep. Marsha Looper (R-Calhan), representing Rancho in House District 19, is sponsoring a bill that could protect people who move to waterless properties.

HB 1156 would demand that a land seller fully disclose a property's water source to any buyer. If the water comes from a well, the seller must give the buyer a copy of the well permit.

Many without water in Rancho contend that when they bought their land, they were told they could hook up to a water system in the future. That never happened.

Looper's bill won't help the waterless already living on Fort Carson's outskirts, but it will clear up any confusion for people who move there in the future.

"It does not help my friends and the citizens of [Rancho]," says Looper. "I hope to continue to find some solution."

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