Columns » Outsider




Did the City screw up the Big Johnson open-space acquisition?

No way, according to the power people. Here's the spin: Sure, the company that owns the reservoir also owns some land surrounding it, but it's undevelopable.

Why, the reservoir is just a shallow, stinking, sewage lagoon, and the land around it is either seasonally submerged or soft, unstable mud that you could never build on. Besides, it's too noisy, what with all those planes landing and taking off at the nearby airport. Furthermore, Colorado Springs Utilities has a long-term lease that precludes development.

Those rascally developers are just trying to scam the city into buying their worthless land; pay no attention to them, or to the lazy, ill-informed reporters and columnists of a certain scurrilous weekly newspaper.

Well, let's get real. If the reservoir were really such a cesspool, it would never have been touted as the raison d'tre for a massive open-space acquisition.

No one denies that there are substantial obstacles to any future development. But landowners and developers have a way of solving problems; there's something about the prospect of tens of millions of dollars that powerfully concentrates one's attention.

There are still a few geezers out there who remember that Al Hill was considered crazy by the local establishment when he bought most of the land on the Mesa in the late '40s -- "There ain't no water there, and it's too far from town, and the wind blows all the time. He must be nuts!"

Let's see. Now we've got Kissing Camels, the Garden of the Gods Club -- I guess it was developable after all. Clearly, the land around the Big Johnson isn't going to be developed tomorrow. Just as clearly, waterfront property in El Paso County is unlikely to remain forever pristine.

Some future Council will have to deal with it, and someone -- be it Utilities or the City -- will have to write a big check. But the current bunch will be long gone, so there's no political advantage in dealing with it now, and every reason to deny and defer.

Politics as usual. Isn't it wonderful!

Some weeks ago, this column described our legislative delegation as a bunch of "anti-tax troglodytes." Got a phone call a few days later from state Sen. Doug Lamborn, who, far from being offended, was pleased to be so described.

I don't often agree with Senator Lamborn on policy issues, but it's good to know that he both reads the Indy and has a sense of humor. But it's gotta be bad news for the Dems; if Republicans are seen to be cheerful and tolerant (Lamborn) not to mention shacked up with big-haired blonde hotties (House Speaker Doug Dean), what does that leave for the Democrats? Guess that's why they're going after John McCain.

Meanwhile, the clock is still ticking where Red Rock Canyon is concerned. Regardless of any mistakes the City may have made in acquiring the Big Johnson property, let's hope they make a last-ditch effort to preserve the Canyon.

It won't be easy. The mayor and Council will have to take risks and exert forceful leadership to get it done. They may not succeed, and either failure or success will carry a price. If we're lucky, they'll cut a deal, figure out how to fund it and be tossed out in the next municipal election as a bunch of big-spending liberals. And like former Denver Mayor Robert W. Speer, they'll be remembered as visionaries rather than as tools of the development community.

Speaking of anti-tax troglodytes, most liberals would give Gazette editorial page editor Dan Njegomir a prominent position in that particular pantheon. But you can forgive Dan some of his sins if you check out his editorials concerning the drug war -- which he passionately opposes. Think about it: In what is arguably the most conservative city in America, both city newspapers -- the Indy and the Gazette -- strongly oppose the drug war. Uncanny.

But back to Big Johnson. In a way, I'm sorry that Waterview Lake Estates isn't going to materialize a little sooner.

I'd dreamed of my fabulous contempo house, perched on stilts above the mud, with the smell of sewage wafting though the kitchen windows, listening to the melodious croaking of carrion crows, and being lulled to sleep by the gentle whisper of 747s passing 50 feet above my roof. At least, that's what the Judy Noyes/Richard Skorman sales spin claims.

Yep, I guess I'll have to move to Red Rock Canyon -- but wait, isn't that all polluted with a dump and groundwater contamination?

On second thought, no need for the City to buy it -- it's just not developable ...


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