- Pam Zubeck
- Some view Banning Lewis Ranch’s development as quite flawed.
On April 24, Colorado Springs City Council is expected to vote on a 27-page revised annexation agreement that will reduce the development costs of the 20,000-acre ranch from requirements contained in the 1988 agreement. Despite relaxing infrastructure expenses, a city-funded financial impact study by TischlerBise found that developing 7,400 acres of the ranch would net the city $49 million in tax and fee revenue over the next 30 years. Opponents dispute that.
The amended agreement, dated Dec. 8, 2017, was initially slated for a Council vote in February but it was delayed to address concerns raised by residents and Council itself. Since then, the Auditor’s Office, at Council’s request, has issued a report that found the Dec. 8 agreement requires only 205 acres of parkland be dedicated by developers, less than half the 549 acres required under the city’s Park Land Dedication Ordinance. And it found that the TischlerBise study contained “no supporting data or basis” for the agreement’s per-acre police ($677) and fire ($1,631) fees. Those fees, the auditor found, “do not cover the full cost of land acquisition, construction, and initial outfitting of the required police and fire stations.”
On April 5, the city released a revised annexation agreement, dated March 30, which allows for police and fire fee changes based on city codes at the time building permits are issued. “We want to be able to update the codes,” says Councilor Andy Pico, who represents District 6, where most of the ranch is located. The change stemmed from the auditor’s finding, he says, and the several dozen owners of property in the ranch agreed to the change, as long as the fees apply to all annexations, Pico says.
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The March 30 agreement also contains a less permissive clause regarding special districts, which will be formed by developers to pay for infrastructure with property taxes collected from those who buy lots in those districts. The Dec. 8 draft stated, “The city will permit formation of special districts,” while the March 30 version says, “The City will review applications for such districts upon request of the Owner involved...”
Park land requirements didn’t change from one version to the next, but a new requirement appears in the March 30 version which would require owners to dedicate land or easements “for a multi-use trail in the Jimmy Camp Creek Drainage Basin and for the Rock Island Loop as shown in the Master Plan.”
Growth watchdogs Dave Gardner and Walter Lawson, who have kept an eye on the process, say the entire plan is flawed, because the developer requirements are based on current levels of services, which fall short of citizens’ needs. Those include police response times that average more than 11 minutes for life-threatening calls, a lack of park land and no transit service.
“It’s a railroad job,” Gardner says. Lawson adds, “This is all about escalating the [developers’] profit.”
Last chance for public comment ahead of the Council meeting is at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, at Pikes Peak Regional Development Center, 2880 International Circle.