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The real costs of developing Red Rock Canyon


As a 30-year resident of Manitou Springs, I am strongly opposed to the proposed development of 750 acres of foothill land just east of Manitou Springs.

Not only is this acreage, known as Red Rock Canyon, a beautiful part of our mountain vista that can be seen from all over the Springs region, but there are also some very real potential liability problems with developing this land for residential use.

These, for the most part, pristine acres that border on Section 16 and Bear Creek Park contain the geologic continuation of the Garden of the Gods. There is also a recently closed Colorado Springs dump on the site whose attractive landscaping belies the potential health risks that lie beneath the surface.

Herein lies part of the possible liability if this site is to be developed for residential use. As a person with a master's degree in hydrogeology and many years experience as an investigator of subsurface contamination for a major worldwide environmental consulting firm, I can assure you that no one knows for certain what has been buried in our public and private landfills, including this one.

The common practice used to investigate a landfill is to drill boreholes and monitoring wells, if applicable, and take soil and water samples. The problem with this type of investigation is that there are usually not enough samples taken to adequately characterize the site. Plus, there is the obvious conflict of interest involved with having the developer hire and pay for the environmental consulting firm doing the investigation.

Another potential hazard with the Red Rock Canyon site is the obvious landslide potential on much of its acreage. When you start cutting roads through an area of steep terrain, you significantly increase the potential for landslides. When you build houses and start watering lawns, you provide the lubrication for the landslide. Ask the people in Cedar Heights, the gated development to the north of Manitou Springs. The developer for that area was warned back in the late 1970s and early 1980s that land slippage like slumps and landslides were likely in this area. Now you have people up there whose garages, driveways and porches are splitting away from their homes.

Residents of Manitou need to ask themselves: Do you want to foot the bill for future lawsuits for possible illnesses brought on by buried hazardous God-knows-what and for lawsuits resulting from landslides? I don't. Do you want this town to double in size practically overnight? I don't. And ask yourselves this: If this development is such a good deal, why isn't Colorado Springs vying for it?

Where is the potable water going to come from? There would be thousands more people hooked up to the Manitou Springs water system as we move into what is obviously a drought. And what about the added traffic? Can you imagine Highway 24 in the mornings and evenings, and on weekends with thousands more people using it? It would become a parking lot at such times which would eventually necessitate widening the highway to at least six lanes.

No development pays for itself. Already the developer is asking the people of Manitou to help finance his scheme by using some dubious legal maneuver to condemn the land as blighted. Development is always a financial and social drain on those who are left in the community after the fast profits are made and the developers are long gone. Name one major development like this one that has even come close to paying for itself.

This issue is too big and important to the fabric and quality of life of the Manitou community to be left solely in the hands of a few local politicians who may or may not have a vested interest in the outcome. All of the residents of Manitou Springs should insist on having a voice and a vote on the outcome of this issue.

Remember, we don't have to sit back helplessly while a handful of others decide what the quality of our lives will be. Let's put it to a vote like we did the gambling issue a few years ago. And if we must, we have recall and lawsuit tools at our disposal.

The real costs of developing Red Rock Canyon must be identified and discussed, not by a handful of developers but by the people who live next door and who will pay down the line.

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