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City Council could resolve Sentinel Ridge dispute over use restriction at Fillmore/Mesa corner

       A church, and only a church, will be allowed on the 8-acre property at the southeast corner of Fillmore Street and Mesa Road.
       So agreed the Colorado Springs Planning Commission in May, as part of a series of votes that otherwise supported project plans for the Sentinel Ridge development.
       However, because it's a zoning matter, City Council will get the final say. The item is on the council agenda for Tuesday, June 24.
       The development is proposed by the Sunrise Company, doing business as Garden of the Gods LLC, which owns more than 1,000 acres of undeveloped land on the Mesa.
       The LLC has a contract with Westside's First Evangelical Free Church, which has announced plans to relocate and build a new facility on that corner, but not for at least five years.

The current drainage swale is seen in an eastward view into the 45-acre Sentinel Ridge property from the south side of Fillmore Street. A 2.5-acre portion of the swale had been proposed by the city for open space in future development of the land, but that changed at the May Planning Commission meeting with the revelation that a wastewater line probably needs to cross there, requiring up to 30 feet of fill dirt. When Sentinel Ridge was first proposed In 2009, the swale area had been proposed for streamside overlay protection, but that idea was rejected because of findings that its main water flow comes out of a pipe under Fillmore from the Springs Utilities water treatment plant on the north side of the street. Fillmore Street can be seen at far left in the photo. The development is to extend to Grand Vista Circle (homes in background).
Westside Pioneer photo
       In all, Sentinel Ridge consists of 45 acres of virgin property southeast of Fillmore and Mesa that would also include single- and multi-family housing, a skilled- nursing/assisted living facility by the Mainstreet company and 13 acres of private open space.
       The commission vote on the church site backed the arguments expressed by four nearby residents, who want to preserve their area's rural feel and who already feel put upon by a growing city and the morning/afternoon glut of vehicular drop-offs and pickups at Holmes Middle School on Mesa Road just south of where the church would go.
       “We are 100 percent in support of the church finding a home,” Richard Serby, a long-time neighborhood leader, told the commission. “But we are very concerned about the traffic implications of any other project at that site… There could be a mess on Mesa Road.”
       Going into Planning Commission, the LLC proposal was to give the site an office-complex (OC) zone - the same as for Mainstreet on its proposed 7.7 acres by Fillmore and Grand Vista Circle. The code shows 38 possible uses in that zone, including a church. The LLC had previously agreed to amend the plan to disallow 13 of those uses on both sites, including any retail.
       If the city limits the uses on the First Evangelical property to religious worship only, LLC representative Susan Wood-Ellis argued in rebuttal, that “very much sterilizes their [the church's] ability to market the property.” She also pointed out that under the LLC's proposed OC zone plan, even if the church did at some point sell to an entity that wanted to do something different, city approval would still be needed.
       Asked afterward about the commission's vote, Don Wilkin, representing First Evangelical, said the church sentiment is to “follow the lead of the developer.” He elaborated that “our goal is to build a church there, but we would prefer a broader number of uses, because nobody can predict the future.”
       The other notable change at Planning Commission involved open space. The LLC, after talks with the city, had proposed that 12 of the acres be set aside. Part of that was to be a 2.5-acre drainage swale just south of Fillmore Street. Lonna Thelen, the city planner assigned to Sentinel Ridge, had spoken highly of this location in her written recommendation for the project, describing it as “an area which contains significant vegetation, including large trees, steep slopes, and is a natural and logical extension of the adjacent open space to the south.”

Part of the Sentinel Ridge concept plan highlights the roughly 8-acre site at the corner of Fillmore Street and Mesa Road that is under contract to First Evangelical Free Church. The map includes both planned access points - one from Mesa, the other from Fillmore. The Mesa Road access is not currently lined up with Friendship Lane (which comes up to the west side of Mesa), but Planning Commission meeting discussion indicated that it remains a possibility. Also on the map, northeast of the church site along Fillmore, is the drainage swale that's pictured elsewhere on this page and a portion of the site that is proposed for a skilled-nursing/assisted living facility.
Courtesy of Colorado Springs Land Use Review
       However, she announced at Planning Commission a change to her recommendation, based on new information that Colorado Springs Utilities believes the best route for a wastewater line from the church appears to be right across the swale, which would “require some fill.” (Ellis later said it would be about 30 feet.) In any case, more study is needed, Thelen noted.
       The eventual commission vote, using a swap suggested by Ellis, eliminates the swale as open space - but adds 3.5 acres elsewhere on the property to provide what Thelen described as a net open-space gain of 1 acre over the pre-meeting proposal (bringing the total to 13 acres).
       Other notable aspects of the commission votes:
       -- Unlike the city's previous Sentinel Ridge approval in 2009 (which the developer did not act upon), the required sidewalk construction for Fillmore is only on the south side of the street. In the '09 approval, the LLC was to also put sidewalk on the north side, in front of Coronado High, which has a dirt path now.
       According to the development plan, the sidewalk will be six feet wide, accompanied by a guardrail at least part of the way. Sidewalk will also extend along the south side of Mesa Road from Fillmore to Holmes Middle School, according to Thelen. There is no requirement for a wall along the south side of Fillmore, as had been approved in the '09 plan.
       -- The traffic plan does not call for Friendship Lane to line up with the Mesa Road access into Sentinel Ridge (in this case the anticipated church lot), as was the case in '09. However, such an alignment could happen, as the church, neighborhood and developer expressed no opposition to the idea, nor did City Transportation Manager Kathleen Krager, when the idea came up at the commission meeting.
       In all, the commission votes, following a meeting that lasted more than two hours, backed several requests for changes from the '09 approval (which would have allowed 88 single-family homes to be built). Among the approvals were an amendment to the Garden of the Gods Club Master Plan (which Sentinel Ridge is a part of), changing the development from single-family residential to allow single-family residential as well as multi-family residential and office complex uses; a concept plan for what's described as "Sentinel Ridge Phase I."; and a development plan for that phase. (Note: During the 2009 process, a Sunrise Company official had identified Sentinel Ridge as the first of our potential development phases on properties the company owns southeast of Fillmore and Mesa. Asked about this aspect, Thelen told the Westside Pioneer that no formal applications have yet come in for additional phases.)
       The commission also approved the following zone changes:
       - From PUD/SS (planned unit development/streamside overlay) to R1-6000 (single-family residential of at least 6,000 square feet lots)/SS.
       - From PUD/SS to OC/cr (office complex, with conditions of record, including limitations on all uses except religious institutions) for the church site.
       - From PUD/SS to OC/cr (allowing 25 of the 38 otherwise-allowed OC uses in city code) for the Mainstreet site.
       - From PUD/SS to R5 (multi-family residential).

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 6/17/14; Land: Development Proposals)

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