Still no developer, but life signs for Indian Hills
City to use bond to finish that part of Centennial extension
The Indian Hills Village subdivision, dormant for a year and a half because of money problems, is showing signs of a pulse.
Most of the 20 originally built townhomes have been sold - albeit for discount prices - the City of Colorado Springs is working with a bond company on a plan to connect the three public roads that border it, and the door is open to any new subdivider who wants to build the remaining 60 units that the city approved for the 29- acre site five years ago.
No schedule exists yet for the bond work, but it will be noticeable when it happens - a roughly quarter-mile portion of Centennial Boulevard (two lanes each way, divided by a median) along the western edge of the Indian Hills property. This will allow it to connect with Mesa Valley Road and Van Buren Street, according to Dave Lethbridge of City Engineering.
It will not, however, even come close to finishing the entire planned 1 ½-mile Centennial extension south of Fillmore Road to the I-25/Fontanero intersection. No government money is yet available and, according to interviews with representatives of various property owners in that area - including Tim Siebert of NES Inc. and Dirk Gosda of the Sunrise Company - no private entities are ready at this time. What exists now are two quarter-mile segments - the completed portion built by Colorado Springs Health Partners (CSHP) last year south of Fillmore and the partially finished, unpaved portion put in by original Indian Hills developer Continental Divisions.
The reason the city didn't move on the bond sooner is that until last winter the hope was to work out something with Arnold, who was trying to overcome money problems hampered further by the nationwide economic downturn. “When it was Arnold, we were being very patient, and we would have let him build just half the road width” [because Centennial does not go through yet], Lethbridge said. “But now he's out of the picture, so that's not an alternative.”
Lethbridge is pleased with the progress so far on the city strategy of using the bond money. He got a favorable response to a letter he sent in June to the bond company (Developers Surety) and has been working with its attorney (Edgar Neel of the Denver firm of Pendleton, Friedberg, Wilson and Hennessey).
“A surety bond is a guarantee of performance,” said Neel in a phone interview. showing agreement with the city's position. “When the developer can't perform, it's time for the surety to step in and make good.”
The city and bonding company are now in the process of identifying reputable companies to do the work on Centennial. However, because the situation has “lots of moving parts,” Neel could not predict how soon equipment might be seen on what is now a partially graded area of dirt and weeds.
But Lethbridge is hopeful, saying he's already been contacted by an asphalt company interested in the project. Furthermore, there appears to be ample bond money to pay for it. When the project started, Continental Divisions owner Steve Arnold had put up bonds totalling in the hundreds of thousands of dollars - for the road, as well as other public improvements. Some of the improvements were completed, but their bond funds still remain and could be applied if needed for the as yet- unestimated Centennial work. “These are all positive indicators,” Lethbridge asserted.
But there is one key negative. No new subdivider has taken over the project. Nor is it very likely that such will happen soon, according to Steve Stewart, the Realtor who has most recently been listing the units that Continental had built. It's a “hot market” for the current price range of $180,000 to $220,000, he said. The reason Arnold had trouble with sales, he said, was that he had been asking $300,000 so as to cover his construction costs. By the same token, the lower price range “would be tight” for any new developer coming in and footing the expense of building new homes from scratch, Stewart said.
The lack of a new developer also is having an unfavorable domino effect on private improvements within the subdivision. Continental left the streets (which are all private) partially paved and a small private playground undeveloped. Under city requirements, the firm had put up a roughly $200,000 bond in case such improvements weren't done. However, the private bond situation is different from that of the public. The private bond money is only “penal” - for example, in a typical project the city could threaten to penalize a developer by keeping the funds if he didn't do the internal work, explained Kathy Magargal, who is handling that aspect of Indian Hills for City Engineering. But when the developer has gone away, as with Indian Hills, the City Attorney's Office has ruled that the city lacks the legal authority to apply the penal money to the improvements themselves, she said.
If a new developer does come forward, then the city would have a new “hammer” over the internal improvements, being able to ensure their completion by holding back certificates of occupancy, as needed. “We're keeping our fingers crossed for a new developer,” Magargal said. “But it's been like that for a long time now.”
The only other recourse would be to file what's called an “enforcement case” against the current owners of Indian Hills, requiring them to pay for the park and streets. Unfortunately, she noted, the culpable parties in such a situation would include not only the banks that have the property in foreclosure but also the people who now own townhomes there. As a result, “we don't want to do that,” she said.
Stewart would at least like to see the Centennial work done. He thinks that would make Indian Hills more attractive to a new developer and future buyers and ultimately boost the city's tax base.
As it is, with Mesa Valley and Van Buren dead-ending at the unfinished Centennial and with undeveloped land on the other side - some of which Arnold had once hoped to make phase 2 of Indian Hills - the semi-remote area has become popular for dumping, Stewart noted. “There are old mattresses and box springs,” he said. “Does the city manager ever get out and look at the city they manage?”
He yearned for the days when Bob Isaac was mayor, certain that Isaac could have/ would have taken action to fulfill the city's responsibility to taxpayers without further delay.
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