Large development off Fillmore gaining favor from city staff

City Planning agrees with the Sunrise Company that this
drainage just south of Fillmore does not merit its protective streamside overlay zone. The buildings at far right are part of Holmes Middle School.
Westside Pioneer photo        A controversial proposal to create a gated community in rugged terrain southeast of Fillmore Street and Mesa Road could go before City Planning Commission in September with the blessing of the planner who has been reviewing it.
       Although some issues remain to be addressed, planner James Mayerl said this week he will “probably recommend approval” of the 88-lot Sentinel Ridge development on about 27 acres. The applicant (Rockwell Consulting, on behalf of the property-owning Sunrise Company) hopes to have the submittal ready in time for the Sept. 18 Planning Commission meeting. “I believe they have worked through most of the issues,” Mayerl said.
       In addition to cut-and-fill construction activities south of Fillmore Street - allowable by removing hillside overlay zone protection from the site - other noticeable public effects from the project would include:
  • Piping the drainage that currently flows naturally just south of Fillmore - allowed if that segment's current streamside overlay zone is removed. Mayerl said he's OK with that developer request because it now “does not have streamside characteristics” and the resulting drainage work would improve the vegetation there. However, he has recommended that the developer add a streamside overlay on a drainage segment farther east which has wetlands.
  • Creating access points at Mesa Road (just north of Holmes Middle School) and at Grand View Circle. An engineering drawing illustrates how the Mesa Road
access would work with the proposed Sentinel Ridge development. The dotted lines indicate the current
driveway along the north side of Holmes Middle School between Mesa and the school’s rear parking.  The new access would start at the same place, curving toward the
subdivision’s gated entrance but first providing a fork back to the Holmes driveway.
Courtesy of Rockwell Consulting
  • Building sidewalks on either side of Fillmore (including in front of Coronado High School) and the east side of Mesa from Fillmore south to Holmes Middle School.
  • Installing a privacy wall (3 feet high, sitting on a 2-foot berm and topped by a 3-foot wrought-iron fence) along the south side of Fillmore Street between Grand View and Mesa Road.
  • Preserving the Mesa Valley Open Space Trail between the Mesa and Sondermann Park.
  • Preserving about 17 acres of open space (in addition to the 27 being built on).
           The cut and fill would be less than what has occurred just to the east (the Colorado Springs Health Partners' hilltop-shaving development at Fillmore and Centennial), according to Rockwell, but is greater than what would be allowed if the hillside overlay were retained. Rockwell has asked - and Mayerl has agreed - to have that overlay removed, because a contracted study indicates that the site lacks “significant vegetation and outcroppings,” the Health Partners property's hillside overlay was removed and a belief that judicious grading will reduce unstable slopes resulting from past mining and present trespassing.
           In letters to the city and at a neighborhood meeting in mid-July, residents in the nearby Mesa Road and Friendship Circle neighborhood have criticized the proposal for a variety of reasons. Chief among the issues are traffic (a belief that the access near Holmes will add to current school-related traffic jams), the hillside overlay removal (noting that the property is virtually unchanged from 1982, when the overlay was first put on), the density of the development (almost all the lots are smaller than those now on Mesa and Friendship) and the overall impact of the project (lessened views and loss of open space).
           “This plan would set a terrible precedent,” states a letter from Mesa-area resident George Maentz. “This is an intensive development of sensitive land.”
           Regarding the privacy wall along Fillmore, longtime Friendship Lane resident Patti Margrave Freudenburg commented: “Such a visual block would tremendously mar the view corridor and 'mood' of the Mesa.”
           John Catalano wrote to the city, “People on the Mesa purchased our homes because the majority of the area is zoned as estate land. If we wanted to live in a congested area, we would have purchased houses in another part of the city.”
           A key reason for Mayerl's approval is the Hill Master Plan, which was approved by the city several years ago when Lyda Hill owned the better part of a roughly 3- mile by 2-mile area of the Mesa (including the Garden of the Gods Club), most of which was sold to Sunrise last year. The Sentinel Ridge portion of the master plan actually called for much higher density than the 3 to 3.5 lots per acre that Sunrise is seeking, Mayerl pointed out. All the lots would be for single-family homes.
           Regarding traffic, Mayerl states in an e-mail to the Westside Pioneer, “There will be an increase in traffic along Mesa Road. However, connectivity is important. Not having access onto Mesa would put more traffic on Fillmore at the light that is at Coronado. One access point would not be good for the overall community.”
           Also, he clarified, there is no current plan to move the stoplight - the one in front of Holmes where students cross Mesa Road - up to the new intersection of Friendship Lane and the Sentinel access road.
           A master plan amendment that would stipulate Sentinel Ridge's reduced density is part of the overall application that Planning Commission would be asked to approve. Other application aspects are rezoning the 27 acres to planned unit development (PUD) to provide more development flexibility, as well as a PUD development plan and subdivision plat.
           According to Mayerl, the “few significant issues” remaining for the developer include submitting a new drainage report addressing flooding and stream-bank stabilization, performing a geologic analysis for part of the site (in response to comments in a recent report by the Colorado Geological Survey identifying “slope stability problems” on the site), and providing documentation of an informal agreement with School District 11 to allow the access road just north of Holmes. Mayerl's Aug. 6 letter to Rockwell also includes a list of miscellaneous items that need to be addressed, in terms of plan detail, landscaping, subdivision engineering and fire protection.
           Sunrise's original application for the project last winter had folded in conceptual planning for the 135 total acres south of Fillmore that the 27 acres is part of (on the western side), but an ebbing housing market prompted the company to focus on just the western portion for now, according to Rockwell in a written exchange with Mayerl.

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