GOCO breathes life into city’s hopes for Section 16 purchase plan

       A window of opportunity has reopened, at least slightly, for City Parks' goal of purchasing Section 16 as open space.
       The new hope comes in the form of a six-month extension (starting Oct. 1) of a $1 million grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) that will help buy the property (if a deal can ever be struck). Also, the property-owning State Land Board has pledged cooperation and to try for yet another property appraisal.
       GOCO is a state agency that disperses funds from the state lottery to open space and previously contributed $1 million to help the city buy Red Rock Canyon Open Space. “We're delighted to have GOCO continue as a partner,” said City Parks Development Manager Chris Lieber this week. “This gives us a time frame to reach an agreement with the State Land Board.”
       In an interview earlier this month, Lise Aangeenbrug, GOCO's executive director, said her board is “very committed” to Colorado Springs' efforts to buy Section 16.
       Its undeveloped 640 hillside acres, criss-crossed with trails, abut the Red Rock Canyon and White Acres Open Space open properties. The land has been leased for recreational uses by either the county or city for 30-some years.
       The city requested a GOCO extension after State Land Board Executive Director Brownell Bailey in August rejected the results of the last appraisal - even though it had been funded jointly by his agency and the city. The rejection prevented any sale by the Sept. 30 deadline, which had been set when GOCO announced the $1 million grant in late 2007.
       Under the new GOCO plan, the Land Board is to line up its own appraiser by Dec. 1 and have the appraisal completed by Feb. 1. After that, the city will scrutinize it with the help of an independent reviewer “to make sure it uses sound methodology and does or doesn't represent fair market value,” explained City Parks Development Manager Chris Lieber. True, the city will not get to help choose the appraiser, as it did before, but Lieber said Bailey “has indicated he will give the city and GOCO the opportunity to assist in creating appraisal instructions.”
       Lieber said he is “guardedly optimistic” about how the scenario will play out. He admitted “frustration” at how things have been going - including three Land Board- rejected appraisals over the past six years.
       In an August interview, Bailey told the Westside Pioneer he was not happy with the most recent appraisal, which put Section 16's value at $2.8 million, because it did not factor in the potential value of the property to land developers. According to Lieber, “they've talked about a value in excess of $5 million.”
       Should a deal be worked out, the city's money would come from a fund by its Trails, Open Space and Trails (TOPS) .1 percent sales tax. Also ready to help with private fundraising has been the non-profit Palmer Land Trust.
       The Land Board owns various property sections around the state, with a mandate to use them to earn as much money as possible for state schools and institutions.

Westside Pioneer article