Tempered OK from County Parks Board on new JA plan for land swap

       Junior Achievement (JA)'s project plan received a partial endorsement from the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board Oct. 11.
       The board voted to approve a proposed land trade - more attractive than one JA presented at last month's board meeting - but added the caveat that the vote should not be construed as favoring the zone change JA desires for its 1.67-acre parcel on South Eighth Street next to Bear Creek Park.
       The recommendation is tentatively scheduled to go to the Board of El Paso County Commissioners at its meeting Thursday, Oct. 20, according to County Parks Director Tim Wolken.
       Asked afterward if he thought the recommendation would help JA in its effort to increase the value of the property, JA representative John Gatto said, I doubt it.
       The county only has say-so regarding the land swap, which would give County Parks about 12,000 square feet at the north end of the property - part of which is already being used as part of an equine cross-country course/hiking trail - in exchange for a similar expanse, including the current secondary road from Eighth Street. A possible future use at the north-end piece would be a trailhead, pointed out Wolken, in recommending approval.
       Because the property is within Colorado Springs city limits, City Council will have final say on the zoning change request. The current zone is office-commercial; JA wants a commercial zone that allows a wider range of retail possibilities, thus allowing the land to be sold at a higher price.
       The sense of the Parks Board appeared to be discomfort at giving the impression of supporting JA's development plan. Concerns included acting on a land-use issue when the actual developer is not yet known, the plan's call for aligning the secondary road with the Olympic Village cul de sac across the street (is this really needed?) and the wisdom of allowing retail right next to the park.
       As at the September Parks Board meeting, several residents or workers in that area spoke against it. In favor was Larry Tobias, representing the cross-country group.

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