Try for open space falters
Subdivision now seen for White Acres
Unable to negotiate a sale to the city for open space, owners of the scenic White Acres property are looking to develop it.
A preliminary plan calls for “approximately 27 single family homes, 16 to 22 attached housing units and to maintain the ridgeline and hogback (approximately 25 acres [more than half the property]) as open space,” according to a mailing sent to nearby residents by David Litzelman of City Planning.
The plan also asks the city to annex White Acres (which is described in the mailing as having a total of 43 acres, although the County Assessor shows the sum of its two properties as 46.4).
The mailing announces a neighborhood meeting on the proposal, Wednesday, Dec. 3 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Midland Elementary School, 2110 West Broadway St. “Because of the high level of interest in this project, there will be a pre-application meeting to see a presentation concerning the property's potential development and to receive comments concerning development-related issues,” Litzelman writes.
There are likely to be opponents at the meeting, including Don Ellis of the Friends of Red Rock Canyon, and the Westside-based Trails and Open Space Coalition, which has voted against the development concept.
“I do not like the idea of the propery being annexed into the city, because that makes it more of an urban than a rural, lower-density project,” said Ellis, who has documented the property's history and geology. “I would very much like it to be open space, as would most people.”
Located off 26th Street at Gold Camp Road, the land features large sandstone cliffs, a hogback/ridge with a well-used social trail on top and a partially forested terrain just west of that. White Acres is adjacent to two much larger public areas - the city-owned Rock Rock Canyon Open Space and city-leased Section 16. Sweeping views of the city can be seen from White Acres' upper reaches.
The current owner is Bethany Baptist Church, which would partner in the development with the Infinity Land Corporation. The property is named for the White family, who deeded it to the church in the 1960s. For years, it was used for church outings and retreats, but financial issues have led the church to try to sell it. Arrangements for a limited liability corporation (LLC) were made with Infinity, along with the expectation that the developer would handle all the details as well as the “politics” (should development become necessary), according to Bethany Pastor Don Emanuel. Ideally, he said, “We [the church] would like it to be forever green.”
The buyer the LLC has sought is Colorado Springs. Funded by a .1-percent sales tax, the city's Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) program has bought scenic properties for the city, such as Red Rock Canyon in 2003. But a purchase agreement could not be worked out with White Acres. Chris Lieber, City Parks manager of development and TOPS, said he was not at liberty to discuss negotiations in detail; however, other sources indicated that City Council nixed the deal at a recent closed session.
Lieber did point out that the asking price for White Acres was “substantially more” than the $16,000 an acre the city had paid for Red Rock. “The concern was the cost per acre,” he said, noting that in TOPS' recent purchase of the Corral Bluffs property east of town, the per-acre cost was $1,900.
Infinity President Howard said this week that the development proposal is scaled back from a draft plan a year ago that had shown home sites on the far side of the hogbacks. Now that area as well as the hogbacks would be open space. “Quite frankly, we think the right thing to do is to keep that pristine,” he said.
The main construction would be in the flatter, lower part of the property, with larger lots to go higher up, in front of the ridge. Slated for probable demolition would be the house that the White family had built near the intersection of 26th and Gold Camp, which the church has rented out for many years. The plan is to build attached housing there. “It doesn't make economic sense [to keep the old house] when we're trying to minimize the number of lots up near the cliffs and preseve the view corridors,” Howard said.
The annexation request was unrelated to utilities, which would be available even if the development were in the county, Howard said. City Planning actually suggested the idea, to help eliminate a county “island” in that area, he said.
The church/developer hope is that the city/TOPS might still step forward, perhaps to buy the upper areas for open space. Lieber said the city remains interested, though no commitments have been made. “We've talked about a number of scenarios,” he said.
Westside Pioneer article