Uintah Bluffs proposal goes to City Planning

       Plans to develop a Westside ridge top with 28 duplex buildings and one single-family house have been submitted to Colorado Springs Planning.
       Dubbed “Uintah Bluffs,” the roughly 13-acre parcel is located west of and above Bristol Elementary. Uintah Street is on the north, Manitou Boulevard on the west and mostly open land north of Monument Street on the south.
       Craddock Companies, doing business as Uintah Bluffs LLC, is the property owner and developer. Leigh Whitehead & Associates is the planning cosultant. The main reason the company bought the site was its east-looking views over the city, according to Matt Craddock. “It's hard to find property like that anymore,” he said.
       Although Craddock Companies is not a residential homebuilder, the plat will require the eventual builder to use “suitable materials,” Matt Craddock said. “It's in the spirit of what the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) is trying to do,” he added, referring to the advocacy group's ongoing efforts to create a Westside historic overlay zone. “These aren't going to be a bunch of stick-built homes. They'll use stucco or another suitable material, so it should be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood when it's complete.”
       Craddock's request is for the city to approve a zone change to planned unit development (PUD), a PUD development plan and final subdivision plat. After review by City Planning staff and Planning Commission, City Council approval would be needed. The property is currently zoned to allow duplexes, but PUDs generally allow more flexibility in planning larger projects.
       The proposal includes a concept Craddock presented about a year ago to the Colorado Springs Parks Board. The board at that time conceptually approved a development-related swap in which the city would obtain trail access to Bristol Park (next to the school) and, in exchange, Craddock would get vehicular access to the property via an easement through several hundred feet of Parks-managed City Utilities open space off Manitou Boulevard.
       In the current plan, Craddock would also dedicate land in “the westerly and northerly portion of the site” to City Parks, according to the “Uintah Bluffs Project Statement,” submitted by Whitehead.
       Another project feature would be an eight-car parking lot next to the easement road and Manitou Boulevard, which will “facilitate a trailhead to the adjacent open space area,” the Project Statement says. (Currently, people are known to hike in the area but no-trespassing signs are posted. The Mesa Trail, part of the city trails system, runs past Bristol Park.)
       According to plans, the property would have a new two-lane road, connecting with the easement road. Mostly following terrain contours, the property road would curve easterly, with buildings on either side, before ending at a forked cul-de-sac.
       Overall, on the 13 acres, the building footprints would only take up 5.46 percent of the property, Uintah Bluffs plans show. Their maximum height would be 30 feet.
       The property's topography “will be maintained to the extent possible,” the Statement pledges. “Disturbed areas will be re-vegetated to existing levels and types of vegetation.”
       The development is not proposed as a gated community.
       With the Uintah Bluffs plans submitted only last week, city planner James Mayerl said he has just started his review process and has no recommendations yet. Public input is invited on the plan through Dec. 31. Mayerl's number is 385-5360; his e-mail is jmayerl@springsgov.com.
       One issue that could come up in the review process is the stability of the ground. Much of the land is basically level, but not all of it. In addition to “potentially unstable slopes,” there are lesser issues with “expansive soils and bedrock, radon and seismicity,” according to a developer-contracted geology report. Unless remedial steps are taken, “eight buildings will need to be relocated or eliminated,” the report states.
       Craddock said these points are already being addressed, with caissons being considered in certain cases to shore up problem slopes.
       The property is within the city's Hillside Overlay Zone, which has stricter slope rules than other zones.
       Dick Strauch, who heads up development review for OWN, said the group “met with Craddock and Whitehead and some of the neighbors about a year ago.” The main questions raised by neighbors at that time concerned potential traffic problems, he noted.
       “We'll be reviewing it,” Strauch said. “We'll talk to Mayerl just before the [public input] deadline, to see if any people had negative comments. Then we'll try to get a hold of those people and pass the comments on to the OWN board.”
       The board will probably discuss Uintah Bluffs at its meeting Jan. 24, he said.
       The Project Statement proposes bringing back a piece of area history. “The existing irrigation ditch running along the easterly and southerly portions of the site will be preserved and used as a part of the system to manage runoff from the site,” it states. The referenced ditch is the old El Paso Canal that was built by Colorado Springs founder William Palmer in 1871 and kept in use up until 1956. Running downhill all the way, the canal brought irrigation water from Fountain Creek near the present- day 33rd Street diversion to downtown Colorado Springs. The canal's excavation is still recognizable in front of the ridge above Bristol School.

Westside Pioneer article