The Unites States Census Bureau’s website shows that the population of El Paso County in 2017 was 699,232 people. As of July 1, 2018, the Census states the county has an estimated population of 713,856. Can the current infrastructure handle the anticipated growth in population in the county?|
Water and wastewater
Andy Pico, a member of the Colorado Springs City Council and the Colorado Springs Utilities Board’s Strategic Planning Committee, said the board expects to see about 2 percent growth in the county each year and is planning ahead for how to handle the increased demand for water and wastewater management.
One method is through the construction of the Southern Delivery System, he said. According to http://water-technology.net, the Southern Delivery System carries Arkansas River water from the Pueblo Reservoir north to Colorado Springs, Fountain, the Pueblo West Metropolitan District and the Security Water District.
“We have a lot of water in the city,” Pico said. “We have the ability to bring water up now (using the SDS) for the anticipated growth for the next 50 years.” However, many of the subdivisions in unincorporated areas of the county rely on water from local water districts, like Woodmen Hills Metropolitan District and Meridian Service Metropolitan District, he said.
Down the road, the SDS will have additional pump stations and another reservoir added to address rising demands for water, but there is no indication when that will be needed, Pico said.
CSU is looking at sensible ways to cooperate with other water districts, especially for the wastewater side of the industry, Pico said. “With all the additional regulations, CSU has the extra capacity and is up-to-date while some smaller districts are not,” he said.
Another method that CSU has relied on is requiring development to pay its own way, he said. The developer must build the infrastructure they need for each development or pay upfront for the city or county to do it for them, Pico said.
“Any time you are trying to provide these services, it can impact rates,” Pico said. “We are trying to manage that as best we can so it does not affect rates or at least to reduce the impact as much as possible.”
Pico said CSU has been considering electrical needs for a long time and has an electrical integrated resource plan that goes through the year 2040. It involves adding solar panels, which are already under contract for construction, although the exact location of those panels has not yet been determined, he said.
CSU also plans to decommission the Drake Power Plant sometime between 2023 and 2035, but the details of how and when that will happen have not been decided, Pico said. It will likely be replaced with equipment that runs on a combination of sources, like solar and natural gas, he said. “We are not going to replace the Drake Power Plant with any kind of emissions-generating systems, though,” Pico said.
The biggest obstacle is building the distribution lines and transmission lines to move the power around, he said. Collaboration with developers to have the lines planned out ahead of building construction is vital because it has to be done the right way the first time, Pico said. Those discussions happen throughout the development planning process, he said.
“We know we have to have additional power coming from somewhere,” Pico said. “Some pickup points we know about, and we are working on those ones already. Exactly where the rest will come from has yet to be determined.”
Mark Andrew, Colorado Department of Transportation North Program Engineer for Region 2, said there are CDOT projects totaling $2.5 billion that are planned for the county, but the lack of funding means there is no way to currently address them.
“We are not keeping up with the growth, and we are having trouble maintaining what we have,” he said. “We may get an interchange built every once in a while, but we are not going to get the kind of money to build what we need to build. Everything we have is going to small safety projects and to maintain what we have — and there is just nothing left.”
CDOT only maintains Highway 24; CDOT conducted a Planning and Environmental Linkage study from April 2016 through March 2018 to identify needs along that roadway from Powers Boulevard in Colorado Springs to Ramah Highway, according to the CDOT website. However, none of the projects identified in the study have funding, Andrew said.
“We have a passing lane project planned on Highway 24 between Falcon and Peyton, which will add passing lanes in both directions for a couple miles,” he said. “We hope to start construction in the spring, and we think we will have the cash for that but it is not guaranteed. That project will cost about $6 million, and I believe it will be a higher priority project.”
With recent storms, much of the CDOT budget for the area is going to repair newly formed or worsening potholes, Andrew said. Maintenance crews are working on them as quickly as possible, essentially playing catch-up, he said. Long term, Highway 24 needs resurfacing, but the limited funds mean that repairing damage rather than resurfacing is the only option, Andrew said.
“We are still using the same dollar amounts (for the budget) that we had in 1993,” he said. “The revenue we are collecting has been the same for 30 years. We are trying to hold together a transportation system that has grown with more people and more trucks on it with the same budget we have had for 30 years, and that is just not sustainable.”
Andrew said CDOT is preparing to launch a 10-year planning process in which they will seek public input from holding county meetings and public hearings, as well as allowing for online comments. The goal is to determine what projects the public considers priorities and what CDOT’s limited budget for the area should go toward, he said.
Matt Steiner, deputy public information officer with the county, said he attempted to secure an interview for “The New Falcon Herald” with someone from the county to address road concerns; but, in an email to the NFH, he wrote that no one wanted to discuss whether the roads can handle the “speculated” prediction of population growth. “The predictions are simply that — predictions,” he wrote. “We do have annual plans each year for road maintenance, which can be found on the Public Works webpage; and you can read our strategic plan through 2021 here (at) https://www.elpasoco.com.strategic-plan.”
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Located about 14 miles northeast of Colorado Springs, Meadow Lake Airport in Falcon sits on the plains of eastern El Paso County with little development surrounding it. However, according to the EPC Electronic Development Application Review Program, there are four active applications to develop property in various locations near the airport.
Development and Meadow Lake Airport
Development series part 4
By Lindsey Harrison
Kari Parsons, planner II with the El Paso County Planning and Community Development Department, said one of those applications is a sketch plan for 327 acres called the Meadowlake Ranch. According to the application found on the application program website, the property is located at the northwest corner of Highway 24 and Judge Orr Road, with Bandanero Drive and Eastonville Road as the northern and western boundaries, respectively.
The sketch plan addresses the feasibility of using 85.5 acres of that property for residential rural development, 117 acres for urban density residential development, 32 acres for commercial development and 93 acres for industrial land uses, the application states.
“This is just the first concept for the development,” Parsons said. “It shows industrial uses, urban residential, residential rural lots at 2.5 acres, commercial uses and an existing easement given to the county from the original landowner in 1969.”
However, according to an article posted on http://pagetwo.completecolorado.com on March 19, developments like the Meadowlake Ranch that are within the airport’s area of influence have raised concerns from both the Federal Aviation Association and the Meadow Lake Airport Association Inc., a 501 (c) 4 nonprofit corporation that owns and operates the airport.
According to the application program website, the FFA sent a letter regarding the Meadowlake Ranch Development to Parsons April 30, 2018, that outlines its concerns with the sketch plan, in particular the location of residential and industrial properties in the approach and departure areas for the airport’s runways.
The article "Meadow Lake Airport Facing Pressure from Residential Development," posted on http://pagetwo.completecoloradocom March 29 states that Dave Elliott, Meadow Lake Airport manager, opposes the development of land around the airport.
“The problem, says Elliott, is that any structures underneath the departure path will likely result in death or injury in a forced landing,” the article states. “Elliott is requesting county officials restrict that area to open space for safety reasons.”
A letter of intent, initially submitted in August 2018, was revised in April 2019 and addresses those concerns and the ones submitted by the Meadowlake Airport Association, according to the application program website. The letter states: “MLAA has made no effort to obtain avigation easements over adjacent private property that it states are critical to its operations. Nor has MLAA offered to discuss with private landowners the acquisition of the private property it needs, or to offer to purchase the landowners’ development rights, or to request an avigation easement, which would protect their flight operations.”
The letter of intent indicates that MLAA has not attempted to obtain the avigation easements it says it needs for the safety of the people in the structures that are part of the proposed project.
According to the website http://definitions.us.legal.com, "avigation easement is an easement or right of overflight in the airspace above or in the vicinity of a particular property."
Parsons said those reasons, among others, are why the Meadowlake Ranch sketch plan has met the criteria for approval from the EPC Planning Commission and the EPC Board of County Commissioners.
“The Meadowlake Ranch sketch plan application is scheduled to go to the planning commission June 4 and scheduled for the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners on June 25,” she said. “The only opposition we have gotten so far is from the airport.”
Nina Ruiz, planner II with the EPC Planning and Community Development Department, said she is the planner on the three other development applications as follows: 824 Acres Curtis Road; Judge Orr RV Park; and Judge Orr Planned Unit Development.
According to the application program website, the 824 Acres application requests a rezoning of an 824-acre section of a property formerly called Santa Fe Springs Ranch, from agricultural 35 to RR-2.5. The property is located east of Curtis Road and south of Judge Orr Road, the application states.
The 824 Acres project consists of 824 acres total, about 629 will be developed with up to 250 single-family lots on 2.5 acres or more.
“The 824 Acres development was initially opposed by Meadow Lake Airport but the airport and developer came to an agreement and they no longer oppose it,” Ruiz said. “The rezoning has been approved and everything in that rezoning is going to be in the finalized version of the application.”
Ruiz said the Judge Orr RV Park application is a site development plan and the paperwork should be completed by the end of the year, while the Judge Orr PUD will require a full hearing process. The county is nowhere near close to holding that hearing, and nothing has been resubmitted by the applicant in more than a year. She said the MLAA opposes this development application.
Editor’s note: “The New Falcon Herald” made several attempts to contact Dave Elliott in April and May, but he did not respond to requests for interviews.