The Falcon Basin Drainage Study is another study ordered by El Paso County to research flooding and drainage issues in Falcon. Previous studies have shown ongoing drainage and flooding problems in the Pinto Pony Road area. The study is designed to set priorities for mitigating the impacts of a repeat of the June 1965 flood. Pinto Pony residents say you don't need to wait for a 100-year flood to see massive damage in Falcon – for them, it happens almost every year.
Flooding in Manitou Springs last year reminded long-time residents of the issues that faced most of Colorado in 1965. According to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, 14 inches of rain fell on Falcon in a 24-hour period on June 17 of that year. The rain fell on already saturated ground after a series of storms dumped massive quantities of rain on much of the Front Range on the days before. The storm left towns in eastern El Paso County isolated by floodwaters. Twenty-one people drowned across the region.
Pinto Pony Road resident Gary Wright said he and his neighbors have been dealing with significant flooding after far less rainfall than the 1965 event. According to documents from a lawsuit between residents and Woodmen Hills, which Wright provided, a half-inch rainfall results in 1.5 million gallons of water flowing under U.S. 24 and overtopping Pinto Pony Road.
“It started in '99,” Wright said. “I've got two containers full of maps, pictures, lies and miscellaneous back-and-forths. It's always 'oh it's not our fault.' It's just been an ongoing thing that's been back-doored for nearly 15 years.”
“This has been an issue for years,” said Amy Lathen, El Paso County Board of County Commissioners. “We have been working this from a couple perspectives. This is one of the most confounding legal issues we'll ever see.”
The legal issues are based on the entity responsible for stormwater that is flowing from the Woodmen Hills development onto the properties. A poorly designed detention pond and a lack of a plan to address how stormwater drainage would affect the areas south of U.S. 24 are at fault, Wright said. “When they first started scraping ground for those homes, we were pretty concerned on this side of the highway,” he said. “We voiced our opinion. There were county people there, and we were bluntly told that this was going to happen whether you folks were on board with it or not. And it has gone that way ever since.”
Wright said residents of the area are skeptical of the new study conducted by Matrix Design Group of Colorado Springs in August 2013 and an ongoing update focusing on the Pinto Pony Road area. “This is the third study,” Wright said. “Every time someone starts crying, we have another study, which involves more money, more man hours, more inconvenience – and nothing happens.”
Lathen said the homeowners' frustrations are understandable, but some of the actions taken are counterproductive. “We've asked for permission to do work on silt ponds and other work we could do to reduce flow,” Lathen said. “In most cases, the residents have said no when we asked to go on their properties. There has been a couple times where constituents have cut across the county road with trenches to divert water. That's not something they can do. It has caused issues, like county vehicles and pedestrians falling into shoulder-deep water.” Lathen said she was one of the pedestrians who fell into the ditch when she visited the area with county employees to investigate flooding after a rain.
Wright said he has needed to rest a backhoe bucket on his propane tank to keep it from floating away. Wright has several videos he took of flood events in the last two years. One video showed at least 2 feet of rapidly flowing water overtopping Pinto Pony Road and flowing through his property. The Wrights have needed to replace their driveway multiple times, he said.
“Even though this is a man-made problem, the government changed our flood plain designation so I can't even get flood insurance now,” Wright said. A 20-foot deep trench has been scoured through the property adjoining U.S. 24, cutting that lot essentially in half, he said. The trench continuously extends at various depths to Falcon Highway.
The county has investigated purchasing some of the affected properties or establishing easements. “We can't just go in and fill it in because it will wash out again,” Lathen said. “We've asked Woodmen Hills to look at extending utilities to the properties to make them more marketable, and there has been some settlements between a few of the landowners and Woodmen Hills.”
The Pinto Pony area is just a small part of the larger Falcon drainage basin that faces issues because of inadequate, misplaced or poorly built detention ponds and culverts, according to the study. At least $122 million would be required to bring the entire basin up to standard to withstand a 1965 level flood event.
“Some of the numbers are just enormous,” Lathen said. “But they're looking at the entire area and the numerous drainages that combine in the region.” County tax dollars, metro district fees and federal money would be used to pay for the expenses. Dollars that aren't there, Wright said. “They could figure out how to tax every rooftop in Woodmen Hills that this water is coming from, but it still won't keep the water from coming,” he said.
Until legal issues among the county, homeowners and Woodmen Hills Metropolitan District can be sorted out with the lawyers, stopgap measures by the county and aggressive measures by residents will continue. “We realize this is a huge issue,” Lathen said. “It's developed over years, but we're not giving up. Certainly, the county has an interest to protect public property. The state has a stake as well because of the highway being undercut. And there is a moral obligation to help our residents.”
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In the most densely-populated area of Falcon, north of Judge Orr Road and south of County Line Road, between Meridian Road and Elbert Road, the El Paso County Sheriff reported that from 2012 to 2013, the number of homes burglarized increased by 10.
“We see spikes in burglaries every once in a while throughout the county,” said Lt. Jeff Kramer, public information officer with the sheriff’s office. “The most recent and notable one was in Security.” That rash of incidents involved an individual approaching a house and ringing the doorbell to see if someone was home, Kramer said. When no one answered, the person would break through the sliding glass door at the rear of the house or even through the picture window in the front.
“It’s not uncommon for one approach to be to knock or ring the doorbell before trying to gain entry,” he said. Kramer said it’s common that the burglar wants to know if there is someone at home. “They don’t want to encounter someone,” he said.
Kramer said crimes occur when three variables work together: Someone has the desire to commit the crime; there is an available target; and there is an opportunity to commit the crime. “The only things that we control as the victims are the target and opportunity,” he said. “Let’s not give them an opportunity to target us for a crime, and let’s make sure that we’re doing everything we can to make our home a much more difficult target.”
Kramer discussed ways that people can safeguard their homes.
Installing alarms is one option. Having large dogs on the property is another. Just their bark deters a burglar.
“Having a higher level of awareness in your neighborhood or being involved in an organized neighborhood watch are other options,” Kramer said. “Just knowing that neighbors are looking out for you and that you are looking out for them can help.”
Assess the home’s vulnerability like lighting. Burglars tend to hit in the dark, so having ample lighting is important, Kramer said. Don’t landscape to allow hiding areas for burglars. Secure entry points such as doors and windows on the ground level.
“There are a lot of after-market products to enhance locks and deadbolts or to add them,” he said. “When homes are first built, if you consider your door frame, that little latch plate where your doorknob closes, those are initially installed with screws that are extremely short. If someone were to kick that door open, that latch plate can be torn from the door frame. Those screws that you need to use should be longer, more sturdy screws to provide stability.
“Sliding-glass doors also have a normal latch lock. A person can often just grab hold of the door; the door will have some slack in it, and sometimes the lock will drop below where it catches – and the door will open. You should consider a dowel or stick, something that holds about midway up on the door.”
Secure doggie doors and install wide-angle door viewers or peepholes. Lock the door between the garage and the house.
“We’ve seen car break-ins where the only intent was to steal the garage door opener to come back later,” Kramer said. “If you notice that someone has rummaged through your glove box but not taken anything, sometimes they’re looking to see your registration information to get your address and then they steal the opener. They have your opener and your address, and that makes for super easy access.”
In the event that something like that happens, Kramer said it’s best to disconnect the electric opener to the garage and raise it manually until the opener can be reprogrammed. He said, if possible, don’t leave the garage door opener or registration information in the car when it’s not in use.
Kramer also said to watch out for strange cars that might be stopped on the street near the house, especially in the morning hours. Many burglars wait for people to leave their homes to go to work.
“We would love a phone call on that to come out and check it out,” he said. “I don’t think that point can be overstated. We would rather have you call us and have it be nothing. If you see suspicious activity, don’t hesitate to call.”