On Jan. 16, the Colorado Springs City Council held its first public meeting about proposed modifications to the agreement that annexed the Banning Lewis Ranch into the city in 1988. The property, located on the city’s east side, spans about 24,000 acres and has about 40 different property owners.
City Councilman Andy Pico said the goal of the 1988 agreement was to identify service extension, infrastructure and maintenance requirements, such as water and wastewater treatment, and make sure those costs were levied on the developers; not the city.
Pico said the agreement had been based on a high-density plan of about 180,000 people. Assuming that many people would eventually live in BLR, the City Council at the time required that the infrastructure to sustain that population be figured into the development fees, per the annexation agreement, he said. “A population of 180,000 people drives up infrastructure costs pretty significantly,” he said.
Those costs were essentially cost-prohibitive for many developers, and the property sat undeveloped for a long time, Pico said. The proposed modifications to the annexation agreement would provide some flexibility, so the builders can work with the market demands, he added.
Oakwood Homes, which owns about 2,600 acres, is the only developer currently building in BLR. Pico said Oakwood bought the property straight out of bankruptcy and the annexation agreement will essentially not affect them.
“The new agreement is trying to put realistic requirements on the developers that supports what the expected development will be, which is about 60,000 people versus 180,000,” he said. Using a formula to determine a set of standard fees, Pico said he thinks the council can find a way to work with developers so they bear the cost, but in an equitable manner.
City Councilman William Murray said he thinks the push to expand development farther east is rushed. “There are 3,500 single family homes already in the pipeline for 2018,” he said. “Do we really need to add 14,000 to that?”
Murray said the developers want to build as though their property is unique and detached from the surrounding areas, but what they do on their property affects the entire city.
TischlerBise Inc., a national fiscal, economic and planning consultant, conducted an analysis of the financial impacts of the proposed modifications, and presented the results to the City Council in November 2017.
According to the results, “Modification of the annexation agreement for Banning Lewis Ranch would spur development and generate $49 million in net revenue for the city over the next 30 years … . Further, the projected growth would add $1 billion to the city’s economy over the same period. The study also indicates that development would bring $434 million in additional net revenue to Colorado Springs Utilities.”
However, Murray said the projections made by the TischlerBise study are for a specific area, comprising about one-third of the property. The agreement lacks long-term planning, Murray said.
That lack of long-term planning in the past has brought on problems in Colorado Springs that ultimately resulted in the citizens being “stuck with the tab,” he said. One example is the cost to repair the roads because of an increase in traffic, Murray said. That cost to the citizens resulted in the November 2015 election ballot measure 2C, which allowed the city to impose a .62 percent sales tax as of January 2016, Murray said.
Pico said the city should be aware that much of the development in unincorporated El Paso County, like Falcon, equates to the requirements and high cost of development in Banning Lewis. Making adjustments will add revenue to the city and prevent the “leap-frogging” effect that has occurred so far, he said.
Additionally, having BLR tap into the municipal services that Colorado Springs has to offer like water delivery will prevent another small independent water district from helping to drain the Denver Basin Aquifer, Pico said.
Murray said the council needs to listen to the concerns of the citizens, and said he has three pages of comments that the council has yet to address. One concerns emergency services. “The entire idea is that the first house that is built out there requires police and fire protection,” Murray said. “Where is that protection going to come from? You have to take it from us (Colorado Springs).”
According to an article posted on the Gazette’s website Jan. 6, “The new annexation agreement would charge developers $2,308 per acre for fire protection and police services.”
Pico said the council has tentatively scheduled a vote on the modified agreement for the last City Council meeting in February, but that date could change to March.
“We have to learn from our mistakes or this area will look just like Powers (Boulevard) from Platte (Avenue) to Research Parkway,” Murray said.