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“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt  
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  Volume No. 14 Issue No. 9 September 2017  

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  On the Street in Black Forest
  By Breeanna Jent

   The temperature outside hovered above 80 degrees after 6 p.m. in Black Forest early on a Thursday evening. The New Falcon Herald caught Black Forest resident Clark Kent –- whose name “ain’t no lie,” commented one bar patron –- sitting down to dinner at Descar’s Roadside Bar and Grill.
   
   Kent, 65, retired from the U.S. Army after 20 years of service. He talked about everything from his home in Black Forest to breeding and racing homing pigeons to his travels around the world — and more.
   
   NFH: How long have you lived in Black Forest?
   
   Kent: 15 years this summer
   
   NFH: What brought you to Black Forest?
   
   Kent: Have you ever heard of racing pigeons? They’re like homing pigeons used in World War II, but you can race them. Kind of like race horses. When I came out here, I was in the national organization in Oklahoma City. I came back here for (the sport) but also because I had been here before when I was in the Army.
   
   NFH: What is your favorite spot in Black Forest and why?
   
   Kent: Probably here at Descar’s
   
   NFH: What is your favorite thing about Black Forest and why?
   
   Kent: The people: There are a lot of locals out here, and I like that because we’re all like good friends. Years ago, when the Army was more prevalent, there used to be more transient people here; but now we’re local. That’s what’s great about living in Black Forest. You can spend your time talking to someone who makes jam for a living and sells it at the local shows!
   
   NFH: What do you wish you knew more about?
   
   Kent: Human health. That’s something I’ve strived to learn and have studied toward. There are so many theories out there about health. I find it fascinating. You know, when I was racing pigeons I had to concentrate on their health –- what they ate, what was healthy for them; it was what made them win –- so I had to kind of focus on my health, too.
   
   NFH: How do you relax after a hard day of work?
   
   Kent: Here in Black Forest; specifically, by talking to people. It’s not politics or anything; people have different interests that seem to draw them together. I can explain to them my hobby, which most people don’t know a lot about, and they can talk about theirs!
   
   NFH: Where is the most interesting place you’ve ever been?
   
   Kent: Thailand: I served in the Vietnam War so I was in southeast Asia. I took trips to Thailand.
   
   NFH: What book did you read that has changed your way of thinking?
   
   Kent: Well, this might be controversial, but the Bible really changed my way of thinking during a certain period of my life. Now, it’s something that I doubt a lot. Maybe that’s because of my experiences in life. I was raised a Christian so the Bible was a big part of my life at one time, but now I doubt it.
   
   NFH: If you could host dinner and invite any one person, alive or dead, who would you choose and why?
   
   Kent: Well, this is also probably controversial. Donald Trump –- I wasn’t a fan of his and he was not my first choice to vote for –- but he is a person who is changing so much in this world that I’d really like to meet him. I think a lot of people do not understand him. I don’t understand him, but I’d like to meet him in person.
   
   NFH: Among your friends and family, how would they describe you?
   
   Kent: If you say the pigeon-man, that’s me! They know me that way, or they know my face, even if they don’t know my name. I’ve bred and raced pigeons since I retired, but my health has taken me out of the sport. I have learned about and dealt with them since I was a teen. I’ve released pigeons at parades, at friends’ weddings and even at military funerals. I’ve been around it for a long time.
  
Clark Kent of Black Forest pauses from dinner at Descar’s Roadside Bar and Grill on a hot Thursday evening to pose for a photo and answer a few questions for The New Falcon Herald. Photo by Breeanna Jent
 
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  BF preservation group calls for resident support
  By Breeanna Jent

   A Black Forest-based nonprofit group is calling for community support to contest alleged violations of the Black Forest Preservation Plan.
   
   The group, Friends of the Black Forest Preservation Plan, mailed a letter en masse May 11 to Black Forest residents warning of new county-approved developments they claimed are threatening Black Forest.
   
   According to the letter, “The crush of development moving north toward the forest, county official decisions granting higher densities for developments, granting of special use permits and increasing demands on water are threatening the rural, residential way of life that we value so much in our beautiful Black Forest.”
   
   The letter cites alleged violations that include the approval of a request for additional lots “over the number permitted under the 5-acre-per-lot rule in the Preservation Plan” at Cathedral Pines, an 810-acre luxury home community development located between Shoup and Hodgen roads; approval for 375 lots on a 2,400-acre parcel with a 1,000-acre conservation easement, violating “rules pertaining to conservation easements” at The Sanctuary in the Pines; and approval of the Minibelly Greenhouse special use permit, allegedly violating several special use permit requirements by allowing a 62,000-square-foot commercial greenhouse in a residential neighborhood.
   
   The group reached out to Black Forest residents for their support.
   
   “The only way to push back against these violations is to unite into a large, unified body of Black Forest residents to bring pressure on our elected officials to follow the Preservation Plan and County Land Development Code,” the letter stated.
   
   But El Paso County officials say there is a big difference between the county’s regular zoning standards and master and small area plans, like the Preservation Plan.
   
   Craig Dossey, executive director of the El Paso County Planning and Community Development department, said the Preservation Plan is “one of several of the county’s master plan.”
   
   “Pursuant to state statute ... a county's master plan and the elements thereof are advisory and intended to guide land development decisions,” Dossey said. “They are not binding documents that control or limit the board's authority to review and act upon individual land development applications.”
   
   The Preservation Plan, approved by the El Paso County Planning Commission in 1974 and revised in 1987, states that it is “an advisory rather than a regulatory planning tool.” This is contrasted against “the regulatory nature of zoning,” which establishes “objective standards for development such as allowed uses, minimum building setbacks, maximum building heights, (and) maximum lot coverage,” Dossey said.
   
   The advisory plans and regulatory zoning laws interact when rezoning applications that request modifications to zoning of specific properties or groups of properties are submitted for review. The county reviews the criteria for approval of rezoning per the 2016 Land Development Code. One of the criteria is general conformance with the county master plan; the criteria is “general conformance,” as opposed to “strict compliance” with the master plan,” Dossey said.
   
   Terry Stokka, chairman of the Black Forest Land Use Committee, a 25-person group that evaluates development plans against the Preservation Plan, said the Land Use Committee and the FBFPP don’t agree with that assessment.
   
   “There are very specific (guidelines) in the Preservation Plan, and they don’t sound very advisory to me,” Stokka said. “They sound pretty directive.”
   
   He referenced the new Sterling Ranch development off Stapleton Road in Colorado Springs as one of several projects where the density violates the Preservation Plan, with regard to its 5-acre-per-lot rule.
   
   “Sterling Ranch submitted a master plan for 5,000 homes on 1,400 acres east of Vollmer Road and south of Arroya Lane. The basic master plan was already approved, even though we felt it was too dense,” Stokka said.
   
   The proposed density will be five to six homes per acre on the majority of the development.
   
   Sterling Ranch is located within the area identified by the Preservation Plan as the Southern Transitional Area.
   
   “Sterling Ranch is located within two policy plans: Black Forest and Falcon/Peyton, both of which are advisory, rather than regulatory, in nature,” Dossey said. “The Falcon/Peyton Plan … specifically identifies Sterling Ranch in the land use recommendations map … as being proposed for urban densities.”
   
   Stokka said residential densities located inside the Southern Transitional Area “should be strictly held to an overall average of one dwelling unit per 5 acres (and) property owners in nonconforming subdivisions should be encouraged to consolidate lots in order to meet or approach zoning standards.”
   
   But Dossey said if a major parkway or expressway is constructed along the Stapleton Alignment (the alignment of the future extension of the road) or a similar one, the Preservation Plan allows for office development, light industrial development and multi-family projects that maintain the open character of the area.
   
   “Given that language and the fact that the Stapleton extension is being proposed for construction, the overall land use intensity for the development will be substantially reduced from what was anticipated in the Black Forest Plan (i.e., industrial, commercial and multi-family being more intense than single family residential). The Sterling Ranch Plan also includes preservation of open space, where development under the 5-acre-per-lot density of the Black Forest Plan would likely result in sprawling residential lots without useable open space,” Dossey said.
   
   Stokka said the support of local residents and the growth of the FBFPP provides the Black Forest Land Use Committee with “strength in numbers” when presenting their case to the county, and they must take their cases “one step at a time.”
   
   “The Friends,” as it is colloquially known, grew from 850 members to 1,400 as a result of their recent mailing, and is comprised of concerned Black Forest residents from “all walks of life,” Stokka said.
   
   “The bottom line is we all support the Preservation Plan and responsible development. I want to emphasize that we are not against development. We want responsible development we can be proud of,” Stokka said. “The county tends to give too much preference to new land uses than to those who are already here and have rights, too.”
   
   The Friends’ letter also alleged that the Preservation Plan has been argued as “out of date” by developers and county officials.
   
   “We get the accusation that it is out of date because it goes back such a long time,” Stokka said. “We don’t see the need to revise the plan because its basic principles remain the same. Our concern is that if it is revised, it will be watered down,” or that rules and guidelines would be loosened or removed altogether.
   
   The letter stated a lack of funds and lack of interest from the county has delayed the plan’s revision; Stokka said he expects a county-contracted firm would consult with residents before revising the plan.
   
   But Dossey said the Preservation Plan is taken into account when development plans are reviewed by the county.
   
   “I can tell you with great certainty that every zoning application that is processed in the county that is tied to a property located within a small area plan (like the Black Forest Preservation Plan) is thoroughly reviewed by the planning and community development department under the goals and policies of the respective plan, as evidenced by the staff report write-up presented to the planning commission and board of county commissioners for the public hearings on each application,” Dossey said.
   
   Still, members of the Friends are concerned about dense development, which carries lofty consequences, including extreme water use and aesthetics, Stokka said.
   
   Wells supply water to the Black Forest; Stokka said future developments could place an added strain on already scarce water resources.
   
   “It’s understood that you don’t supply large developments with well water because it’s just unsustainable,” he said.
   
   “Dense development that suddenly jumps from the forest is not good planning. It makes an ugly little town in the middle of 5-acre lots. It’s not fair to those who purchased the 5-acre lots with the understanding that all of their neighbors would also be on 5-acre lots. They have rights and expectations, too.”
  
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  Developments in Black Forest
  By Lindsey Harrison

   Minibelly Greenhouse development
   The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners approved the Minibelly Greenhouse Development March 18, 2014. The property is owned by Black Forest Mission LLC and is located at 4135 Shoup Road. The initial request from the developer was for one greenhouse structure of about 51,834 square feet but also included an amendment option, requesting an additional three smaller greenhouses on the property, measuring about 22,464, 14,410, and 17,400 respectively. The BOCC approved the amendment in a 3-2 vote.
   
   According to the April 2015 issue of The New Falcon Herald, one of the three facilities was already constructed and measured 21,000 square feet. The other two structures were subsequently built and also measured 21,000 square feet. Construction on the Minibelly Greenhouse project is complete.
   
   Sanctuary in the Pines subdivision
   The BOCC approved the rezoning of 2,378 acres from residential rural to planned unit development for the Sanctuary in the Pines subdivision April 26, 2007, as requested by the developers, Morely-Howard Investments LLC. The property is located north of Shoup Road and east of Vollmer Road. The commissioners also approved the preliminary plan for the subdivision to allow 390 single-family residential lots, 1,182 acres of public open space and an elementary school site.
   
   On Dec. 13, 2007, the commissioners approved an amendment to reduce the number of lots from 390 to 389 to accommodate a 2.5-acre fire station/sheriff’s substation.
   
   Sterling Ranch
   On Nov. 13, 2008, the county commissioners approved the sketch plan for Sterling Ranch, consisting of 1,433.7 acres and located east of Vollmer Road, north and south of the proposed extension of Briargate Parkway and north of Woodmen Road. The original request proposed 5,500 residential units, 56 acres of commercial use, 57 acres of school sites, 210 acres of parks and open space and a 2-acre utility site. Since the original sketch plan expired five years from the approval date, the developer applied for and received an extension for the plan on Nov. 25, 2014.
   
   According to the July 2015 issue of the NFH, the BOCC approved the preliminary plan for the first phase of the development May 26, 2015. The site is located on 182 acres of land rezoned to residential suburban, which will include 427 houses, according to the July 2015 issue of the NFH. Residential suburban zoning means each lot must be a minimum of 5,000 square feet, the article states.
   
   The commissioners approved the final plat of Filing No. 1 in October 2016.
   
   Cathedral Pines
   The BOCC approved a request by HPT LLC to allow 13 additional lots in the Cathedral Pines subdivision on Nov. 19, 2009. The 810-acre subdivision is located within Black Forest and the addition of the 13 lots brings total density of the subdivision’s 174 plots to one lot per 4.65 acres. Much of construction on the subdivision is complete.
   
   The Retreat at TimberRidge
   According to the April issue of the NFH, Land Development Corp. is proposing a subdivision, The Retreat at TimberRidge, which would be located on the east side of Vollmer Road, with a portion of the land to the north of Arroya Lane and the majority to the south of it. The proposal requests a rezoning of about 300 acres from rural residential to PUD and establishes 470 plots, ranging in size from about 6,000 square feet to 5 acres, the article states. The subdivision would also include open space and a central neighborhood park.
   
   The proposal has not yet reached the county’s planning commission or the BOCC.
  
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  Shredding event fights fraud and combats hunger
  Submitted by Stanley Beckner

   A free shredding opportunity at the Black Forest Lutheran Church took place June 10. The event allowed 371 individuals from 18 different postal ZIP Codes to take advantage of professionally operated shredding equipment to safely destroy about 15,800 pounds of unneeded personal documents. The shredded documents, plus paper sacks, and a large contingent of cardboard boxes, were all recycled.
            
   The free shredding event provided an opportunity for the community to safely destroy unneeded personal documents; thus, preventing them from falling into the hands of nefarious individuals who could use them to scam individuals or steal their personal identity. 
            
   Those who presented items for shredding also graciously donated a total of 610 pounds of non-perishable food and $1,123 to Black Forest Cares, a local community food bank. Many who brought items to shred lingered for camaraderie, complementary coffee and pastries.
            
   The event volunteers wore bright shirts provided by the AARP Foundation that proclaimed “Fight Fraud – Shred Instead” and listed some basic rules on how a person can protect himself or herself from identity theft.
            
   Special appreciation goes to ElderWatch Colorado for providing shredding trucks and professional operators. Additional gratitude is extended to the Black Forest Lutheran Church for the use of their church facilities, the Black Forest Fire and Rescue for providing the safety cones, and especially to Ray Rozak, the project leader, and the 25 Black Forest AARP Chapter members and the 10 other volunteers who donated their time and services to make the shredding event a community success.
            
   The Black Forest AARP Chapter works hard to serve the local community.  The chapter motto is "To Serve Not to Be Served.”
   
   Visit http://aarpchapter1100blackforest.weebly.com or call Chuck at 303-807-6933 to learn how you can visit or become a chapter member. There are no age restrictions. All are welcome.
  
Some of the shredding event volunteers pose with the professional shredding truck operators at the end of the June 10 successful “Fight Fraud - Shred Instead” event. Photos submitted
 
(From left to right) Durelle Pithey, Lori Belk, Lydia Zelones and Karen Ketels sort the donated food from the June 10 shredding event as it is brought into the Black Forest Cares Pantry.
 
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  No fee senior social

   A monthly informal occasion for seniors is the no fee event. They meet in the Black Forest Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall at 12455 Black Forest Road in Black Forest.
   
   Seniors are welcome at the Black Forest AARP and Black Forest Lutheran Church monthly informal gathering, held at the Black Forest Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall at 12455 Black Forest Road.
   
   The social is from 1 to 4 p.m. the fourth Wednesday of each month, and all are invited to socialize, play games, work on hobbies or to simply sit and talk about “whatever.” Light refreshments are available. For more information, contact Lavonne at 719-494-1276.
  
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