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“Autumn is the time of year when Mother Nature says, ‘Look how easy, how healthy, and how beautiful letting go can be.’”
– Toni Sorenson  
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  Volume No. 15 Issue No. 9 September 2018  

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Front Page   |   Feature Stories   |   Search This Issue   |   Log In

    Living small
    Well and septic maintenance
    Development vs. impact fees: apples to oranges
    End-of-summer doggie dip
    Tender Care Veterinary hosts inaugural Pawfest
    Building and real estate update

Toni Sorenson
  Living small
  Bill Radford

   Raymond and Cindy Thillet wanted freedom.
   Freedom from house payments. Freedom to travel.
   And so they turned to tiny living.
   They live in Falcon, Colorado, in a tiny house they call The Murphy; they picked up their 208-square-foot house on wheels in Idaho a little more than a year ago.
   They moved to Colorado two years ago from Missouri, where they had a three-bedroom home. After moving to Colorado, the Thillets lived in an apartment in Northglenn for a year, then relocated to Falcon after they purchased their tiny home.
   The couple has not only tapped into the popular tiny home movement, but they also became ambassadors for it. In July, they took their house to the Colorado Tiny House Festival in Keenesburg, Colorado. Their house was among about two-dozen featured at the festival. Colorado Springs hosted the Tiny House & Simple Living Jamboree for two years, until the organizers of that festival moved the event to Texas this year.
   The tiny home movement has been accompanied by growing pains, particularly zoning and code issues. El Paso County does not have a size requirement for a house, but does require that it is eligible for a building permit. Since many of the popular tiny home models are only built to an RV standard, they are classified as such and largely restricted to RV parks, although the county did allow a tiny home built to an RV standard on an individual parcel this year. The Thillets have their home in an RV park off Judge Orr Road.
   Build-it-yourself tiny homes that do not necessarily meet building or RV codes further complicate the issue. The Thillets thought of building their own, but had no space to construct one on their property in Missouri, where they first caught the tiny home bug. They also didn't have enough faith in their building abilities. "We'd probably have had to redo it a hundred times," Cindy Thillet said.
   They did come up with the design before settling on the builder, Tiny Idahomes. A member of the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, the Idaho business touts "start-to-finish solutions for your custom RV or tiny home-on-wheels project."
   Cindy Thillet’s first reaction to seeing the house: "It's so little! And then the second was, I love it. It was exactly like I pictured it.”
   There is no set definition for a tiny home, although 500 square feet or under is a common figure.
   "I'm from New York, so I'm used to tiny," Raymond Thillet said. "This is actually bigger than my studio apartment."
   Still, downsizing to The Murphy did require some sacrifices. "The one thing I had to literally give up was my comic books," Raymond Thillet said.
   The Murphy packs a lot into a little space. A seating area at the front of the house offers storage space and can be converted into a sleeping area. At the back of the house is the bedroom, with a Murphy bed (thus, the name The Murphy), and a pocket door, which allows for privacy. When the bed is folded away, the room serves as an office, with space for a desk and computer.
   In the middle of the house is the kitchen. "I insisted on an oven, because I like to bake," Cindy Thillet said. The bathroom is in the middle, too, and has a composting toilet. There is also a loft, which provides more sleeping space and additional room for storage; storage space is also found inside the steep steps to the loft.
   Because they use a composting toilet, there is no need to be hooked up to a sewer line, Raymond Thillet said. All they need to get by is a hose hookup for water, an electric hookup with a three-pronged plug and a filled propane tank.
   Cindy Thillet said that tiny living makes some things more of a process. For example, without a sewing room, if she wants to sew, she has to lug the sewing machine down from the loft and set up the desk for it, then return it at bedtime.
   Still, they both seemed enamored with their tiny home. They're often asked if the tight space forces too much togetherness. But the house still provides enough room that Raymond can watch "Star Trek" in one part of the house and Cindy can catch "The Bachelor" in another.
   Besides, Raymond Thillet said, they value that closeness. "We cuddle all the time.”
   To see videos and more photos of the Thillets' tiny home, look for their Facebook page, "The Murphy, living tiny."
Raymond and Cindy Thillet joined the tiny house movement just over a year ago, and now live in this 208-square-foot home in Falcon.
Raymond Thillet had to give up his comic book collection to live in a tiny house and Cindy Thillet has to lug around her sewing machine, but both are happy with their new, smaller lifestyle. Photos by Bill Radford
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Toni Sorenson
  Well and septic maintenance
  Bill Radford

   An estimated 27,000 homes — roughly 67,500 residents — are served by private water wells in El Paso County. There are an estimated 30,000 operating septic systems in the county.
   For homeowners who depend on well water and a septic system, some simple preventive maintenance and periodic inspections can ward off costly problems later.
   The National Ground Water Association, at, recommends an annual well maintenance check, including testing the water for bacteria, nitrates/nitrites and "any contaminants of local concern." In addition to that yearly testing, a change in taste, odor or appearance should spur a water quality check, per the NGWA.
   Water from private wells is not monitored for quality by government agencies, but El Paso County Public Health provides water testing. The cost depends on what is being tested — a menu of services and the corresponding fees are available at
   "What you cannot do is bring some water to the lab and say, 'Just test for everything,'" said Aaron Doussett, water quality program manager for El Paso County Public Health."That's too broad. When you do a water test, it's a very prescribed, specific method for a specific result."
   Bottles for collecting samples are available from El Paso County Public Health. To save Falcon residents a drive into Colorado Springs, sample bottles are usually also available at Falcon Fire Station No. 3, 7030 Old Meridian Road.
   Other tips from the NGWA:
  • Periodically check the well cover or well cap to ensure it is in good repair.
  • Keep hazardous chemicals, such as paint, fertilizer and motor oil, away from the well.
  • Take care in working or mowing around the well. A damaged casing can jeopardize the sanitary protection of the well.
  • Always use licensed or certified water well drillers and pump installers when a well is constructed, a pump is installed or the system is serviced.

   Every three years or so, you should have your septic system evaluated, and possibly pumped out, by a licensed contractor, Doussett said. Exactly how often it is needed will depend on usage. Signs that it may be time –- or past time –- to have the system evaluated range from showers and sinks draining slowly to bad odors emanating from the leach field.
   Other than those regular checks, maintenance revolves around paying attention to what goes into the system and taking steps to protect the leach field, Doussett said, ”A lot of chemicals can affect the biology of your septic tank," impacting the bacteria that help digest the waste. Drain cleaner, for example, can kill the bacteria and disrupt the operation of the tank. Some issues might be resolved by adding bacteria to the tank "to get that system back up to a good biological state,” he said.
   Among steps recommended by El Paso County Public Health:
  • Learn the location of your septic tank and leach field, and keep a sketch of it handy with a maintenance record of service visits
  • Water conservation is important for septic systems. Try not to do more than two loads of laundry a day; more than that can overload the septic system with water, causing it to pass solids into the leach field.
  • Don't use a garbage disposal if you have a septic system; the food scraps can add to the solids in the tank and require more frequent pumping. Colorado requires a larger-size leach field if a garbage grinder/disposal unit is being used in the house.
  • Don't drive on or park over any part of the system. Don't allow livestock over the leach field.
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  Development vs. impact fees: apples to oranges
  By Lindsey Harrison

   During its 2016 first regular session, the Colorado General Assembly signed House Bill 16-1088 into law. Called the “Public Safety Fairness Act,” HB 16-1088 allows fire protection districts to impose an impact fee on new development.
   In the August issue of “The New Falcon Herald,” Trent Harwig, fire chief of the Falcon Fire Protection District, said before HB 16-1088 was passed, fire districts in Colorado were statutorily prohibited from collecting fees on new developments. Other special districts such as metropolitan districts, water or parks and recreation districts have all had the authority to charge fees on new commercial and residential development to cover the impact that new growth has on their future capital requirements, Harwig said in the article.
   “State lawmakers passed a bill that added fire districts to the list of special districts that are allowed to impose impact fees on new development but stopped short of giving the fire districts the authority to act on their own authority while imposing the new fees,” he added.
   Fire districts must enter into an intergovernmental agreement with their respective counties to determine if there should be an impact fee, and to determine the cost of the fee and the process to collect the fee, Harwig said in the article.
   As of the NFH publishing date, the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners had not approved an IGA for the county.
   Mark Waller, District 2 representative for the BOCC, said the board has to be thoughtful regarding the implications of approving more fees.
   “Every time we add a fee to anything, the cost rises for everybody,” he said. “The developer is not going to absorb that cost; it is going to get passed on to the consumer. We do not want to have so many fees that buying a house becomes prohibitive for the workforce people.”
   Mark Gebhart, deputy director of the EPC development services department, said any impact fee, including a fire impact fee, is going to be reflected in the cost of the house. However, the fees paid to the county through the development process are not the same as impact fees, he said.
   Generally, development takes multiple steps to get from raw land to livable land, he said. Each step has its own fees, which are paid to various entities, Gebhart said. For instance, application fees and subdivision exactions (fees exacted from a property that is subdivided) are paid to the county, while water and sewer tap fees are paid to the city or district that has the infrastructure the developer wants to tap into, he said.
   In 1999, the EPC administrators revamped the county’s land development code and created a review process that analyzed the cost to the county related to each step throughout the entire development process, he said. The analysis determined a breakdown in the actual cost of the overall development process and resulted in the current BOCC-approved fee schedule, Gebhart said.
   According to the EPC website: “The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners has approved fees charged by the Development Services Department based on studies of the cost of service. These costs include, but are not limited to, staff time, equipment and technology needed to complete project reviews and other required services.”
   “The goal was to, as closely as possible, recover all the funds (from the developer) for the development process,” Gebhart said. The fees vary depending on what the developer plans to do with the land, he said.
   The current BOCC-approved fee schedule can be found on the EPC Planning and Community Development Department’s homepage on the county’s website at
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  End-of-summer doggie dip
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On Sept. 10, the Woodmen Hills Metropolitan District hosted a “doggie dip” event for residents and their furry friends at the outdoor swimming pool at Community Center West.
   The pooches were divided into two groups, each with their own designated swim time, to keep the bigger dogs and smaller dogs separate. Thirty-one dogs were expected to show up throughout the day, and owners were encouraged to join their pets in the pool.
   Tender Care Veterinary Center in Falcon provided treats and chew toys for the dogs.
   Kim Hatch, WHMD resident, brought her family and their dog, Lucy, and said, “It was something new to do and fun to give them that experience.”
Jet, a 14-week-old black Labrador, cautiously attempts to snag a toy that is just a bit out of his reach. Photos by Lindsey Harrison
Brandon Lasch watches as his 2-year-old dog, Miley, takes a swim while holding onto her new toy, provided by Tender Care Veterinary Center.
Shaylee Hatch tries to coax her dog, Lucy, to take a dip in the water during the WHMD doggie dip.
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  Tender Care Veterinary hosts inaugural Pawfest
  Breeanna Jent

   In a day dedicated to the celebration of pets, Tender Care Veterinary Center in Falcon, Colorado, hosted its inaugural Pawfest to shine a light on the importance of pet care and community on Saturday, Sept. 9.
   “This is a celebration of pets in general, and we also wanted to give back to the community,” said John Amen, co-owner of Tender Care Veterinary Center. “We are in the process of expanding this clinic, and we wanted to give back to our supporters.”
   The event, held at the Tender Care clinic just off Meridian Road, was also the perfect venue to introduce its two newest veterinarians, Dr. Jennifer Wade and Dr. Lindsey Blair.
   The center’s parking lot turned into a fun-zone for the day, complete with a bounce house, free food served by Boy Scouts Troop 221, balloon animals, face painting and free ice cream. Guests and their pets were welcome to take tours of the clinic; they offered microchipping for $20; dog training and agility demonstrations were provided by Mutt Masters; and local pet sanctuaries Wild Blue Animal Rescue and Sanctuary and Douglas County Canine Rescue were both on site with felines and canines ready for adoption.
   Guests like Tammy Wilkes and Jolene Martin were enjoying the festivities with their pets, dogs Merlin and Daisy Mae, respectively. Wilkes took advantage of the grooming and microchipping services offered at the event, and Martin called the event “fabulous.”
   Sarah Rawlinson of Falcon brought along her family and their dog, a regular client at Tender Care. Rawlinson stopped by the event after taking her kids to soccer because it looked like fun, she said as she watched her son, Miller, age 9, wait patiently in line for a balloon animal.
   Inside, Dr. Lindsey Blair greeted visitors after completing her first week at the veterinary center. Originally from Colorado Springs, Blair practiced veterinary medicine in Arizona for four years before returning to her hometown to be close to family and friends.
   She became interested in becoming a veterinarian after taking an anatomy class in high school, Blair said. Though she always liked animals, that class sparked her interest in the field, she said.
   “This is a great practice with great people,” Blair said. “This event today shows how much [Tender Care] cares about their community. I am happy to be a part of a practice that feels that way.”
   Tender Care’s second newest veterinarian, Dr. Jennifer Wade, has been with the center since April 2017. She has lived in Colorado for seven years, previously hailing from North Carolina.
   “As far back as I can remember, I loved animals and science,” Wade said. Wade received her undergraduate degree at Texas A&M and attended veterinary school there.
   “I think it’s great that Tender Care is opening itself to the community like this, and visitors get to see behind-the-scenes. They are really becoming a part of this community, and I don’t know too many hospitals that do that. I think this is a great thing they are doing,” Wade said.
   Tender Care Veterinary Center provides its community with emergency room services, dentistry, grooming and other pet health care services.
   For more information, visit their website at
The Tender Care Veterinary Center staff was on site to greet visitors both human and animal alike during their inaugural Pawfest celebration. Photos by Breeanna Jent
Ryan Hanes, a kennel assistant at Tender Care Veterinary Center brought along his family and their pup to enjoy the Pawfest activities: (from left to right) Kryste Hanes, (front) Colin Hanes, Patrick Hanes, Justin Hanes and Ryan Hanes and their dog, Emma.
Miller Rawlinson, 9, of Falcon poses with his freshly created balloon palm tree fashioned by Nancy Richards, the “all occasion balloon expert.” Rawlinson attended the Pawfest event with his family.
(From left to right) Abigale Shepley and Arthur; Tammy Wilkes and Merlin; and Jolene Martin and Daisy Mae took a break from the festivities at the inaugural Pawfest event hosted by Tender Care Veterinary Center.
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  Building and real estate update
  By Lindsey Harrison

   Paint Brush Hills
   The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners approved the second partial release of a letter of credit for construction improvements to the Scenic View at Paint Brush Hills subdivision for $68,777.60. All improvements have been completed and inspected. An additional $25,160 will be retained by the county for the remainder of a two-year warranty period and released upon successful completion of the project.
   First Baptist Church of Black Forest
   The BOCC approved the partial release of funds for grading and erosion control at the First Baptist Church of Black Forest for $32,547.44, plus accrued interest. All improvements have been completed and inspected.
   Albrecht Estates
   The EPC Planning Commission unanimously approved a request by Cynthia Jensen on behalf of herself and Brad Jensen, Tim and Amber Albertson, Lisa Clark, David Strine, Michael and Shannon Hoops, Jarrad Farlin, Clyde Trees and Mitch Albrecht to rezone seven parcels located north of Judge Orr Road and east of McClelland Road. The parcels, totaling 308.78 acres, are currently zoned planned unit development but the property owners are requesting a change to an agricultural zoning district. The property is located within the Falcon/Peyton Small Area Plan.
   In 2004, the BOCC approved the Albrecht Estates PUD, which allowed for up to 67 residential lots with a minimum lot size of 2.5 acres, zoned residential rural. Following the approval of the PUD, the total acreage was divided outside the subdivision process and sold to individual owners. The owners have not followed the PUD or preliminary and final plat, and do not plan to finalize the subdivision into the 2.5-acre lots.
   Black Forest Regional Park
   The commissioners approved an update to the Black Forest Regional Park Master Plan, which provides a sustainable approach to trail development within the park, while re-establishing safe public access to the park and serving the recreational needs of the community. The update will complement ongoing forestry and soil stabilization efforts in the park.
   Falcon Liquor Outlet
   The commissioners approved an application from KCKM LLC, doing business as Falcon Liquor Outlet LLC, for a change of corporate structure of its retail liquor license located at 7189 North Meridian Road. The applicant has met all statutory and policy filing requirements.
   Descar’s Roadside Bar & Grill
   The BOCC unanimously approved an application by Descar’s Roadside Bar & Grill to waive the time requirement for filing a renewal application to renew its hotel and restaurant liquor license for 6750 Shoup Road. All applicable documents and fees have been filed.
   Fletes Contractor’s equipment yard
   The planning committee unanimously approved a request by Cesar and Elia Fletes for a variance of use to legalize an existing contractor’s equipment yard associated with a business in a residential rural zoning district. The 35-acre property is located on the north side of Falcon Highway, about 1.13 miles east of the intersection of Falcon Highway and Highway 24.
   Apex Ranch
   The BOCC approved an amendment to the construction contract between the EPC Department of Public Works and Martin Marietta Materials Inc. for reclamation and paving improvements to Apex Ranch for no more than $300,000. Martin Marietta was awarded the contract in 2015 for hot mix asphalt paving, the funding was provided by the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority.
   The roads in Apex Ranch have failed and require full depth reclamation, sub-grade prep and paving to be fully restored. Money for the improvements will come from the county’s road and bridge fund.
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