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BOCC approves Falcon Highlands South, despite problems in Filing 1

As reported in the November issue of The New Falcon Herald, the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners, by a vote of 5-2, recommended that the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners deny a rezoning request by Challenger Communities LLC for Falcon Highlands South.

Challenger Communities has requested a rezoning from the preliminary plan (which had already been approved) of 138 single-family residential lots and nine tracts to 378 single-family residential lots and nine tracts, including 39.9 acres of open space and 19.9 acres of land dedicated for public rights-of-way. The 125.56-acre property is located at the northwest corner of the intersection of Highway 24 and Meridian Road.

On Dec. 14, the El Paso County BOCC heard the rezoning request. Many residents of Falcon Highlands Filings 1 and 2 attended the meeting to express their concerns about the increased density.

Residents restated the same concerns they had brought up at the Nov. 16 planning commission meeting. The existing underdrain problems had been addressed at the Falcon Highlands Metro District annual meeting two days prior on Dec. 12; although the metro district indicated at that meeting the drainage systems were being investigated, many of the overflow problems remained. So many residents said that the underdrain systems should be completely fixed before any new development in the area begins.

Regarding the underdrain problems, Cristina Welch, resident and a principal in the movement to address the underdrain system with the metro district, said there were 26 units downstream of Falcon Highlands 2 that tie into the existing underdrain system. “Challenger’s plan for the rest of the homes with the PUD remains unclear,” Welch said. “Only structures with below-grade habitable spaces (i.e. basements) require tie-ins, so Challenger may just choose to build the remaining homes on slab foundations,” Welch said. “At this point, no one has formally acknowledged their responsibility to manage and maintain the underdrain systems within the Falcon Highlands Development.”

Residents also expressed concern that water sufficiency has not yet been determined for the new development.

Residents were in sync about the rezoning changing the density and more rural feeling of Falcon Highlands. One resident said that four of the proposed lots could fit on his 1/3-acre lot. Josh Gordon said it was too crowded in Meridian Ranch when he made the decision to move to Falcon Highlands, which, he said, is quiet and peaceful and bordered by ranchland. “We need a new plan; there is a line that developers cannot cross,” he said.

The new density is a “recipe for disaster,” said Bob Aamodt, one of the residents who has struggled with underdrain problems. “Growth should not be at the expense of others.” Aamodt also said two members on the FH metro district board are representatives of Challenger Homes, which, he said, is a “conflict of interest.”

El Paso County board members responded to the residents’ statements. Amy Geitner, vice chair of the board representing District 2, said, “No homes will be built without water sufficiency.” She challenged the idea that the area is rural. “Smaller lots are not incompatible with the area; this is not ranchland,” she said.

Commissioner Stan VanderWerf, District 3, said there is no conflict of interest related to the board members from Challenger Homes; he said all homeowners’ have the right to sit on the board.

Commissioners Cami Bremer, District 5, Holly Williams, District 1, Geitner and VanderWerf voted yes to the rezoning changes. Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez Jr. voted no to the changes. Gonzales said he believes the Upper Black Squirrel Creek Ground Water Basin and El Paso County Colorado District 49 should weigh in on the new densities and how it would affect them. The final tally was 5-1 in favor of the rezoning.

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