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El Paso County Colorado District 49

D 49 still finding voice in development

With a recent increase in the amount of development within the boundaries of Falcon School District 49, Melissa Andrews, D 49 strategic planner, said she is still working out the kinks on how to ensure the districtís needs are being met.ìWe (D 49) should have a good relationship with developers and be able to say, ëThis is what we could use and this is what we need,íî Andrews said. ìWhen they (developers) are planning on doing a development, they call me and say, ëThis is what weíre going to do; letís talk about a school site; or, do you just want fees?í Fees are sometimes taken in lieu of a piece of land.îAndrews said residential developers are required by law to provide the district with either land or a fee in lieu of land. The same requirement does not apply to commercial developers because the district will receive money from the taxes paid on the land, she said.Brett Ridgway, chief business officer for D 49, said that once a residential developer has provided the information about the land they plan to develop, the district has to determine how many students the new development will generate. ìIf the land requirement calculation is too small or we donít need land in that spot, thatís when we would say that weíll accept the fees instead,î Ridgway said. ìIf we determine itís big enough and we want it, then we determine where that piece of land might be in that development and go from there. The general concept of fees in lieu of land is so that we donít end up with small unusable pieces of land all over the place.îRidgway said county officials place a peracre value on land in El Paso County. ìThe county sets the cost of each acre; the developer doesnít determine that and the district doesnít,î he said. ìThereís no negotiation on the rate, and it doesnít differ based on where it is within the county.î There is a different rate based on land in the limits of the city of Colorado Springs ó city officials determine that rate, he said.The Bent Grass subdivision, west of Meridian Road, is a recent development within D 49. Currently, the only structure on the land is a 7-Eleven; however, according to the July issue of The New Falcon Herald, the El Paso County Planning Commission has approved the single-family lots in the subdivision. The item is headed to the EPC Board of County Commissioners for their approval.Included in that planned unit development is 9.2 acres of a designated school site approved under the original Bent Grass plan in 2006, said Ron Bevans, project manager with N.E.S. Inc. But the location sits in the crash zone of the Colorado Springs Airport, and has other issues like drainage problems, Andrews said. ìWe canít use that piece of land so to us it holds no value,î she said. ìIt would take extra money to fix that land that we could be using on the kids instead.îAndrews said the district would much rather have the money instead, especially since several other parcels have been dedicated to the district in more ideal locations. ìI have a land dedication from Meridian Ranch that is 45 acres and up against Falcon High School,î she said. ìThat would be an elementary and middle school so we could have a full K-12 campus in three separate buildings there. The developers of Forest Meadows have given us both elementary and middle school sites, and weíre still negotiating those terms. Elkhorn Estates will owe us an elementary school site but not for a long time. Banning Lewis Ranch has been very easy to work with, and we have sites set up with them.îWhen she joined the district about five years ago, Andrews said development in the district was slow, and there wasnít a clear indication on how she should proceed with developers. Andrews said she will discuss with Ridgway attending future planning commission meetings. ìIím willing and able to go and represent in any way that I can,î she said.Jonathan Moore with Rivers Development Inc., the company in charge of the Bent Grass development, said the site designated for the school is still slated as such until the company hears otherwise from the district. The company is open to discussions about the land, Moore said, ìWe just try to work with them (school districts) and figure out what works best for them.î

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