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High and dry

The El Paso County Planning Commission has unanimously approved the preliminary plan for Woodlake Estates, a rural residential development on 107 acres, near the intersection of Eastonville Road and Murphy Road.Thomas & Thomas Planning, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture Inc. of Colorado Springs designed the layout of the lots. The development consists of 19 5-acre lots with individual wells and septic systems, said Leslie Thomas of Thomas & Thomas.According to a letter sent to the county’s development services department by Kevin Rein, chief of water supply at the Colorado Division of Water Resources, a determination of the water right and replacement plan has been obtained for the development.Based on the determination and replacement plan, the letter states, the development will be allowed to pump 15.2-acre feet of water annually from the Dawson aquifer, or .3 acre-feet per lot per year for in-house use and .5 acre feet per lot per year for the irrigation of 7,500 square feet of lawns and gardens and the watering of up to four horses.Tina Davis, who owns a house and a vacant lot bordering the proposed development, is concerned about the amount of water the state has authorized for Woodlake Estates.”The state Colorado is in right now for water is outrageous. A lot of the neighbors are in an uproar,” Davis said. “When it comes to water, we all have to be concerned about what’s happening. I would hate to see what happens to this area when there’s no more water.”Julia Evans, who lives a mile from the proposed development, said, “As a long-time Coloradoan, I’m definitely concerned about further drilling into an aquifer that appears to be endangered and perhaps prohibited.”The Upper Black Squirrel Groundwater Management District has a policy of not allowing new wells in the Dawson aquifer, said Kathy Hare, immediate past president of the UBS board.The replacement plan was the key to getting access to the Dawson aquifer. “They would not be able to use the Dawson without a replacement plan,” Hare said.A replacement plan typically uses septic return flows to compensate for depletion to the stream, said hydrogeologist Julia Murphy. A percentage of irrigation water also compensates for depletion, but urine from livestock does not compensate because it evaporates, she said.”We commented about the amount of water the developer wanted,” Hare said. “They are not allowed more than .5 acre-feet per year by UBS rules and they should only be getting household wells, which can’t be used to water horses or lawns. I don’t know what the hell the state is doing. They seem to be giving away the farm.”The UBS fights the biggest battles and sometimes these little things do slide by. They probably shouldn’t, but we only have so much funding.”The property has a wetland area and until neighbors complained, the county was not going to require a wetland permit, Davis said. An engineer from the Army Corp of Engineers came out, walked the property and determined that a section 404 wetland permit is required, she said.Thomas said the lots have been laid out to preserve drainage to neighboring parcels and to fit in visually with the surrounding houses on 5-acre parcels.Heather Lanoue of Thomas & Thomas said each lot will be allowed no more than 4,000 square feet of manicured lawn. “The rest of the lot must remain native prairie,” she said.She added that an architectural review committee will be formed to evaluate and approve the architecture of proposed houses, fences and accessory buildings and that there will be an equestrian trail along a portion of Tanner Trail and along Eastonville Road.The preliminary plan goes before the county commissioners for final approval March 13.”We’ve requested an early grading permit and want to start construction as soon as possible,” Thomas said.

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