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Council hears lengthy debate on request to de-annex land

 

Last updated 2/1/2022 at 2:25pm | View PDF

Map from documents submitted to El Paso County

This map shows the two properties that developers want to use cohesively for a new project called Amara. Currently, Kane Ranch is in Fountain city limits while Tee Cross is in unincorporated El Paso County, with annexation to Colorado Springs under consideration.

Last week's Fountain City Council meeting included a lengthy discussion on a proposal to de-annex 2,400 acres on the east side of the city.

But no action is imminent, as the council voted 5-2 to table the ordinance until April 26. Mayor Sharon Thompson and Council Member Tamara Estes voted against the delay, with Estes stating that a decision to grant the request seemed obvious considering the information that was presented.

"I just think it's a foregone conclusion with the threat of a lawsuit over our heads," Estes said. "I don't think we have a choice in the matter."

Representatives for the applicant - primarily Doug Quimby, the head of La Plata Communities, a company known for such Colorado Springs communities as Briargate and The Farm - said they hoped to resolve the matter amicably at the City Council level. However, they argued that they would be within their rights to sue the city if the council denies the request by ordinance.

John Cook, an attorney for La Plata, gave an example of a nearly identical case in another city where the entity requesting to de-annex was successful.

At the center of the debate is a claim that the city did not hold up its end of the bargain in the 2008 annexation, at which time the water supply was said to be adequate for the site's eventual development.

It wasn't until last year, when La Plata wanted to move forward with development plans, that the city announced the lack of water.

"My clients didn't cause any of this," Cook argued.

Officials in Fountain say they have concerns about how the land might be developed if it ends up being annexed into Colorado Springs, which may permit significantly higher housing densities.

Resident Al Lender displayed a box full of debris left by vehicles that have crashed on his property in recent weeks. He said he feared what would become of Fountain if rampant development and lack of proper infrastructure for roads continued.

Kane Ranch is located along the south side of Squirrel Creek Road, approximately one-half mile east of the Link Road and Squirrel Creek Road intersection.

Several residents and the council asked Quimby what his company would do to help mitigate effects of a large-scale housing development on area roads, even if the property ends up being annexed into Colorado Springs. Quimby noted that nothing specific could be promised until more concrete progress is made on such a development proposal; since development in the current situation is impossible given the current water supply in Fountain, that further progress hinges on de-annexation being granted. Colorado Springs has the water to serve this site, he said.

"We invested countless hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars on getting this deal done in the city of Fountain," Quimby said.

Bryan Johnson, a former Fountain City Council member, said a 2007 Water Master Plan that was factored in to the decision to annex Kane Ranch originally did identify several possible projects to address the water situation. However, anticipated funds like tap fees tanked amid the recession, "there just wasn't the funds to pursue a lot of those things."

Resident Fran Carrick said she wasn't opposed to the de-annexation if the development ends up being like Briargate. She blamed the city for the current situation.

"I just don't see it as a bad thing," she said. "And shame on us that we didn't give them the water. This has been a problem forever."

Annexation into Colorado Springs has been initiated already for a neighboring 3,200 acres known as Tee Cross. Colorado Springs City Council has not yet held any formal hearings on Tee Cross, also referred to as Amara.

Quimby said he hoped to develop Kane Ranch and Tee Cross cohesively as Amara. It would include some commercial aspects, but the bulk would be residential in the same vein as Briargate, and "larger than Briargate and The Farm combined."

 

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