SIDE STREETS: Judge orders developer to take the jump out of Ski Lane

October 20, 2010
photo - Ski Lane ends abruptly at a guard rail, which protects a 12-foot cliff. This view looks north over the Cumbre Vista subdivision and toward Black Forest. Photo by
Ski Lane ends abruptly at a guard rail, which protects a 12-foot cliff. This view looks north over the Cumbre Vista subdivision and toward Black Forest. Photo by  

It’s Ski Lane, not Ski “Jump” Lane, a judge says. The jump must go.

Or must it?

In a seemingly definitive victory for six El Paso County homeowners, 4th Judicial District Judge Larry Schwartz ordered developers of Cumbre Vista subdivision to “rebuild the road; put it back the way it was.”

It was a sloping gravel road for 50 years before developer Paul Howard’s Infinity Land Corp. bulldozed it, leaving a 12-foot cliff, a guardrail and barricades where Ski Lane used to run. (See photos on my blog).

“The developer committed significant trespass,” Schwartz said last week at the end of a five-day trial.

He described the destruction of Ski Lane — and the legal easement attached to it — as “significant injury” to the homeowners, who suddenly found themselves cut off from the world.

Of course, the two sides disagree on how to interpret the judge’s decision.

Homeowners say Schwartz ordered reconstruction of the hill that, from 1956 until 2006, carried Ski Lane north to Cowpoke Road and into Black Forest.

“We want the cliff gone,” neighbor Bill Marchant said. “We want our direct access back to the north. We want emergency services to be able to reach us.”

The neighbors insist the order includes replacing a ridiculous hairpin curve Infinity built around the cliff so residents could get off their gravel road and onto the streets of Cumbre Vista.

But rebuilding the hill “isn’t practical,” said Dave Keller, president of Keller Homes and managing partner of KF103, which now owns Cumbre Vista, designed for 200 homes on 115 acres near Woodmen Road and Powers Boulevard. Howard deeded away his interest in the project to KF103 and the Woodmen Height Metro District after the controversy erupted.

Attorney Eric Bentley said the judge ordered his clients to restore the easement, or path. But Bentley said that doesn’t mean rebuilding the hill and burying streets and utilities awaiting homes.

“He ordered the easement be restored to its historic position,” Bentley said. “He didn’t address elevation.”

Bentley said Marchant and the neighbors are being unrealistic in their demands.

“It’s impossible to turn the clock back to 2005,” Bentley said. “And I don’t think the neighbors actually believe the clock can be turned back.”

He declined to say whether the developers would appeal the judge’s ruling.

“It will take a good-faith effort by everybody involved to carry out the court’s order,” Bentley said. “It’s not going to be easy.”

Neighborhood attorney David Krall said the issue is simple.

“The judge said they took away an easement they weren’t entitled to,” Krall said. “Now they have to give it back.

“They have a real problem.”

Guess it depends how you interpret a “problem.”

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