SIDE STREETS: Neighbors want county to protect them from party house apartment complex

BILL VOGRIN Updated: May 6, 2011 at 12:00 am • Published: May 6, 2011

Stratmoor Hills was conceived in 1955 as an exclusive neighborhood, protected by restrictive covenants, where folks would build custom homes, play golf, swim at the private pool and enjoy the good life situated just outside the north gate of Fort Carson.

Developer Fred Abrahamson designed lots deep and wide on 800 acres he bought from the Sinton Dairy Farm and insisted houses be at least 1,400 square feet and use brick or stone in construction.

It would be an upscale, peaceful suburb.

Today, the unincorporated neighborhood of 540 homes is fighting to keep what’s left of its peace. On Thursday, they will try to convince the El Paso County Commission to block construction of a large apartment complex catering to soldiers on 16 acres along Venetucci Boulevard across from the World Arena.

It’s just the latest in a string of battles fought by Stratmoor Hills residents. They’ve battled blight as pawn shops and strip clubs have taken over B Street, a main entry way to Fort Carson. (Heck, a strip club occupies the old clubhouse for the neighborhood’s now-defunct nine-hole golf course.)

And neighbors have struggled to stop the Army from turning their neighborhood into an annex of the post railyard.

Now their focus is on Independence Place at Cheyenne Mountain, a $30 million apartment complex proposed by Place Properties of Atlanta. The project would have 240 units, from one to four bedrooms and catering to soldiers.

Independence Place has many complexes near military bases. They are unique because they rent fully furnished bedrooms. A four-bedroom apartment, for example, has a community living room, kitchen and laundry room. But each bedroom is private with its own bathroom.

The gated communities provide computer, recreation and fitness rooms,  swimming pools, volleyball and basketball courts and clubhouses for tenants.

The idea of hundreds of soldiers roaring back and forth through Stratmoor Hills, past schools and homes, and then partying all night at Independence Place is just too much.

“It sounds very much like a college dorm,” said Tom Egan, president of the Stratmoor Hills Neighborhood Association. “It sounds like a pretty good place to raise hell.”

A spokeswoman for Independence Place did not return my calls seeking comment.

Neighbors have more concerns than just the prospect of rambunctious soldiers keeping them up at night.

Three dozen homes adjacent to the project are on septic systems. They fear the loss of leach fields will force them, eventually, to dig sewer lines at a cost of $25,000 or so apiece.

Others worry about the size of the buildings. The Stratmoor Hills Fire Department does not have a ladder truck to fight fires in three-story buildings.

Others hate planned traffic circles on Venetucci.

“This thing is wrong as heck,” said neighbor Ralph Huber.  “We have to stop it.”

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