SIDE STREETS: Woodmoor residents say water board all wet for buying ranch

By: BILL VOGRIN
October 19, 2011
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photo - Williams Creek  just south of Fountain on a ranch Colorado Springs bought from developer John Venezia in 1989 for a possible reservoir. The Woodmoor Water and Sanitation Board voted Monday to buy an adjacent 3,300 acres from the late Venezia's relatives for perhaps $30 million to obtain its water rights. Photo taken May 25, 2006. Photo by
Williams Creek just south of Fountain on a ranch Colorado Springs bought from developer John Venezia in 1989 for a possible reservoir. The Woodmoor Water and Sanitation Board voted Monday to buy an adjacent 3,300 acres from the late Venezia's relatives for perhaps $30 million to obtain its water rights. Photo taken May 25, 2006. Photo by  

Ever wanted to escape the rat race? Move to the country and get away from big-city politics, angry public hearings and big fee increases imposed by public officials in defiance of the will of the people?

Then don’t move to Woodmoor, says Jennifer Davis.

She and her family moved from California’s Bay Area to Woodmoor in 2008 in hopes of a quieter life.

But all the issues of the city seem to have followed her to the unincorporated community of 3,000 homes east of Monument.

“I’m frustrated,” Davis said Tuesday, still fuming after attending a meeting Monday night of the five-member Woodmoor Water and Sanitation Board where 140 or so residents showed up to protest the proposed $30 million purchase of 3,300 acres of the JV Ranch near Fountain.

The ranch, owned by relatives of the late John Venezia, who developed Briargate and Peregrine, is coveted for its water rights. (Colorado Springs paid Venezia $3.2 million for 3,680 adjacent acres in 1989.)

The board voted unanimously to buy the land after hours of emotional testimony and a near unanimous vote by the people in opposition to the purchase.

“It was power politics,” Davis said. “They didn’t listen to anything any of us said. Their minds were made up. Basically, they told us ‘We’re buying you a ranch and you’re going to pay for it and you’re going to like it.’ I was so dismayed by the arrogance of those people.”

Davis and others say they feel betrayed by the five board members. (Gazette IT expert Beth Courrau is on the board.)

Several Woodmoor residents asked me how the board could ignore the residents and saddle the water district’s 8,350 residential and business customers with a huge debt. Average residential water rates will increase $50 a month to pay for the ranch.

 Worse, neighbors say, they will have to spend perhaps $100 million more to build a pipeline to deliver the water uphill to Woodmoor.

(Where have I heard this scenario before?)

“I’m shocked,” said Bob Benton, a 15-year Woodmoor resident. Benton left the meeting early, convinced the board would never proceed in the face of such fierce opposition.

“That’s impossible,” Benton said. “I’m completely shocked. More than 130 people voted ‘No’ at the meeting. Emphatically no. I’ve never been more disgusted in my life.”

Carolyn Streit-Carey also attended the meeting and was sickened by the vote.

“It was a sham,” she said. “The board simply went through the motions of holding a public hearing. They didn’t listen to anyone. I think most of the people in the audience felt betrayed.”

Water district manager Jessie Shaffer defended the vote as the right thing to do.

Groundwater is diminishing, he said. A reliable source is imperative. Woodmoor’s future is at stake.

Tell that to the neighbors.

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