Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

SIDE STREETS: Neighborhood activists remain on high alert

BILL VOGRIN Updated: November 6, 2012 at 12:00 am

Residents of the Stratmoor Hills neighborhood are understandably nervous.

A year ago, they vigorously fought plans for Independence Place, a $24 million apartment complex with 240 units catering to soldiers on 15.5 acres along the neighborhood’s edge near World Arena.

Stratmoor Hills residents said the project would be too big for the unincorporated neighborhood of 540 homes on the north border of Fort Carson.

They imagined soldiers partying all night at the complex’s swimming pools, volleyball and basketball courts and clubhouse.

Some suggested the neighborhood’s fire protection, water and sewer systems would be overwhelmed.

When the project collapsed last November, Stratmoor Hills celebrated. But they remained vigilant.

So it’s understandable why a few neighbors panicked recently when a truck pulled onto the land and they saw a crew start digging.

Was the project being resurrected? Emails and phone calls started circulating.

“Here we go again,” wrote Sheila Egan, a neighborhood leader, in an email.

Actually, Sheila wrote: “HERE WE GO AGAIN!!”

I called Sheila.

“We saw men in the vacant land who seemed to be taking soil samples,” she said. “We wondered why. We thought the project was denied.”

She and another neighbor started making calls and, sure enough, something is going on.

“I think the county reneged on its denial,” she said. “And we missed it. I don’t know how all of us could have missed it.”

Like good neighborhood activists, they planned to alert everyone at a neighborhood association meeting this week and plot their next move.

I was puzzled. So I called county planning staff and I called Dennis Hisey, an El Paso County commissioner who worked closely with Stratmoor Hills on the project.
Staff assured me nothing had changed.

Ditto from Hisey, who assured me there was no hearing before the commission and no reversal of anything by the county.

“It’s dead right now,” Hisey said.

Of course, the property remains zoned for commercial development and someday another project may come along that gets approved, Hisey said.

But Independence Place is not being built.

Finally, I called Terry Hillman, special assets manager at Peoples National Bank of Colorado, which took ownership of the property in foreclosure.

He laughed when I told him neighbors were worried.

“They were digging holes,” Hillman said. “But it wasn’t soil samples. It was just a real estate agent putting up for-sale signs.

“That’s all it is.”

Whew! Everyone can relax.

For now.

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