July 29, 2005
The El Paso County commissioners Thursday approved a plan for a wedding chapel in Black Forest, despite objections from residents who said it would harm the area’s character.
Commissioner Wayne Williams, who represents Black Forest, disagreed with neighbors that Thee Occasion wedding chapel would be too big and would draw too much traffic. Jim Bensberg was the only one of the five commissioners to vote against the chapel. “I think this use is incongruous with Black Forest,” Bensberg said. The appropriateness of the chapel in the residential community northeast of Colorado Springs has been debated since May, when the commissioners rejected Millie Carlton’s plan to build Thee Occasion as a tentlike building. Carlton returned with a building plan that included a stucco, stone and timber exterior, which the commissioners approved. The El Paso County Planning Commission, an advisory body, unanimously approved Carlton’s second plan last month. The building will be near the southeast corner of Shoup and Black Forest roads. Several dozen residents packed the county commissioners’ meeting room Thursday, raising objections for about four hours that ranged from whether there’s a need for a chapel to traffic and the building’s size. One opponent said the size, which can accommodate up to 300 wedding guests, would make it a major commercial venue. The Black Forest Preservation Plan, a document guiding land use decisions in the area, encourages businesses that serve Black Forest residents instead of drawing customers from elsewhere. Williams said the size is in line with existing churches and other buildings in the area. “Fifteen thousand square feet is not regional, large-scale commercial,” he said. Commissioner Douglas Bruce was the only member of the panel who voted for the chapel when it was first presented in May. He accused the neighbors of harboring a “not-in-my-backyard” attitude and said it’s not his role to regulate the business plans of private citizens. “I view this as a choice between private property rights . . . versus a blatant appeal to emotion,” Bruce said. CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0187 or firstname.lastname@example.org