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Opposition emerges early against proposed development south of Colorado Springs

January 23, 2018 Updated: January 24, 2018 at 7:27 am

Rural residents near Fort Carson have wasted no time taking a stance on a proposal to build hundreds of housing units near them.

Tuesday, as The Equity Group took a first step in its plan to build more than 450 residences near Titus Boulevard and Colorado 115, about a dozen residents spoke out against the Colorado Springs-based developer's concept.

El Paso County commissioners voted 4-1, with Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez Jr. opposed, to approve a service plan for a special district that The Equity Group intends to form to provide water and wastewater services to homes it soon will ask the county to allow.

Creation of the Rock Creek Metropolitan District requires the vote of all district property owners. Developer Danny Mientka is the only landowner and thus will cast the sole vote, a county planner said.

But residents say Mientka's preliminary plan - to build 211 single-family homes and a 240-unit apartment complex - would inundate local roads with excessive traffic, threaten wildlife, burden the resource-strapped fire protection district and ruin the area's rural character.

"What's going to happen to our little farms if this housing development comes through? We're going to lose all of that," Josephine Becera told commissioners. "It's going to ruin families out there. We're going to have to find another place to live."

Mientka, owner of The Equity Group, said he had been unaware of residents' concerns and will work with them from now on.

"If the district gets approved, the next step is to look at what can we do responsibly to fit in with the neighborhood," he said before commissioners voted. "Many people have said, 'I don't want any growth.' I understand that. But I have property that I haven't been able to develop for 20 years, and that's your open space."

About 10 miles south of the area, other residents are fighting a proposal for a quarry, which they say could endanger wildlife and their water supply.

And on Colorado Springs' south side, a proposed affordable housing complex has drawn opposition from Broadmoor Bluffs residents.

Such opponents often are criticized for taking a "not in my back yard" (NIMBY) stance against development.

But, like opponents of the Hitch Rack Ranch quarry and The Ridge affordable housing complex, those who spoke out against The Equity Group's plan Tuesday said the NIMBY label doesn't apply.

"We're asking for low-density (development)," Felicia Grillo said. "We're rural people. We want to be in a rural area. Don't bring the city to the country - that's our problem."

Grillo presented commissioners with a petition signed by more than 120 residents who oppose the development.

The Equity Group anticipates the 211 single-family homes will be completed over a four-year period, and the apartment complex will take five years, says a development summary submitted with the special district service plan.

Mientka has yet to apply for the required land use approvals to develop his 30 acres - about 16 acres within Colorado Springs and 14 acres of unincorporated county territory, said Raimere Fitzpatrick, a project manager with the county's Planning and Community Development Department.

The county recommends developers obtain land-use approvals before pursuing a special district so commissioners have details about the project when considering new special districts, Fitzpatrick said.

But the developer has said the metro district must be formed first to plan and design his project.

The apartment complex would be built on the Colorado Springs land. But how much ground the houses would cover is unclear.

The district could gain 60 acres, too, if Mientka buys nearby parcels or forms agreements with their owners, Fitzpatrick said.

In approving the district, the commissioners also authorized it to borrow up to $8 million for public improvements. Mientka wants to build water and wastewater infrastructure to tap into Colorado Springs Utilities.

The area's water district, Rock Creek Mesa, provides water to about 300 homes and doesn't have resources to serve more.

Mientka said the new district could offer wastewater services to residents who now use cesspools or septic tanks, because the existing water district does not offer sanitation services.

The new district also could provide water to residents who truck in water because the existing district can't accommodate them, he said.

Mientka emphasized that none of the current property owners would be forced to pay taxes to the new district. They could petition to join the district, a switch that would require county approval.

The Equity Group has met with Utilities and likely would need a special contract to connect with its water and wastewater system and serve properties outside city limits, Utilities spokeswoman Natalie Eckhart said.

Utilities has similar agreements with Donala and Security water and sanitation districts, she said.

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