Parks, infill advocate Gaebler seeking second term on council

March 9, 2017 Updated: March 9, 2017 at 5:07 pm
photo - Jill Gaebler February 3, 2017. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Jill Gaebler February 3, 2017. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

Planning, parks and plain talk are the hallmarks of Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler's nearly four years on the Colorado Springs City Council.

Gaebler - who's seeking re-election in the central city and Old North End District 5 - headed the city's Infill and Redevelopment Committee, which wrote a plan for filling the city's empty gaps.

It encourages developers to tackle the one-third of the city that is undeveloped, as well as blighted or underdeveloped areas, rather than annexing land, which requires extending city services.

"It's actually a fiscally conservative message," Gaebler said. "We should not be building new roads when we can't maintain the ones we have. The plan gives tools and a road map to do just that."

That document will become part of the city's comprehensive plan, which is being developed over two years to outline "the voice and values of what our community wants," she said.

With her keen interest in urban development, Gaebler also sponsored a construction defects ordinance last year to limit legal claims against builders of multifamily housing.

Gaebler, a former member of the city's Parks Advisory Board and an athletic devotee of city parks, won kudos and scorn last May for her vote against trading the city's Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor.

Council members Helen Collins and Bill Murray also dissented in the 6-3 vote approving the swap.

"I am obviously a huge parks advocate and probably use our parks more than others on the City Council," said Gaebler, who at 50 is the council's youngest member. "On principle, I'm opposed to the idea we would trade or sell our priceless park land. It's impossible to put a price on land you can never get back on this Earth."

The trade was strongly backed by Mayor John Suthers, the city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services and most of the city's movers and shakers, including some who now oppose re-election of Gaebler and Collins.

"I knew that vote would be a defining moment," Gaebler said. "But it was the right decision, and I stand by that decision today."

Gaebler said she's seeking re-election to the $6,250-a-year job because major decisions on the horizon will need attention from experienced elected officials who know how to weigh the pros and cons and foresee unintended consequences.

Those include an annexation agreement for the huge Banning Lewis Ranch on the city's east side and development of southwest downtown.

"We are trying to provide infrastructure and public safety. I think it's important we not have all development and redevelopment on the backs of the taxpayers."

She's also focused on creating a vibrant downtown attractive to pedestrians and cyclists and a business-friendly climate where companies and young, educated professionals want to be.

"I'm very proud to have voted for the Commercial Aeronautical Zone," she said, which provides tax incentives to attract businesses to the Colorado Springs Airport and "has increased routes very important to business."

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