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Peterson Air Force Base announces possible 200-acre expansion

September 17, 2015 Updated: September 17, 2015 at 7:45 pm
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Peterson Air Force Base may expand another 200 acres under a land deal with Colorado Springs that could pave the way for more units to join the installation.

The deal, which is under "final review" at the Pentagon, would grow the base by 15 percent and open space to construct new buildings on land currently used for parking, said Col. Douglas A. Schiess, commander of the 21st Space Wing. A Colorado Army National Guard unit may be among the installation's newcomers, should the land deal be approved, he said.

Schiess mentioned the possible land deal during the annual State of the Wing address - his first since taking command three months ago.

"This space will help us to be able to provide more mission growth here at Peterson," Schiess said.

The Department of Defense leases about 85 percent of the roughly 1,300-acre installation from Colorado Springs and provides firefighting services for the nearby Colorado Springs Airport in exchange.

The new land is northeast of the base - directly north of the airport's eastern runway, west of Marksheffel Road and south of Space Village Avenue.

Colorado Springs owns 251 acres of land there, and Colorado Springs School District 11 owns 10 acres - all of which remains undeveloped grassland.

Constructing tall buildings there would be impossible, because of its location at the end of a runway. As a result, the land would be used for parking lots - opening space now used for parking as possible sites for new facilities, Schiess said.

Conceptual plans displayed at Thursday's event showed new facilities replacing parking lots near the headquarters of Air Force Space Command, U.S. Northern Command and Army Space and Missile Defense Command, though the purpose of the facilities remains unknown.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said he met with Peterson officials earlier in the week for more in-depth briefings, and said Peterson will likely soon grow.

"There are other missions that I think may well move here in the next couple years, if we can adjust some land things," said Suthers, who also mentioned possible changes to the base's golf course. "So the Air Force, consistent with Peterson's situation, is very optimistic about future growth, and we're really pleased to hear that."

The base is in early discussions with the National Guard about locating a unit on the base, Schiess said. However, he stressed those talks are still preliminary.

Overall, the wing remains "strong," and it has worked recently to strengthen partnerships with a bevy of outside agencies and organizations, including Colorado Springs Utilities and the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, he said.

Moments before mentioning the possible land deal, though, Schiess lamented the uncertainty surrounding the national defense budget. A chief concern is whether lawmakers on Capitol Hill can strike a budget deal by the start of the federal fiscal year on Oct. 1.

"It's not like we can park a jet and save fuel," Schiess said, noting the wing is responsible for satellite operations and missile warning systems.

He also stressed the need for funding of a new dental clinic to stay on track. The clinic is currently housed in a modular unit and construction of a new facility is slated to begin in 2016, with completion expected in 2018, said Col. John Safar of the 21st Dental Squadron.

Delays in military construction funding, however, could threaten that timeline, Schiess said.

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