Residents in a growing northeastern Colorado Springs neighborhood are concerned new homes planned for their area could leave them trapped in traffic if they need to evacuate during a wildfire.
Some residents in North Fork at Briargate, a still-developing subdivision north of Old Ranch Road and north Powers Boulevard, aren't opposed to more homes north of them. But, they say developers haven't shown any plans for an escape route for the residents of the hundreds of new homes in the proposed Kettle Creek North and North Fork subdivisions.
"We are asking for disaster if we have an emergency," North Fork resident Samuel Bryant said.
Bryant lives in the North Fork neighborhood, which will have about 740 homes when it is built out. Kettle Creek North is planned north of North Fork and, if it is approved by Colorado Springs City Council, could have about 246 homes in its first phase at maximum density.
Bryant and some of his neighbors foresee the two routes out of the neighborhood, Thunder Mountain Avenue and Forest Creek Drive, filling up in an emergency as the residents of the hundreds of future homes rush to Old Ranch Road.
"We need to go back to the drawing board," resident Kirstine Garofalo said.
Some City Council members share residents' concerns and postponed votes in late May on concept plans for Kettle Creek North along with a request to rezone the property. The council asked city staff to work with the Colorado Department of Transportation to determine if an emergency access road could be established between the North Fork neighborhood and Powers Boulevard, a state highway in that area. The council plans to take the issue up again on Tuesday.
"It's a job half finished," Councilman Bill Murray said.
Colorado Springs Fire Marshal Brett Lacey cautioned against an emergency access road in the area.
"They are an enforcement nightmare and they are not successful," he said, of emergency access roads.
Lacey told the City Council the roads into the subdivision were not ideal, but they could be "workable" in an emergency.
Councilman Don Knight was among those pushing for a solution, because a limited number of access roads caused problems for residents of the Peregrine subdivision on the west side of Colorado Springs when they tried to flee the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012, he said. Some Peregrine residents spent three hours trying to evacuate using three main roads, he said.
North Fork resident Dennis Hatch said he was glad the City Council was taking the neighborhood's concerns seriously and looking into a connection with Powers. He said he attended prior meetings where developers left residents without answers.
"Finally, someone said it makes sense for us to be that concerned about it," he said.
However, providing a road into Kettle Creek North and North Fork to the northwest or east is challenging, said John Maynard, with N.E.S., a Colorado Springs land planning company representing the landowners, the Venezia family, at the council meeting.
Building a road from the subdivision to Colorado 83 would require a bridge over Kettle Creek that would cost millions of dollars, more than the land is worth, Maynard said.
A road cannot be built from Kettle Creek North or North Fork to connect with Howells Road to the east because, when the property was annexed, the developer agreed that no extension to Howells would be built, said Hannah Van Nimwegen, a city planner.
A Black Forest resident who spoke during the meeting said county residents in the area see Howells Road as a demarcation between rural and urban properties and any attempt to bring traffic from the city subdivisions onto Howells Road would be opposed by Black Forest residents.
"We will be contacting our county representatives to ensure that there is never an access from the city subdivisions onto Howells Road," he said.
Howells Road is a good boundary between urban and rural development for the foreseeable future, said Ryan Parsell, a county spokesman. But it's impossible to predict if property owners along Howells might try to have the area annexed by the city at some point, he said.
Maynard said he asked the Colorado Springs Fire Department if he should work on an emergency access road to Howells and the answer was 'no,' he said. He also pointed out that a road from the city subdivisions that would connect to Howells Road should be hashed out by the city and county.
"If there is a communitywide issue that needs to be addressed, it needs to be addressed by government agencies talking to each other," he said.