Homes and businesses could be filling up more than 800 acres of prairie along east Woodmen Road over the next 15 years if the Colorado Springs City Council approves plans for the property.
The Colorado Springs Planning Commission recently recommended the city annex 887 acres along both sides of Woodmen between Mohawk and Golden Sage roads for the Banning Lewis Ranch North neighborhood proposed by Nor'wood Development. The new subdivision could have up to 2,900 new homes, 40 acres of commercial development, a community park and room for an elementary school across about 800 acres, according plans submitted to the city. Nor'wood anticipates a high school may be built directly north of the subdivision and has set aside 10 acres to serve a Falcon School District 49 campus on its northern edge, said Andrea Barlow, co-owner of NES, a planning company representing Nor'wood.
The city planning commission recommended the city council approve the annexation and high-level plans for the development in August on a 7-1 vote. The council does not yet have a timeline for voting on the annexation because the annexation agreement between the developer and the city is in development, city spokeswoman Kim Melchor said.
Planning commissioner Natalie Wilson was opposed to the annexation and raised questions about the city's growth.
"It doesn’t seem like sustainable practice to keep sprawling," Wilson said. "When we are going to say: 'This is it. We are not going to expand anymore?"
The city has enough space, it is just not used efficiently, she said.
Planning Commissioner Jim Raughton pointed out Banning Lewis Ranch North will rely on city water services, which is more sustainable than neighboring subdivisions, such as Sterling Ranch, that rely either directly or indirectly on groundwater.
Councilman Andy Pico, who represents the city district closest to the proposed subdivision, expects city growth in the northeast will naturally slow as development reaches county neighborhoods where residents are not interested in joining the city.
"Falcon doesn’t want to annex," he said.
No one spoke against the development at the planning commission meeting. But a handful of residents expressed concerns about additional traffic and loss of the rural character in emails to the city.
Resident John Tompkins is among those concerned about additional traffic along Marksheffel Road, a major north-south corridor, that needs to be widened and improved, he said, in an interview. The city is planning to improve the road but has yet to fund construction, he said.
"I understand they are strapped for cash," Tompkins said. "What they can do is stop the building until the road can be expanded."
Widening Marksheffel from North Carefree Circle to Stetson Hills Boulevard is estimated to cost between $30 million to $40 million and improving the road from Stetson Hills Boulevard to Dublin Boulevard would be an additional $20 million to $25 million, Melchor said. The city does not have funding available for these projects, she said.
However, Oakwood Homes, a developer working in Banning Lewis Ranch, will be required to add turn lanes along Marksheffel Road from Vista Cerro Avenue to Woodmen Road, Melchor said. Construction is expected to start next year, she said.
The Banning Lewis Ranch North subdivision is not required to improve Marksheffel Road. The subdivision will eventually be served by the future north-south Banning Lewis Parkway that will connect with Woodmen Road and the future east-west extension of Briargate Parkway through Sterling Ranch. All of those future connections will be required as the area grows and will ease traffic, Barlow said.
"By bringing Banning Lewis Ranch North into the city, the city has control over that infrastructure in that location," she said.
The first phase of development in the new neighborhood will be a commercial center near the future intersection of Woodmen and Banning Lewis Parkway, plans for the development show.
Homes will be built on larger lots along the outer edges of the development to help provide a transition from the new development to the existing rural homes, Barlow said. Nor'wood is also planning to provide a 50-foot buffer between the new subdivision and existing homes.