The Colorado Springs City Council split Tuesday over a proposal to build new duplexes across about 12 acres in the northwest area of town, over concerns the homes would be too close to the noise and vibrations of passing trains. 

The board voted 5 to 4 to approve new zoning for the new one-story duplexes planned for the property along Mark Dabling Boulevard and south of Woodmen Road after discussing the dangers that high decibels and coal dust can pose to residents and the benefits of additional housing near transit hubs. The project is along the BNSF Railway tracks on formerly industrial zoned property and bus stops serving the city and state. 

Councilman Wayne Williams supported the infill project, known as Mark Dabling Cottages, saying that it will provide needed housing and that the industrial zoned property has stood vacant for decades. 

"This is not an efficient use of the property. ... If there was a need for this in the current zone it would have been filled long ago," he said. 

Council members Yolanda Avila, Randy Helms, Nancy Henjum and Tom Strand also supported the project. 

Councilman Dave Donelson was among those opposed because of the health effects exposure to loud noise can cause. 

"The train goes by and the ground shakes and it’s extremely loud," he said. 

City staff members said the city doesn't have criteria to govern the noise levels of trains near residential areas or how close the residential development can come to trains, and that the project couldn't be denied on those grounds. Planner Daniel Sexton said he was also unsure how close homes would be to the rails.  

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The developer's representative, Brian Bucher, said the homes would be designed to mitigate noise with steps like insulation and dual or triple pane glazing on the windows. 

The developer may also put in other outdoor measures to help address the noise, Sexton said. 

He also noted the houses will be built over an old coal mine, but that the Colorado Geologic Survey had no outstanding concerns about the site. 

The agency wrote it is review of the project: "There is a low but non-zero risk of subsidence and ground deformation at the surface as a result of subsurface void collapse and erosion into mine voids and rubble zones. Mine subsidence should therefore be disclosed as a geologic hazard on this site."

The developers have committed to disclosing the potential for subsidence and will not build homes with basements, according to the agency's letter. 

The council did not discuss the mine. 

Contact the writer at or (719) 429-9264.

Mary Shinn has worked at The Gazette since 2020 covering city hall, local politics and environmental issues. Previously, she worked for The Durango Herald from 2013 to 2020 covering city hall, education, environment and agriculture. In 2013, Shinn was a News 21 fellow and worked on an investigative series focused on veteran's issues. 

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