Strawberry Hill appraisal questioned, but land swap deal is unlikely to change
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Colorado Springs traded more than 180 acres of open space at Strawberry Hill with The Broadmoor in exchange for 371 acres in 14 parcels in 2016. (Gazette file photo)

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The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday unanimously ended the lawsuit seeking to overturn the controversial Strawberry Hill land swap between Colorado Springs and The Broadmoor hotel.

Local nonprofit Save Cheyenne sued in 2016 after the city traded more than 180 acres at Strawberry Hill to The Broadmoor for 371 acres in 14 parcels. The Colorado Court of Appeals in February unanimously upheld a District Court judge’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit.

Save Cheyenne appealed to the state Supreme Court, which declined to take up the case without explanation.

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“I think this is the end,” said group President Kent Obee. “Everything’s pretty gloomy. I’ve literally had people weeping in my living room this afternoon.”

Save Cheyenne had argued that the City Council couldn’t sell or trade Strawberry Hill without a public vote because city voters originally approved the property purchase in 1885. City attorneys, however, argued that Colorado Springs’ status as a home rule city allowed the council to OK the swap.

Broadmoor officials could not immediately be reached.

Mayor John Suthers said the Supreme Court’s decision is a welcome one, and the city was confident in the case as the lawsuit progressed.

“Given the value of the land the city received in the exchange, not the least of which secured property for the Manitou Incline and easements for the popular trails including Barr Trail, we believe the exchange was in the best interest of the vast majority of residents,” Suthers said.

Despite the loss, Obee said he has no regrets.

“My feeling was it was worth the fight,” he said. “While the court has said legally and technically the city had the right to do what it did, my continued feeling is that morally and ethically it was wrong.”

Obee said he and other members of Save Cheyenne are considering asking the City Council to place a question on a future ballot that would prevent city parks and open spaces from being traded or sold without a referendum.

“It would be good to have that kind of protection for all of our park land,” he said. “We would hope that the council would see the wisdom of putting something like that on the ballot. Or, if need be, we could always petition to get something on the ballot, which is a lot more work and a lot more time.”

Strawberry Hill sits southwest of Evans and Mesa avenues. Aside from an 8.4-acre building envelope in a meadow on the property’s north side, where The Broadmoor plans a picnic area and horse stable, the land will remain open to the public.

No ground has been broken on the site as The Broadmoor awaited the court’s decision.

The Broadmoor is owned by the Denver-based Anschutz Corp., whose Clarity Media Group owns The Gazette.

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