El Paso County planning commissioners this week approved a request to rezone about 20 acres of land in the northern portion of the county despite heavy neighborhood opposition, a step forward in a developer’s plans to build nearly 40 homes on roughly 55 acres adjacent to the towns of Monument and Palmer Lake.
Planning commissioners voted 5-3 Thursday, with commissioner Grace Blea-Nunez absent, to approve the request by developer JZ's Land Development LLC to rezone 20.88 acres of land at the intersection of Colorado 105 and Red Rock Ranch Drive, about a mile south of Palmer Lake. The developer plans to build seven single-family homes on ½-acre lots and three homes on 2 ½-acre lots, said Ingrid Richter of Olive Real Estate Group, representing JZ's Land Development. The new zoning allows for approximately six more lots than permitted under the previous 5-acre zoning, she said.
The rezoning is the first step in plans to build out the parcel in conjunction with development on a 33-acre parcel directly east of the property, which allows ½-acre lots. That property is also owned by the developer, Richter said. In total, about 37 new homes would be built on both parcels in a development called Red Rock Acres, providing much needed housing in booming El Paso County, she said.
But residents opposed to the project said Thursday they were concerned about increased traffic and wildfire risk, the availability of water and wastewater services to serve the new development, and potential damage to natural wildlife habitats as deer, birds and the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse traverse the property.
“New development must be well managed against the necessity of preservation and protection,” said Elizabeth Lonnquist of the Red Rock Ranch Homeowners Association, which includes neighboring developments Red Rock Ranch, Cloven Hoof Estates and Forest View Acres. “We need to accommodate growth that preserves the natural environment.”
Assistant County Attorney Lori Seago advised planning commissioners that traffic, water, emergency services and wildlife were not part of the review criteria for the request to rezone the property.
“Not that they’re not legitimate concerns, but they’re not part of the review criteria for the rezone,” Seago said.
Commissioners can consider those concerns during the next phase, when the developer will bring forward preliminary site plans for review, county planners said.
Residents said they were worried if those concerns weren’t addressed Thursday, they would be more difficult to address later in the development process. Richter said developers were aware of residents' concerns and were working to address them.
“Our goal is working with (neighbors) to figure out how we do accommodate growth and maintain the character of this beautiful sub-area of the Pikes Peak region,” Richter said.
Residents also argued the property is not compatible with other developments in the area, criteria planning commissioners could consider as part of Thursday’s request.
About seven single-family homes would be built on ½-acre lots on about 5 acres on the north side of the property, near where most traffic currently is along the Colorado 105 corridor, Richter told commissioners. The remaining three homes would be built on 2 ½-acre lots on about 15 ½ acres on the south side of the property, closer to the existing Cloven Hoof Estates neighborhood where homes are built on 1-acre lots. Monument Creek cuts through the property and splits the north and south portions, allowing for a combination of densities within Red Rock Acres, with higher densities to the north and lower densities south of the creek, Richter said.
“We’re trying to minimize any impact this development might have on our neighbors to the south and keep Monument Creek as a natural waterway and open space,” Richter said.
Residents argued the new zoning is not consistent with land zoning in all directions, including to the north and west, where the parcels are zoned for 5-acre lots.
“Once you approve new density that’s 10 times heavier, that’s in perpetuity,” resident Tom Nicholson said. “That’s a concern. I think this decision is the most critical decision of the whole application. We should be very careful.”
A woman who said she lived in Red Rock Ranch said the planned development didn’t fit the “rural look and feel” of the area.
“It seems to me there are very few places close by on less than 1-acre lots,” she said. “I think it would really change the look and feel of our community, which is a small community.”
But Cloven Hoof Estates, for example, is also zoned to allow ½-acre lots, though it was built out in the late 1950s with 1-acre lots, Richter said.
Before voting against approving the rezoning request, Planning Commissioner Jay Carlson said he was also concerned the planned development isn’t compatible with surrounding neighborhoods.
“This is a few houses in either direction and it doesn’t make a huge difference,” he said. “The bigger problem is the 30-acre property and the half-acre lots there.”
The rezoning request now moves before the Board of El Paso County Commissioners for consideration.