Colorado Springs housing market

Monument-area residents are voicing their concerns about a planned housing development that they fear could lead to wildfires.

Some Monument area residents are making last-ditch efforts to thwart Classic Homes’ plans to expand a foothills subdivision.

They say the developer hasn’t considered how another 180 homes in Forest Lakes will affect wildlife, infrastructure and neighbors southeast of Mount Herman, or how new residents could clog the roads that would be used to escape from wildfires.

But the Colorado Springs-based developer has met requirements of El Paso County’s land development code and plans to remove trees and take other steps to mitigate fire risks, said Classic Homes CEO Doug Stimple.

The developer has “bent over backwards” to respond to residents’ concerns during a 2½-year public process, even changing the development plan to address some issues they raised, Stimple said.

Conflicts between developers and the property’s neighbors are becoming more frequent in the county, as subdivisions have begun to crop up on rural lands.

“Northern El Paso County is growing at such an alarming rate now already,” said Debbie Doty, a resident opposed to the plan. “I don’t think the infrastructure can keep up already with the development. They’re just adding more houses and more traffic and more people to a system that can’t sustain what we’ve already got.”

The new residents’ “lives are going to be in extreme danger” if a wildfire occurs, said Connie Connolly, who lives north of the site. “We’re not just thinking of ourselves. We’re thinking of the people who are going to be there.”

Classic Homes still needs final plat approval from the Board of County Commissioners for the additional 180 homes, which the builder hopes to start work on this fall, Stimple said.

The commissioners won’t have much leeway in that decision, though, because it’s based on the developer’s adherence to technical requirements, said Craig Dossey, executive director of the county’s Planning and Community Development.

Forest Lakes’ first phase has about 260 homes already built or under construction, Stimple said.

Original plans for the subdivision were approved in 2002, according to the county’s planning department.

Resident Mark McMillen, who said he’s evacuated in three past wildfires, called the plan to build more homes “foolhardy and dangerous,” given the fire risk.

The site, south of Doolittle Road and east of U.S. Forest Service land, is heavily wooded. Plus, the homes will be relatively close together, compared with homes in the surrounding area, McMillen said.

“It is a recipe for disaster,” he said.

But Stimple said the residents won’t be unsafe. One primary road will be built for the subdivision, and another two-lane road will be available in the event of an emergency, Stimple said.

“Our road system is designed and has capacity to handle far more traffic than we’re putting on it, so I don’t believe that argument has a lot of merit,” he said.

The project’s opponents also said have said the expansion would be detrimental to the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, which has “critical habitat” there, according to the federal government.

Stimple has said the mouse habitat areas in the development will be open space.

Commissioners unanimously approved the development plan for the subdivision’s second phase in April, after Classic Homes proposed adding 46 houses for a total of 180.

“The favoritism and bias towards the developers appeared blatantly obvious,” resident Dan Irey said by email.

But Commissioner Holly Williams, whose district includes the project site, said her decision was based on the plan complying with the land-use code.

“There’s a list of standards that they (Classic Homes) are required to meet, and they had met those standards,” she said.

Load comments