Colorado Springs City Council on Tuesday approved a new subdivision in northeast Colorado Springs despite concerns from area residents that the developer doesn't plan to provide sufficient roads for evacuation in an emergency.
The council voted 5 to 4 to approve the plan for the neighborhood and the needed zone change of 61 acres northeast of Old Ranch Road and Powers Boulevard.
Some council members who approved the project said they saw value in the neighbors' objections that traffic could become congested as residents from hundreds of future homes attempt to leave in a wildfire, but they want the city, El Paso County and developers to work together on a solution as the area grows.
"Going forward we need to be much much more proactive," Councilman David Geislinger said.
Some residents who raised concerns live in the developing North Fork at Briargate neighborhood near Pine Creek High School that will include about 740 houses when built out. The council's approval allows the Venezia family to build Kettle Creek North, a subdivision of about 246 homes on property north of the North Fork.
All residents will have to use Thunder Mountain Avenue and Forest Creek Drive to get to Old Ranch Road to leave their neighborhood, which could cause slow efforts to leave in a wildfire, residents said.
Colorado Springs Fire Marshall Brett Lacey told council members the road layout was "not desirable," but "workable."
Councilman Bill Murray said he did not think enough work had been undertaken with El Paso County to secure a connection to Howells Road to provide an eastern exit from the neighborhood.
"We do not have evidence they won’t let us use Howells," he said.
Howells Road has been viewed as a barrier between urban and rural development, and county residents have opposed connecting it to city subdivisions.
Councilman Don Knight previously raised concerns about insufficient access roads into the subdivision, but ultimately did not back the project because Thunder Mountain Avenue is a smaller road than envisioned in the master plan for the project.
"If this has not been built into the master plan, we should not be allowing additional development," he said.
Council members two weeks ago asked staff to look into whether the Colorado Department of Transportation would allow an emergency access road that could connect the neighborhood to Powers Boulevard, a state highway. But the agency opposed the connection, city traffic engineer Todd Frisbie said.
Academy School District 20 rejected a road across its land to connect with Howells Road, said John Maynard, with N.E.S., a Colorado Springs land planning company representing the landowners, the Venezia family. The district plans to build a elementary school near the intersection of Day Dreamer Drive and Thunder Mountain Avenue.
It would also be too expensive for the developer to build a bridge northwest across Kettle Creek to connect with Highway 83, he said.
The issue will likely have to revisited because the Venezia family owns land east of the Kettle Creek North subdivision and when a proposal is made to develop that land, another road could be required.
Geislinger said he was concerned developers were not proposing a road connection now, knowing it will be needed in the future.
"Ultimately that’s something that needs to be addressed," said Geislinger, who voted for the project.