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The sign for Monument Town Hall and Police Department

MONUMENT • Requests for annexation of a total of 162 acres on both sides of I-25 and Palmer Divide Road between El Paso and Douglas counties into the Town of Monument came under scrutiny last week.

At the Nov. 7 Monument Board of Trustees meeting, held at Monument Community Presbyterian Church, the board voted for a continuance of a fact-finding resolution regarding the annexation so it could go before the planning commission, during its Nov. 9 meeting.

Property owners Monument Ridge East LLC and Interstate 25 Properties LTD submitted a request to annex about 71 acres east of I-25 and south of Palmer Divide Road between El Paso and Douglas counties, and a second application for the annexation of approximately 91 acres known as Monument Ridge West, south of Palmer Divide Road and between Beacon Lite Road and I-25, west of the interstate.

The proposed annexation is considered a “flagpole annexation” which includes I-25 right of way running south, a property contiguous to Monument’s existing town limits and connected by a thin strip of land.

The Monument Ridge East request was for a land use of “residential single-family attached” as well as a mix of housing options.

Prior to the trustees’ review of the annexation fact-finding resolution, town attorney Joe Rivera explained the board did not have the option to approve the resolution because it had not appeared before the planning commission prior for review for annexation and land use issues.

The trustees’ options were to either deny approval or continue it so it could go before the planning commission. Rivera said among the reasons the resolution had not gone before the commission thus far was that the annexation agreement was still being worked out at the time.

A vote to continue the resolution would mean it would appear before the trustees at the board’s Dec. 5 regular meeting after the planning commission had the opportunity to give town staff direction on it.

The board was met with little support for approval of the resolution during public comment, a residents near both possible developments cited concerns including potential strain on Monument’s water infrastructure, which would only apply only to the west development since no town water lines cross I-25. The east development would be serviced by Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District.

Other concerns expressed were tree removal and residential lot sizes within Monument Ridge West, the effect on wildlife, wetlands within the east development plan, and the possible allowance of more “cookie-cutter” apartment buildings or other multi-family housing.

Kenneth Kimple brought up several questions at both the trustee and planning meetings regarding the intent of the developments. He asked if the developers had brought the proposal to El Paso County and, if so, wanted to know the outcome.

The only opinion from public comment which was somewhat in favor of the annexation noted it could be a way for the Town of Monument to decide what actually gets developed in that area, rather than leaving it up to the county.

David Whitehead of Whitehead Engineering LLC, representing the applicant, said as the annexation agreement was finalized, the developer was willing to commit to nof multi-family apartment buildings or condominiums in both developments. Whitehead said the developer had already committed to 9-10 acre single-family detached housing lots in the east development.

Whitehead said the applicant at this time could not commit to planning solely single-family detached properties in the west development.

Trustees voted to continue the resolution.

At its Nov. 9 meeting, the planning commission voted to postpone the review of the resolution.

“I just don’t have any information here,” commissioner Cathy Green said. “This may be a great project, but it says housing is an expensive thing for a town to take on whether its streets or infrastructure or police, and I don’t know what we’re getting back from the applicant. What’s the applicant’s part of this contract?”

Commissioner Danny Ours said he felt the town needed to annex the area.

“If the Town of Monument does not have some control over that, God only knows what we’re going to get in future years,” he said. “The applicant has an investment, and the applicant is not just going to let that investment sit there. Something is going to happen, so I’m not against annexation.”

Ours said his concern was moving forward without the developer meeting with community members to further hear and adjust for concerns from citizens and the commission prior to applying for zoning, as some developments have done over the last year or so.

“I know I’ve said this so many times people are getting tired of me saying it, the town’s comprehensive plan says residential development will be subordinate to commercial,” Ours said. “This is not subordinate to commercial. I’m not sure how we resolve that issue.”

However, the resolution could still appear before the Board of Trustees at its Dec. 5 meeting, where the board could uphold the planning dommission’s decision, he said. Other commissioners agreed although annexation was preferred, the requirements on the resources of the town were unclear and moving forward would be “operating in the dark.”

Commissioner Cathy Green later said she would like to see lower density lots, although she isn’t a huge proponent for “low density development.” She said looking at the residential areas to the east and west of the acreage, lower density simply makes sense.

Commissioner Martin Trujillo echoed that the commission is unable to make a decision on the zoning of the area without knowing what is involved in the annexation agreement. Trujillo noted Whitehead has done everything correctly and as instructed. However, working with a third-party developer has left information unavailable for the commission to make an educated decision.

While Ours recommended the annexation be approved with a PUD zoning, the question of being able to do such an action was discussed. Newly hired Monument Planning Director Sheila Booth, who was introduced during the meeting, said, noting she was yet not up to speed on the town’s zoning, that she had spoken with the town attorney earlier and was advised to table both aspects of the resolution. Tabling would give the town and the applicant the opportunity to further negotiate the facets of the annexation agreement, Booth said.

The motion to table the annexation and rezoning until January which was approved 5-1.

Notably, among other actions made during the board of trustees’ Nov. 7 meeting was a resolution to authorize the mayor to enter into a legal services agreement between the Town of Monument and Hoffman, Parker, Wilson & Carberry, O.C.

Town Manager Mike Foreman said interim attorney Joe Rivera had opted to discontinue services after finishing up a handful of the town’s existing legal matters. Foreman said five firms were contacted to make requests for proposals, but Hoffman, Parker, Wilson & Carberry was the only firm to respond. The firm has performed legal counsel services for the town in the past.

Foreman also said with funds in the budget for a town attorney, the search to fill the full-time position would continue. The board approved the resolution 4-3.

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