Some Monument-area residents are making last-ditch efforts to protest a developers’ plans to expand a foothills subdivision that’s been in the works for more than a decade.
The residents say that developer Classic Homes hasn’t considered the effects that adding 180 houses to the Forest Lakes development will have on wildlife, infrastructure and neighboring property owners southeast of Mount Herman.
The opponents fear that, if a wildfire were to spark nearby, residents of the new homes would clog local roads, and people might not get out in time.
“Their lives are going to be in extreme danger,” 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 CEO Doug Stimple said that the Colorado Springs-based company has met the requirements of the county’s land development code and plans to take other steps to reduce fire risks in the project area, including mitigation such as tree removal.
He added that Classic Homes “bent over backwards” to respond to residents’ concerns during a two-and-a-half year public process, sometimes changing the development plan to address the issues they raised.
Such conflicts between developers and neighboring property owners are becoming increasingly frequent in the county, where subdivisions — once more common in urban and suburban areas — are now cropping up more often 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.”
Classic Homes still needs final plat approval from the Board of County Commissioners for the additional 180 homes, which the homebuilder hopes to start constructing this fall, Stimple said.
However, county commissioners won’t have much discretionary leeway in that decision because it is to be based on the developer’s adherence to technical requirements, said Craig Dossey, executive director of county Planning and Community Development.
Forest Lakes’ first phase, just east of the site, has about 260 homes that have been built or are under construction, Stimple said.
The original plans for the subdivision were approved in 2002, according to the county’s planning department.
Nearby resident Mark McMillen, who said he’s evacuated for 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 located relatively close together, compared with homes in the surrounding area, McMillen said.
“It is a recipe for disaster,” he said.
Stimple has refuted claims that residents of the new development will be unsafe.
One primary road will be constructed to and from the second phase of the subdivision, and another two-lane road is planned to 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,” said Stimple.
The project’s opponents have also said that building more homes on the site would be detrimental to the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, which has what the federal government considers “critical habitat” within the project area.
Stimple has said that the mouse habitat areas within the development will be open space.
County commissioners unanimously approved the development plan for the subdivision’s second phase in April, after Classic Homes proposed adding 46 more houses. bringing the total number of dwellings to 180.
“The favoritism and bias towards the developers appeared blatantly obvious,” resident Dan Irey, who’s spoken out against the development, said in an email.
But Commissioner Holly Williams, whose district includes the project site, said her decision was based on the plan complying with the county’s 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.
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