Neighbors helping neighbors.

Really wonderful letters from Westside Watch neighbors helping neighbors from across the city.  You will see a disturbing pattern of behavior in areas like really bad traffic studies like the Broadmoor residents faced in the road closure attempt of W.  Cheyenne Mtn Blvd in 2013, or the total ignoring of the clearance evacuation time concerns the neighbors opposing the Broadmoor Convention Center showed in their appeal in 2019.  We believe there's a clear pattern of Developer Supremacy whereby our leadership votes on behalf of the developers at all costs -- including public safety.  Time for us all to unite and neighbor help neighbor, city-wide, to stop our elected leaders, incredibly, from repeatedly voting against our best interest.

Mr. Tom Strand

President, Colorado Springs City Council

 

Dear Mr. Strand,

 

I recently attended a breakfast meeting where Mayor Suthers eloquently outlined why Colorado Springs is the most desirable city in America in which to live and work. But, as eloquent and convincing as the Mayor was, his presentation included some inconsistencies I find troublesome. As the members of the Council know, I have been adamantly opposed to the 2424 Garden of the Gods project and have joined enthusiastically in the efforts of the Westside Watch to stop this ill-advised and poorly-planned project.  It's no secret that Mayor Suthers supports this project, and I believe, for reasons upon which I will now elaborate, he may have lost some objectivity. It seems to me that he may be all but saying, "My mind is made up; stop confusing me with more facts."

 

Just what are the "more facts" I submit the Mayor--indeed all of us--must consider? My opposition--again shared in pertinent part by the Westside Watch--is that before the representative government of Colorado Springs makes any decisions on future growth, it must consider whether there exists sufficient infrastructure to enable safe and timely evacuation of the citizens from the area where the proposed development is contemplated, particularly development in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI).  This is even more significant in the west side area and, from my point of view, the Mountain Shadows area where I reside. In this connection, the Mayor also spoke about his concern for another wildfire and said "it is a matter of when, not if."  He then spoke about the new wildfire mitigation fund and the need to be prepared for the next wildfire. In the Q & A session that followed, I asked Mayor Suthers why the planning staff has not considered an Evacuation Model Study in the planning process. His reply was forceful and succinct. He stated it was not necessary because the Chiefs of the Fire and Police Departments have assured him they can safely evacuate the citizens. He further stated, "I would rather rely on my experts than a hired gun paid to reach a predetermined conclusion."

 

It is true that the Westside Watch was forced to hire evacuation experts who also consult for the federal government. Neither one of those entities has paid them to reach predetermined conclusions. The results of those expert, professional studies will be presented to the Council on Monday. In my opinion--shared by many West Side citizens--the planning process, writ large, but especially the planning staff the Mayor leads, shows that we are not considering all the facts to make an informed, sound decision. As the old adage goes, "Failing to plan is like planning to fail." Many communities across the nation in WUI environments that experienced catastrophic wildfires are reaching out to these same experts for help and guidance. Why is the City of Colorado Springs doing just the opposite? Having more information on which to base life and death decisions should be a very obvious choice to make. However, the city as a whole, seems to be ignoring this information. Again, why is the city acting this way? They did it in 2010 and the nearly tragic, perhaps foreseeable result was the difficult Waldo Canyon Fire evacuation two years later. KRDO recently presented this issue in a segment that aired on November 18, 2021 in which I ask whether we were better prepared now than we were nearly 10 years ago. Obviously, I don't think we are, but I may not be correct. I do respectfully submit that we cannot answer that question without considering all relevant evidence including--but especially--the Evacuation Model studies about to be presented to you.

 

Fleeing the Flames: Is Colorado Springs prepared for a major wildfire evacuation? - KRDO

 

During that Q & A period following his excellent presentation, Mayor Suthers also called the opposition to the development on the west side NIMBY’ism.  The whole westside of Colorado Springs is in the WUI, and represents more than 40,000 citizens. The Waldo Canyon Fire was a wakeup call to all of us, but to assert that the legitimate concerns of citizens are nothing more than selfish NIMBY’ism is as inaccurate as it is short-sighted. I am certainly not opposed to growth, but I AM opposed to irresponsible growth. Failing to consider what we need to do to guarantee the citizens of Colorado Springs they can be timely and safely evacuated, as Mayor Suthers puts it, WHEN the next wildfire occurs, seems to me to be the very definition of irresponsible planning. There absolutely MUST be integrated into the planning process what, if anything, needs to be done (or perhaps more to the point, CAN be done) to improve the evacuation routes and thereby ensure the health and safety of our residents before we approve developments that will add even more residents in an area already proven to be severely at risk. And, it should also be obvious the citizens of the westside should not have been forced to raise money to hire the nationally renowned evacuation experts. The city should have already done this. 

 

These decisions are much too important to be made on the basis of incomplete, deficient facts. The planners must consider and evaluate ALL available evidence, especially the Evacuation Model studies. I ask that you and the other members of Council support the need for an analytical evaluation of our current Westside evacuation times, including the impact of future development already being planned, to help ensure the developers, planners and all City government officials make fully-informed land use decisions affecting the health and safety of the citizens of Colorado Springs. The action we take is too important to be based on incomplete information, especially when more information is available but seems to have been, and continues to be, intentionally ignored. We only have one chance to get this crucially important decision right.

 

We absolutely must hold everyone's feet to the fire. 

 

Very respectfully,

 

HOWARD L. DONALDSON

Colorado Springs

Reaching out to express our concern, opposition, over councils considering rezoning and approval of the 2424 Garden of the Gods apartment project. The fact that no traffic and safety analysis has been completed is absurd. Until such time that this study has been completed you should have no other recourse than to vote it down or delay until accurate and vetted information is available. Our neighborhood, Upper and Lower Skyway will look like a bonfire compared to a campfire in regards to the Waldo Canyon in 2012. Throwing money at fire mitigation is not the answer if it is not combined with proven and accurate safety and evacuation studies using programs,FLEET, available at no cost to the city. The staff position that it is unable to conduct an analysis because of the number of variables is simply dodging the possible outcomes! Can council in good conscience consider developments without current and accurate information? If so we clearly have elected the wrong representatives to our council, something we will strongly lobby and bring to the surface in the next election. This isn’t difficult simply put your constituents, the people you were elected to represent, above those of developers. You are strongly urged to reject or at a minimum delay the decision on the 2424 project!

 

Respectfully

 

Jim Shirley

President Skyway Association

Ltr to Editor 8/21/2021

 

On Tuesday August 24, and going forward, the City Council should vote down every proposed zone change that is brought before them. Why you ask? In the June 22nd hearing on the 2424 Rezoning hearing, the council voted 8-1 requesting that the city conduct an independent traffic study, as Councilors Strand and Skorman stated that they had driven the area and faced heavy congested traffic. The motion was changed to add that the city also conduct an evacuation study in the northwest part of town as the property is at a critical traffic choke point for emergency evacuation, as experienced during the Waldo Canyon Fire 9 years ago. It was further amended by Councilor Williams that asked that the traffic study take into account the expansion of Centennial and 30th streets since the city was spending over $60 million dollars on these two road projects. Both the Traffic Study and the Evacuation Study projects were to have community involvement in defining the scope of work. This was the final motion that was passed by City Council 8-1, with Councilor Randy Helms being the dissenting vote.

 

So what happened? The city planning department screwed over the City Council and the community, who by the way provides tax revenue for their jobs! All the city did was conduct a very narrow traffic study on the closest 3 intersections. Did the city planning staff ask for any Community involvement to help define the scope of work as requested by City Council?  No, even after repeated attempts to become involved, the community was refused any input into what happens in their backyard. This action by the city is very disturbing, and should make the City Council furious, as they were blatantly ignored. The citizens of Colorado Springs should be outraged at how the planning department woefully ignored the City council and the local community. Remember your neighborhood could be next!

 

As noted in many articles written by the Gazette reporter Mary Shinn, the city keeps making excuses as to why they “can’t” conduct an evacuation study. Many find this response by the city preposterous. There is a modeling tool available at no charge that is used by many federal agencies, and more and more local municipalities are using these tools for evacuation modeling especially in the Wildland Urban Interface.  

 

The Citizens of Colorado Springs need to open their eyes to see what the city is doing to our neighborhoods, all the while asking for more money. It is very apparent that the developers are running this city. 

 

Bill Wysong

President, MSCA

Westside Watch 

Dear Mr. Strand,

 

Thank you for listening to us. Please keep doing so. 

 

I hoped I would not have to write a follow-up to the "Open Letter" I sent to you on August 8. I hoped I would never have to say, "I told you so." Now, I have to do both.

 

I just finished reading Kimley-Horn's "Traffic Study Review" of the original study completed by SM Rocha. It contains a lot of words like "methodology" and "Data Collection and Comparison" as well as conclusions about the previous study, but this more or less says it all:  "Therefore, the traffic projections developed and conclusions stated in the development traffic study are believed to be valid." They should have phrased it more honestly and accurately like this: "We have reviewed the original defective, inadequate, irrelevant, non-responsive traffic study and agree that the equally irrelevant conclusions are supported by their suspect methodology." It doesn't really matter how many times the defective SM Rocha Traffic Study is repeated and "validated." If you put lipstick on a pig, it's still a pig. How much did the taxpayers spend on this validation of an irrelevant study?

 

In my original letter, I passed on to you the things my friends and neighbors were saying about the action of the City Council in ordering the city staff to complete a "new" study.  They said it was all smoke and mirrors, frenzied piffle, sound and fury signifying nothing. They said it would be a rubber stamp of the "study" the developers wanted. I was more optimistic, and told them I had more faith in the City Council, and was especially encouraged when you were quoted as saying you would demand justification why an "Evacuation Model Study" could not be done. I maintained then, and I more adamantly submit now, that such a study is absolutely essential. It MUST be done. This Kimley-Horn study does not even come close. Not only does this new study merely re-hash the old one, it does so flagrantly. It does NOT establish to the satisfaction of westside homeowners that EXISTING residents can be safely evacuated in another emergency. And it really ignores the effect that the addition of 5,500 NEW residents would have. In addition to the 2424 Garden of the Gods project, there are multiple high-density apartments now being planned literally across street from 2424 (900 units) and other locations along Centennial Boulevard (for a total of 2,200 units). In short, the city staff did not accomplish what the City Council ordered. The non-responsive study the city staff "requested" must be rejected and an Evacuation Model Study accomplished that focuses on what neither the Kimley-Horn nor the SM Rocha did; namely, answer the following question: will existing infrastructure enable westside residents to be safely evacuated in an emergency? If the answer is no, the developers must chart a meaningful way forward that makes the health and safety of the westside residents paramount.  That is clearly not the case now, and that's why all of the westside residents with whom I have spoken oppose the City Council accepting this latest rubber stamp study like their lives depend on it. 

 

Perhaps they do.

 

Very respectively,

 

Howard L. Donaldson

Colorado Springs

Mr. Tom Strand

President, Colorado Springs City Council

 

Dear Mr. Strand,

 

 

I don't know whether I should be discouraged, disheartened . . . even disgusted, or perhaps all of the above.

 

 

When the City Council reached the nearly unanimous decision in June to postpone the vote on making the prerequisite zoning change to allow the poorly-planned 2424 Garden of the Gods Road project to go forward, I wrote to express my gratitude for that courageous action. I was thankful and encouraged that our elected officials were finally going to listen and stop ignoring the safety concerns of west side residents, especially those of us who live in Mountain Shadows. After all, we survived the Waldo Canyon Fire and the harrowing panic of the evacuation from that treacherous fire even though 347 of our homes and two of our neighbors did not. I was very optimistic that there would be a new, independent traffic study that would address our concerns that in an evacuation emergency, the routes of egress are insufficient to handle the growth that has occurred in our area since that 2012 disaster. I was confident that such an independent traffic study might very well conclude the addition of 420 new apartments at the major chokepoint of the evacuation route (30th Street and Garden of the Gods Road) would severely exacerbate an already critical situation. I was also confident that such an independent study would account for all the other high-density apartments already being planned for this same west side area intersection behind Loaf ‘n Jug and the three other developments off of Centennial Blvd that along with 2424 Garden of the Gods Road project would total 2,220 units and 5,500+ new residents. If the study revealed that, I thought the City Council would surely stand up to the developers and say, "This apartment complex is very bad idea. We need to place the health and safety of our west side citizens above the developers' financial interests." I was encouraged enough to believe this even though there was at least the appearance that the developers had financed the election of too many of those very City Council members charged with making this critically important decision.

 

 

Many of my neighbors and friends were more cynical. They told me that the action of the City Council in June was all smoke and mirrors, it was a lot of frenzied piffle, it was smoke and fury signifying nothing because the developers (and their hand-picked council members) already knew how the "new" traffic study would come out and how it would pave the way for future approval of all of these other developments waiting in the wings. I was told it would be a rubber stamp of the old, ineffective and unsupported "study." The City Council members were just going through the motions, merely giving the appearance of responsible objectivity. But I insisted that we just needed to have faith and confidence in the integrity and transparency of our elected officials. Surely, they would not have ordered a new, independent traffic study if they did not intend to make sure it was done properly and professionally as well as providing them the independent, unbiased information upon which to base a sound decision. But, if that's the case, why does the traffic study contract indicate that examining what traffic would be like in an emergency is "beyond the scope of the study." Really? I thought that was part of the very essence of what the Council had ordered.

 

 

Moreover, it's now clear we may never know what an independent traffic study would have revealed because the City Council has seemingly all but reneged on the decision it made in June—and even possibly already conducted traffic counts around 2424 Garden of the Gods Road with NO additional consideration of the already planned high-density apartment growth I highlighted earlier. In the August 2nd issue of the Gazette, yet another in-depth, thoroughly researched, eloquently written article by Mary Shinn laid bare the unfortunate reality that the City Council in that vote ordering a new traffic study may very well have endorsed the self-fulfilling prophesy many of my neighbors clearly understood all along. "Wildfire escape model denied" blared the headline. "Council says no to evacuation simulation." I would urge the Council to read this entire article, including all the comments about why an evacuation simulation cannot be done as well as the opinion of experts who say it can and must be done.

 

 

I am mindful, Mr. Strand, that you are the one who put forth the motion to the Council in June that the vote on the necessary zoning change be delayed until this now-languishing traffic study could be accomplished. I also recall that your motion carried by an 8-1 vote. I hasten to add, however, that I am heartened by your continued efforts to ensure the Council does the right thing, for the right reasons. Mary Shinn's excellent article notes, "Council President Tom Strand said he has heard from city staff that completing an evacuation model can't be done and he is planning to ask the city staff to explain their position publicly." The article goes on to quote you as follows: "I will request a work session to know exactly why it can't be done."

 

 

Please continue your courageous actions and superb leadership. There is too much at stake to accept a pre-ordained, rubber-stamped approval of the outcome desired by the developers. As I have said before, now is the time we absolutely must hold everyone's feet to the fire.

 

 

Very respectfully,

 

 

HOWARD L. DONALDSON

Colorado Springs

Dear City Council, 

 

We respectfully request that you stop the 2424 Garden of the Gods project until a full traffic study can be completed to justify the promises to fully evaluate Garden of the Gods.  We expect our city to fully investigate, using the most recent tools available like FLEET and updated traffic evaluation studies every 5 years, such that we are certain that our leadership is making the best possible decisions which reflect our community's best interest.

 

Even though the study may be complete we need to look at history and remember the 5+ hour delays that many frightened people experienced trying to escape the deadly fire in the Mountain Shadows Community. The increased population density proposed will further overburden the traffic system, schools, police etc. There are numerous  other areas in the eastern side of Colorado Springs where a better infrastructure is available. The west side is a gem for the city and attracts numerous visitors and creates revenue for the entire city. If we create a density nightmare how does that benefit those who live here and travel here? What possible purpose can this serve except to create an overburden traffic nightmare and overcrowded schools and most of all a clear dangerous safety nightmare as was shown just a few short years ago. Are we really so blind to the history of the fire and its devastation? Do you want to be remembered as the city council members who sanction this when God forbid we have another natural disaster. Let’s for once stand against the greed and pressure brought on by wealthy influential developers and do what you know is right and save this area.

 

Respectfully,  D

 

Dennis Wilson

Re:  City Council Tuesday Vote on high density apartments: 2424 Garden of the Gods project
 

Dear City Council Members,

We respectfully request that you stop the 2424 Garden of the Gods project until a full traffic study and safety evacuation study can be completed to justify the promises to fully evaluate Garden of the Gods.  We expect our city to fully investigate, using the most recent tools available like FLEET and updated traffic evaluation studies every 5 years, so that we are certain that our leadership is making the best possible decisions which reflect our community's best interest, and intend to save the lives of the big horn sheep now and our own lives in the future. 
Having survived the Waldo Canyon Fire as a resident of Mountain Shadows, I am concerned with:

 

  • the loss of lives during a future evacuation and the need for a current Maximum Evacuation Time Standard to be set and honored

  • the lives of the bighorn sheep I saw last week on Lanagan Drive

  • the fact that right now there is enough space in Chipeta Park for my grandson to play

  • the beautiful views of our hillsides and the Razorback Ridge

Thank you for listening!

 

Very Respectfully,

Karen Recktenwald

Dear City Council,

 
I respectfully request that you stop the 2424 Garden of the Gods project until a full safety evacuation study can be completed to justify the promises made to fully evaluate the Northwest part of the City, including the Garden of the Gods. Mountain Shadows residents expect our city to fully investigate, using the most recent tools available like FLEET and update the safety evaluation studies every 5 years, such that we are certain that our leadership is making the best possible decisions concerning infill and adding additional housing which reflect our community's best interest, and most import, our safety! This should include setting a maximum "Clearance Evacuation Time" which is an industry standard before adding / approving additional housing in the Wildland Urban / interface.

 

I did see some equipment near 2424 that might have been part of a traffic study. There was a cord across the lanes on GOTG near Willowstone. There were also antenna-like things at the corner between Red Leg Brewing & Loaf 'N Jug. And another one on the northwest corner of the GOTG & 30th intersection. I guess to count the traffic going out of the 2424 building onto GOTG? Or maybe it could see & count ALL the cars travelling through that intersection?

 

I first saw this "traffic study" equipment on Monday, July 26 about 7:00 pm on my way home from work. I saw it again Tuesday, July 27 at 9:00 am on my way to work, then it was gone before 5:15 pm that evening. WOW! What a short traffic study! Was it even there 24 hours? And why do it Monday night to Tuesday midday / afternoon? Why not during the weekend when traffic is super bonkers with residents, tourists & people on bicycles? Why implement & finish the "study" the day before the grand opening of Red Leg Brewing that is right there on GOTG? Hmm. It seems as if the study will not be an accurate count of the traffic around the 2424 location. GOTG is my normal route to & from work. However, some days, I take Flying W over to Woodmen instead (depending on the craziness of drivers on GOTG the day before). I guess I was lucky to drive over it those two times!

 

The water main break on GOTG on Tuesday, July 13 was a big deal for thousands of people travelling east, west & people working in businesses along GOTG for a full week! Thanks be to God that Mountain Shadows nor surrounding neighborhoods needed to evacuate during this closure. With GOTG fully closed & under repair, residents would not have been able to get very far. Some people would have had to go on 2-lane 30th Street to get out, and others would have had to drive along 2-lane Flying W to get out, by way of the Rockrimmon neighborhoods. Imagine thousands of cars trying to get out of their homes & businesses by these 2 routes. It would take hours!


During the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012, it felt as if the city did nothing to help the residents of Mountain Shadows. The weather was abnormally hot. Instead of fighting the fire (especially while it was a smaller new fire), the city allowed the fire to burn. On the local news, the city was telling us that things were fine, our homes were safe. We trusted the city to take care of the fire. Turns out, we were under a false sense of security. The fire was burning, getting closer to our homes every day. Seems like the city was just "waiting to see what happened". The fire burned for four days before the planes were finally allowed to fight the fires. Way too late. The fire was out of control by that time!

Many of us had to leave work early on June 26, racing to get home, getting stuck in traffic to save our families, pets, and anything else we could cram into our cars, including important papers, photographs, invaluable possessions, family heirlooms, irreplaceable valuables, artwork, etc. I didn't get to save all of the things I hoped to save. Many of us lost things we can never replace. Most of us in Mountain Shadows lived in our homes since the early 1980s when they were built. We had long histories there in our homes, side by side with our dear neighbors. Now we are spread around the city. We have lost touch with our friends & neighbors. Its very sad. We cannot ever "go home" to visit the homes we grew up in.

In June 2012, we were stuck in traffic to our homes along these roads: Garden of the Gods Road, 30th Street, Flying W Ranch Road, Centennial Boulevard, Vindicator Drive, and Woodman Road. As we loaded our cars, helicopters were flying overhead, the men inside were yelling at us to get out! Then, we were stuck in traffic along those same roads to escape the fire as it started burning all of our homes to the ground. Traffic was slowly crawling, about 5 mph. This was terrifying as the fire was traveling much faster than us! People who drove along Flying W to get to 30th were driving straight into the fire! People who drove along Centennial said the grasses were on fire, right outside of their cars. They feared the heat & fire would melt their tires, leaving them stranded. Others of us feared we would be burned alive in our cars!

Hundreds of residents on Majestic Drive were already evacuated before Tuesday. The rest of us evacuating on Tuesday experienced a living nightmare! Imagine how it would have been if Majestic residents were also in the evacuation on Tuesday. Hundreds more cars & people escaping the fire on those few roads out of Mountain Shadows. Makes me very concerned if we ever experience an emergency again. And if we add high density housing right in this same neighborhood, this makes me fear for my life! It took me 3 hours to drive from my home in Mountain Shadows to my grandparents home who live near Barnes & Oro Blanco. That drive usually takes 20-30 minutes. The weather was hot, the sky was foreboding, the traffic was crawling, we were almost burned alive in our cars. We lost 346 homes, and 2 people in the Waldo Canyon Fire! This is unacceptable. We do not want any high density housing added to 2424 Garden of the Gods Road. I beg you, please do not approve the rezoning for 2424.

This was a very traumatic event for me & my family, as well as many other families in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood. I had trouble sleeping for many weeks after our homes burned down. When I finally could sleep, I had nightmares about fires for months. Whenever we have smoke coming in from other nearby fires, just the smells of fire on the wind brings back all of those traumatic feelings & nightmares.

After remembering my memories of June 2012, I am curious if there are any policies/procedures in place to help us evacuate more effectively in case of an emergency in the future? Asking for those of us living in Mountain Shadows now. If high density housing is added at 2424, how will those policies/procedures be updated? We cannot add any more roads in to or out of Mountain Shadows. The daily traffic on Garden of the Gods, 30th Street, Flying W, Centennial, Vindicator, and Woodman are already a headache. We see car accidents on Garden of the Gods Road weekly, if not daily. We also see deer hit & killed by cars along Flying W monthly.

Have you driven in daily rush hour traffic along any of these roads? How about Garden of the Gods Road, eastbound around 5pm, headed towards the I-25 southbound entrance? That traffic is usually backed up for miles. I see accidents at that on-ramp many days per week. How about driving on 30th Street to get to the Garden of the Gods Park entrance? It is one lane each way on 30th. That road is very busy on normal days, extra busy during tourist season, and if we add more housing right there on 2424 Garden of the Gods & 30th, the traffic will be excruciating! People also love to ride their bikes along 30th. I feel nervous driving along there in my car without bikes in my lane, and super extra nervous with bikes sharing my lane! How about adding more traffic & more bikes!?

Those of us living in Mountain Shadows live here for a reason. We love being a bit on the outskirts of the city. We love nature & we love our neighbors. We love a slower pace. We love more open space to walk, run & bike. We love having a quiet, peaceful neighborhood. We love less traffic. We love kids being able to have a safe walk to school. We love having beautiful surroundings. We love our animal friends in nature. We love having police & firefighters nearby in case of emergency. We love smelling the lilacs. I am sorry to say, we do not have room in our schools, on our roads, infrastructure, utilities, or emergency responders to add hundreds more people right here into our Mountain Shadows neighborhood!

As you have heard over & over, Mountain Shadows residents do not approve of the rezoning proposal. We do not want high density housing at 2424 Garden of the Gods Road. Many of us are praying that our City Council will hear us. We pray you will side with your fellow neighbors, friends & Colorado Springs residents.

Hundreds of residents in Mountain Shadows & neighboring communities have spent countless hours researching, collaborating, and fighting the rezoning proposal of 2424 Garden of the Gods Road. We have participated, called in, listened, and voiced our concerns during these hearings over & over again. These have been long meetings for you, and all of the concerned citizens of Colorado Springs. It is disheartening, discouraging, and disappointing to work so hard to make our voices heard, just to have the majority of City Council vote for the rezoning & against the residents of Mountain Shadows. I guess this outcome has proved some of our neighbors right. A few neighbors have told me, "Why even bother fighting against this? It's no use. You won't make a difference. City Council will always side with the developers." We were able to be heard & supported by four members, but I guess those pessimistic neighbors were right & that is so sad to me.

The citizens of Colorado Springs have voted for ALL of YOU to be our City Council Members!
We need you to be our advocates.
We need you to listen to our concerns.
We need you to be our voices.
We need you to act for us.

Did any of you participate in one of the previous City Council meetings concerning rezoning of 2424? City Council Member Mike Hente told everyone his experience of living in Mountain Shadows, evacuating the Waldo Canyon Fire & losing his home. He said he would NEVER vote to put any multi-family living at 2424 Garden of the Gods Road. The fire evacuation was a traffic nightmare. I am sad he is not on the City Council now, so he can help us in our fight against the rezoning. If we have another wildfire & have to evacuate (with new proposed multi-family living units installed), I am fearful more of us will perish in our cars. We were close to having that happen in 2012 (2 people lost their lives). If we add hundreds more residents & cars to this neighborhood, we are all in danger!

In every City Council meeting I have attended, Andrea Barlowe likes to deter & swat away questions with long, run-around "answers", making false statements, making stuff up to confuse everyone. Here is a prime example of her tactic! During the meeting on 05/25/2021, in regards to fire evacuation, Andrea Barlow stated, "Garden of the Gods Road is a six-lane highway with hardly ANY traffic on it at ANY time of day . . . . . ALL the way to the highway" (this video hosted on the Colorado Springs City Council Facebook page titled "Regular City Council Meeting 05_25_21", please forward to the time stamp 3:53:00, and listen for 1 minute). HILARIOUS! I would love to drive on the same Garden of the Gods Road that she is driving on! When I drive on Garden of the Gods Road, sometimes it takes me 30 minutes to get from 30th to I-25. That is only traveling 2.5 miles. I can't even imagine what it would be like with hundreds more cars & residents! Every weeknight during rush hour traffic, along Garden of the Gods, eastbound traffic is backed up from I-25, usually to Chestnut, sometimes up to Centennial. Luckily I am headed west after work, but I feel for those people just parked on Garden of the Gods Road. I often wonder how long it takes them to travel that road.

I believe the images Andrea Barlow shared during the 05/25 meeting are still a mis-representation of the actual heights of the multi-family housing & how they will block the hillside view. I drive by 2424 every day, I can see the light poles & the existing building from the road. Any additional buildings will definitely block the hillside view. I also appreciate that one of the City Council Members straight up asked her if she worked on another project in the city, where the buildings ended up taller than proposed, and the neighboring communities were upset about it. She never gave a definite answer. That was concerning to me. The same could happen here at 2424 as well. Once the buildings are built, I guess you can't just tear them down or take off a layer if they are taller than proposed. Can you?

I also want to ask Andrea Barlow, "Where did you want all of us to go after our homes burned down? After living in our homes for 5, 10, 20, 30 years?" Does she want us to just leave our history, family, friends, neighbors, community, churches & schools behind us? Sell our "ash holes" & move somewhere else? I don't understand. This has been our home for so many years for so many families. We have history & family here.

I know a few of you took time out of your busy days to come & visit 2424 to see where this rezoning is proposed. Thank you! I wish it was a requirement for all of you to take a field trip here & observe everything. See the traffic on Garden of the Gods Road, visit the entire area, surrounding neighborhoods & how we would be impacted if the rezoning was approved & multi-family living was built here. Our views will be impacted, our safety on the roads will be impacted (especially if we have to evacuate) & the traffic will grow to be horrendous! I would like you all to observe the traffic on Garden of the Gods Road for yourselves & see if you agree with Andrea Barlow's statement. I know Andrea Barlow also liked to talk about the other apartments here in this neighborhood. Yes, there are apartments located at 30th & Garden of the Gods Road. The apartment units are short (two-story), and do not impact the hillside views. There are also the Grand Centennial Apartments at  30th & Centennial. They are tall, three-story apartment buildings. However, the area was over-dug, so the apartments sit in a valley so you can only see two of the stories from the street. And they are on the east side of the street. There are also some new, monumental, ridiculously huge, eye-sore apartments going up ALL along Centennial, from 30th to Wickes Road (west side of the road). Who approved these to be built? Everywhere I go in Colorado Springs, new apartments are being built! It does not appear we are in a "housing crisis" as people have stated during the 05/25 meeting. When will the madness end?

During the 05/25/2021 City Council Meeting, it was stated that millenials want to live in apartments. I don't think the people making this statement are millennials themselves, nor do they know any. I myself am a millennial. My friends & siblings are also millennials. For all of us, we know that paying rent is a total waste of money. We must be smarter & more money conscious than they think. We work hard for our money, so why would we just give it away (aka pay rent)? Our hopes & dreams are to own our own homes & raise families. We want friendly neighbors, safe neighborhoods, and nearby parks to visit & play! We DON'T want to live in crowded apartments, close to other people, where you can hear people coughing, talking, yelling, walking & stomping around in the apartments next to, above & below your own unit!

 

2424 is already zoned for money-making businesses. Well, put some businesses in! Make some money! Do not rezone the property, just work with what you have & make it profitable! Please do not approve the rezoning of 2424. I do not remember exact details of what businesses can or cannot be here, but I think Mountain Shadows residents would love to support some fun & local businesses here right in our neighborhood (but we don't support multi-family living units in tall, oversized buildings). Perhaps this would be a great spot for a westside branch of Poor Richard's Pizza, Bookstore, Toy Store & Rico's? I would be there every day! The residents in Mountain Shadows know things need to grow & change, but we do not want to have hundreds or thousands of new residents in this location. Our concerns are based on safety, increased traffic, first responders, wild animals & hillside views. Our traffic surrounding Mountain Shadows is already unpleasant. Please do not let it become even more unpleasant by voting to rezone 2424 Garden of the Gods Road.

Please, please do not approve the rezoning of 2424 Garden of the Gods Road.


Thank you so much for your time.

Kind Regards,
Alicia Netherton

Dear Council Members and City Leaders,

 

I would like to respectfully ask that you vote NO on the 2424 Garden of Gods Re-Zone high density infill request. I strongly oppose this rezoning proposal - it would negatively impact not only the citizens in the immediate surrounding and Westside area, but Colorado Springs as a whole. The most fundamental consideration for approving a city rezone request is that it will be of benefit for the current citizens - the people impacted by the change in the surrounding area(s) and the city. This requested change will negatively impact most Mountain Shadows surrounding neighborhoods. It will further negatively impact a much larger amount of residences then just these immediate neighborhoods but Colorado Springs as a city.

 

  • This proposed rezoning will Significantly increase the already increased traffic from daily trips as well as both in state and out of state visitors to the Garden of the Gods park and the Navigators.

  • The wildlife habitat & migration coming down from the mountains & foothills will be negatively impacted with the increased population of ~1k+ new apartment residents.

  • Fire risk will increase with more dense population additions in vulnerable WUI areas. 

  • Lower one of the Quality of Life of factors of this city for current residents on the Westside with more people now accessing the limited ‘within walking distance’ neighborhood park space (ie. Chipeta / Mtn. Shadows Park). Colorado Springs is well below the national standard of life measurement for neighborhood parks (10 acres per 1000 persons within a 10 minute walking distance). Colorado Springs is now at 2.5 acres per 1000 persons – What is Colorado Springs doing to address this deficit?

I like, most homeowners have made a significant investment based on the city zoning as well as other factors in the purchase / investment selection of our homes. We count on the city government to uphold the zoning when we make a purchase. Our expectation is that the city zoning is stable… and not changed at the whim of neither an individual homeowner nor a larger entity that makes a purchase.

 

I am one of the 344 homeowners that lost a home in the Waldo Canyon fire in 2012. My family has yet to fully recover from all that was lost. In 2013 the Black Forest fire (486 homes lost) broke out 2 miles from my parent’s home – luckily they did not lose their home … but that was ONLY because the wind blew in another direction! Other Black Forest home owners and friends were not so lucky. I learned a valuable but awful lesson from those both of those fires – ie. your home is not safe – our firefighters are not going to be able to protect or save our homes from wildfires. I never EVER would have imagined the fire jumping into our ‘suburban area Mountain Shadows neighborhood (with fire hydrants)’… until it happened. Should a fire again breakout (there are still areas that did not burn… Garden of the Gods being one, Ute valley another) – it’s a traffic trap at current density… should we be expected to abandon our cars and run?? The city can and should take preventive measures to ensure a safe evacuation and further limit the inherent fire disaster risk we already have! I strongly oppose this requested rezone - it is of no benefit to the citizens and negatively impacts not only the citizens in the immediate surrounding area, but Colorado Springs as a whole.

 

We live in and next to the foothills, the mountains and with all of the wildlife that this area sustains – it was probably a mistake to years ago to build so close to the foothills or the Garden of the Gods, but that is not something that we can go back in time and change. The close proximity to the mountains and foothills across this city should be protected as the valuable resource and asset that it truly is. Our forefathers gave us a gift in designating the Garden of the Gods to the citizens of this city. Visitors travel from ALL OVER the world to see this unique park and our majestic mountains! How many cities can boast that citizens can see rocky mountain big horned sheep, deer, bobcats, bear or mountain lions eagles, owls in their backyard or even close to it? But with this privilege comes more responsibilities as homeowners – securing your trash cans from bears, property fire mitigation, watching your pets, paying attention to your surroundings when you’re out walking, knowing what plants deer will or won’t eat, slowing down when you see animals crossing the roads et. We have already infringed upon the spaces that should have been left alone to support the wildlife and their regional migrations routes.  Let’s please NOT make it worse by adding in MORE high density housing into the limited remaining foothills WUI areas. When I purchased my home almost 30 years ago, I was told the ridge above our neighborhood was protected for animal (deer) migration into the Ute Valley regional park area. That obviously was overturned some time ago– and it now is filled with housing, townhomes & apartments. Ute Valley Regional Park is ALMOST an island – animals cross through our neighborhoods to get to this area. It is no longer a protected wildlife migration path. The roads have not changed or expanded, no new neighborhood parks have been built with the latest increased building of new homes, townhomes and apartments in this immediate vicinity. Thus more people now share increasingly LIMITED open space resources and roadways with the wildlife. The traffic in the summer over the past several years is horrendous on the 30th street to Garden of the Gods (drive it for yourself and see) ..so much so that now the city is ‘shuttling’ people and advocating no drive weekends in the Garden of the Gods park – the proposed apartments will only further exasperate the increased bumper to bumper traffic and negatively impact both tourism and the citizens of this city accessibility to Garden of the Gods.

 

This proposed zone change (high density infill) will not be of benefit for the Westside area residents nor the larger citizens of Colorado Springs that deserve ‘reasonably’ good access to our treasured Garden of the Gods and Navigators historical landmark properties. One of the factors for ‘Quality of Life’ is to have a neighborhood park within a 10 minute walking distance from your house. The US National standard for this is 10 acres of neighborhood park per every 1000 Persons (not houses). School properties, drainage areas and regional parks do not count as they are not open and accessible to all the public at all times. Colorado Spring use to be well above this national standard… but sadly today we have fallen below! The proposed apartment building will further burden Mountain Shadows Neighborhood Park (6 acres) – the only neighborhood park within 10 mins. walking distance of the proposed new apartments. The proposal says they will keep 58 acres of open space (still private land) … but again this is NOT accessible to the general public even IF they donated it to the city. But new apartment citizens will of course walk to and use Mountain Shadows (aka Chipeta) 6 acre park. FYI. Mountain Shadows park, was built to ‘accommodate’ the cities allowance of much smaller lots sizes then the city zoned for – aka patio homes (Parkside neighborhood) – this small little park is already heavily used and over capacity today! What is the point of city zoning if it is constantly changing? What good does zoning do, if the city constantly changes it? Perhaps the city should just tell the citizens up front zoning does not matter … before we make that the largest investment most of us will ever make – our home.

 

How much more growth can we reasonably accommodate without more water or larger capacity roads? Of note: Approximately 70% of our water is coming from the western slope that is again in a drought … water is a finite resource that we obtain from elsewhere…. (Recently we have ‘investors’ buying up water rights… banking on us running out). What happens in a prolonged drought on the western slope? Will we have water … ‘Affordable’ water?? While Colorado Springs is being pressured to accommodate the influx of more & more people wanting to live here shouldn’t the current citizen’s investment, safety and quality of life factors be the first priority of our elected officials? The property & building is better served as intended – I would advocate the city to look at bringing job opportunities back in. I strongly oppose rezoning this property and respectfully ask that you to vote NO on this requested high density infill Re-Zone change. It would be a negative impact to both current citizens in the immediate Westside areas and our treasured Garden of the Gods historical landmark.

 

Thank-you for your time,

 

Sincerely

Genevieve Gustavson

 

P.S. One of the City Council members asked why we rebuilt in the same place after the fire if we were so ‘afraid’ of another fire risk. I would like to address that question. 1.) Financial – I was not able to afford rebuilding elsewhere – I was advised by the disaster insurance adjuster that the settlement would be less if I rebuilt elsewhere. My house like many others was under-insured (this I learned is a common practice across the insurance industry). Many people – who could afford to do so - did in fact sell and move elsewhere. Check your records. 2.) It was a good and relatively safe family friendly neighborhood. Chipeta Elementary school had been recently awarded the national blue ribbon school (~2009). 3.) I assumed that the fire risk in the immediate area would be lower and that the city would do their part by ensuring implementation of changes and safety improvements to the fire risk areas in our city from the lessons learned. I have since learned that little has yet been done…..  No new evacuation planning … I would like to know what the clearance evacuation time is, so I can safely evacuate myself and family in the event of a fire or other disaster. Is the city using an evacuation modeling software, like FLEET to accurately model not manage evacuation scenarios? If no, why not?  Please make it a requirement for all planning processes, that we evaluate this data in advance of approving additional development plans. With that in mind, it is imperative that you put a hold on 2424 Garden of the Gods Road development, until the appropriate public safety measures have been evaluated. The city promised us we would ‘build back better’… I did my part. There’s a memorial in Mountain Shadows Park to honor the two lives lost and all those that were impacted by the Waldo Canon fire …. Make it mean what it was intended to honor and vote No on this high density infill Re-Zoning request.

 

Again, Respectfully and Sincerely,

Genevieve Gustavson

Dear City Council, 

 

We respectfully request that you stop the 2424 Garden of the Gods project until a full traffic study  can be completed to justify the promises to fully evaluate Garden of the Gods.  I frequently travel on 30th street and Garden of Gods and it is beyond my comprehension how traffic congestion      

didn’t upend this entire project. Conducting an initial traffic study during the dead of winter; followed by one during covid, is inaccurate and faulty at best.

 

Questions regarding emergency evacuation routes remain unanswered and to have an official from the Fire Department respond with “I will have to get back to you”. Its unbelievable!!! 

 

The infrastructure to support this initiative does not exist and the rezoning appear strictly political. 

“We the people” of Mountain Shadows; fully and unequivocally reject this initiative.

 

 

David Buckmiller

Dear City Council, 
 

We respectfully request that you stop the 2424 Garden of the Gods project until a full traffic study can be completed to justify the promises to fully evaluate Garden of the Gods.  We expect our city to fully investigate, using the most recent tools available like FLEET and updated traffic evaluation studies every 5 years, such that we are certain that our leadership is making the best possible decisions which reflect our community's best interest.

 

Also, as a native of Pleasant Valley on the Westside of Colorado Springs (I, Leah, have lived here for 50 years and my parents for almost 70 years), I have watched as all of our open space and quiet neighborhoods have been swallowed by development, terrible traffic, noise, and pollution.  Please, for the sake of the current residents, wildlife, and open land, stop the continuous development and infill in Colorado Springs, especially on the Westside.  There has been so much growth without great planning since the 1980s, that we are now in this crisis.  Listen to the residents and not just the developers, as has always been the case with City Council.  It's time to bring Colorado Springs back to its beautiful roots.

 

Respectfully,

Leah and Cris Johnson