• Progress on wireless antenna towers, unless you live in Peregrine

    Wed, February 12, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Gazette reader Jim Sawyer took this photo in January 2014 of a wireless antenna tower erected by Houston-based Crown Castle Inc. on the west end of Woodmen Road. Blodgett Peak is in the background. Courtesy photo.

    Gazette reader Jim Sawyer took this photo in January 2014 of a wireless antenna tower erected by Houston-based Crown Castle Inc. on the west end of Woodmen Road. Blodgett Peak is in the background. Courtesy photo.

    Remember the dozens of wireless antenna towers going up in the Broadmoor neighborhood that I told you about in December?

    Some folks were thrilled at the prospect of improved cell phone service, as well as Internet and data transmissions they will enjoy thanks to the new towers.

    One reader, Jennifer Corr, wrote me on Facebook asking if she could volunteer her family home in the Broadmoor for a tower.

    “My cell doesn’t really work there,” Corr wrote. “My cell is my emergency line for my company. Just worried.”

    Others were angry and complained at what they considered the sneaky way Houston-based Crown Castle International went about installing the antennas on existing streetlights and by erecting new towers.

    Well there’s good news for some critics of the poles. But the news isn’t so good for others — especially residents of Peregrine, where wireless antenna poles also were erected.

    In the Broadmoor area, Amy Tracy and some neighbors along Marland Road complained to the city after they saw Crown Castle crews digging a hole and preparing to erect a light and tower near their private, neighborhood-owned, 23-acre Pourtales Park.

    Gazette reader Amy Tracy took this photo Jan. 21, 2014, of crews installing power lines and meters and other infrastructure for a wireless antenna tower for Crown Castle Inc. The tower is adjacent to the private Pourtales Park and neighbors want it moved to a less obtrustive location. Courtesy photo.

    Gazette reader Amy Tracy took this photo Jan. 21, 2014, of crews installing power lines and meters and other infrastructure for a wireless antenna tower for Crown Castle Inc. The tower is adjacent to the private Pourtales Park and neighbors want it moved to a less obtrustive location. Courtesy photo.

    She and others were upset that they were not notified a pole was being installed along their park where no streetlight existed before. They don’t want a pole or light near the undeveloped park.

    And residents were frustrated at the response they received when they called the city.
    After the column was published, I heard from quite a few more Broadmoor residents as well as folks in Peregrine. They said Crown Castle did the same thing in their foothills neighborhood on Colorado Springs’ northwest edge.

    Reader Jim Sawyer was among the first to respond.

    “The same thing happened in Peregrine two months ago,” Sawyer said in an email. “Residents and the homeowners association complained to the city and the company installing the towers and were basically ignored.”

    Reader Courtney Tripp wrote me noting similar poles mysteriously appeared along Woodmen Road and other points within Peregrine.

    “I’ve spoken with a few neighbors, and all agree they are unsightly, and many are worried about how it will affect property values negatively,” Tripp said. “I’ve spoken with my homeowners association manager and he stated, like their experience in Broadmoor, no one in the association was notified, petitioned, consulted before installation of the towers.”

    I contacted two Crown Castle representatives several times recently and neither responded to phone messages.

    Peter Wysocki in February 2013 file photo. Gazette file.

    Peter Wysocki in February 2013 file photo. Gazette file.

    And I called Peter Wysocki, the city’s director of planning and development, who intervened on behalf of neighbors to slow tower installation on Marland after learning no streetlight existed near the park.

    Actually, Wysocki ordered Crown Castle to stop until each site was reviewed by staff and verified as an appropriate location.

    He also acted as an intermediary between the company and the neighbors, facilitating meetings and negotiations about the pole planned for the park.

    The good news for Broadmoor residents is that Crown Castle, after having crews at the site for days to run power and bury the necessary infrastructure for the parkside pole, abruptly agreed to consider a new location in the area.

    “Crown Castle has agreed not to proceed with any additional work on the Pourtales Park pole until there are further discussions with the homeowners association and until HOA members have an opportunity to meet and consider it,” Wysocki said.

    But he stressed the city has no power to prevent the poles from going up because Crown Castle is considered a utility doing legal work within city right-of-way and in public utility easements.

    Still, Tracy and her neighbors were happy to get a chance to talk with Crown Castle and perhaps persuade them to move the pole behind mature trees on the edge of the park and out of view.

    This is one of 39 towers being installed by Crown Castle International of Houston to provide wireless Internet, cellphone and data tranmissions in the Broadmoor area. The new tower will replace the old, wooden streetlight pole next to it. Some are happy at the prospect of better cellphone service. Others are upset at the process used to approve the towers, which are attached to streetlight poles. One is being built next to a private park where no streetlights exist. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    This is one of 39 towers being installed by Crown Castle International of Houston to provide wireless Internet, cellphone and data tranmissions in the Broadmoor area. The new tower will replace the old, wooden streetlight pole next to it. Some are happy at the prospect of better cellphone service. Others are upset at the process used to approve the towers, which are attached to streetlight poles. One is being built next to a private park where no streetlights exist. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    “They are willing to work with the HOA and the neighbors,” Tracy said. “We are very pleased they came back to us with solutions and that the city did get involved to bring this about.”

    Unfortunately, folks in Peregrine report they have not had any offers to move Crown Castle wireless towers they say mar their park views.

    Sawyer and the others are frustrated, especially by a tower erected near the top of Woodmen that blocks their view of Blodgett Peak.

    “The people of Peregrine feel that they have been bamboozled,” Sawyer said. “Basically, we appear to be screwed.”

    I’ll be sure to ask Crown Castle, if they ever return my calls.

  • Antenna towers divide Broadmoor residents tired of asking: Can you hear me now?

    Fri, December 13, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Sara Lynn Thomas stands near a new antenna tower being installed on the edge of her Broadmoor-area yard on Dec. 12, 2013. It's one of 39 towers being installed by Crown Castle International of Houston to provide wireless Internet, cellphone and data tranmissions in the area. Thomas is happy, hoping she'll soon have better cellphone service. Others, though, are upset at the process used to approve the towers, which are attached to streetlight poles. One is being built next to a private park where no streetlights exist. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Sara Lynn Thomas stands near a new antenna tower being installed on the edge of her Broadmoor-area yard on Dec. 12, 2013. It’s one of 39 towers being installed by Crown Castle International of Houston to provide wireless Internet, cellphone and data tranmissions in the area. Thomas is happy, hoping she’ll soon have better cellphone service. Others, though, are upset at the process used to approve the towers, which are attached to streetlight poles. One is being built next to a private park where no streetlights exist. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Dozens of antenna towers are popping up across the Broadmoor area to provide wireless service for Internet, cellphone and data transmissions, leaving neighbors sharply divided over the project.

    Some, like Sara Lynn Thomas, are thrilled to think they may finally get reliable cellphone service after being frustrated for years by dropped calls and weak signals.

    “I moved here in 1999,” Thomas said, standing beside a new tower being installed on the edge of her front yard. “The cellphone service here is just terrible. I have to go three blocks to get a signal. I’m excited about it. I can’t wait.

    “I’m a real estate agent and I work out of my home and my cellphone is my lifeline.”

    Amy Tracy stands near private Pourtales Park in the Broadmoor neighborhood where a new antenna tower and streetlight is being installed on Dec. 12, 2013. It's one of 39 towers being installed by Crown Castle International of Houston to provide wireless Internet, cellphone and data tranmissions in the area. Some like the project, hoping they'll soon have better cellphone service. Others, though, are upset at the process used to approve the towers, which are attached to streetlight poles. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Amy Tracy stands near private Pourtales Park in the Broadmoor neighborhood where a new antenna tower and streetlight is being installed on Dec. 12, 2013. It’s one of 39 towers being installed by Crown Castle International of Houston to provide wireless Internet, cellphone and data tranmissions in the area. Some like the project, hoping they’ll soon have better cellphone service. Others, though, are upset at the process used to approve the towers, which are attached to streetlight poles. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Others, like Amy Tracy, are upset that Houston-based Crown Castle International won approval and is installing lights and towers.   

    “We saw them working, digging a hole, and asked what was going on,” Tracy said. “They said it was a cell tower installation.

    “We told them it was private property. But they said they had approval from the city.”

    The Tracys and their neighbors began investigating and learned it was an antenna tower and part of the larger project.

    Crews have started work on a controversial streetlight/antenna tower on the edge of private Pourtales Park in the Broadmoor neighborhood. It is one of 39 towers being installed in the area by Crown Castle International of Houston to provide wireless Internet, cellphone and data tranmissions. Some are happy at the prospect of better cellphone service. Others are upset at the process used to approve the towers, which are attached to streetlight poles. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Crews have started work on a controversial streetlight/antenna tower on the edge of private Pourtales Park in the Broadmoor neighborhood. It is one of 39 towers being installed in the area by Crown Castle International of Houston to provide wireless Internet, cellphone and data tranmissions. Some are happy at the prospect of better cellphone service. Others are upset at the process used to approve the towers, which are attached to streetlight poles. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    They called Colorado Springs Utilities, City Planning, Traffic Engineering, City Council President Keith King and Mayor Steve Bach’s office to try to stop the streetlight/antenna tower from proceeding on park property.

    “We bought this house three years ago for the view,” Tracy said, pointing to the panorama her family enjoys of the park with a snow-covered mountain backdrop. The chimes of the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun gently rang as she spoke.

    “That tower and streetlight are going to destroy our million-dollar view,” she said. “We’d have never bought this house if we had to look at a cell tower.”

    The Marland neighbors are particularly frustrated the light and tower were approved without any apparent neighborhood input.

    “They claim they invited us to a public meeting in August 2012,” Tracy said. “They say only one neighbor showed up. If they had told us, everyone would have been there.”

    This is one of 39 towers being installed by Crown Castle International of Houston to provide wireless Internet, cellphone and data tranmissions in the Broadmoor area. The new tower will replace the old, wooden streetlight pole next to it. Some are happy at the prospect of better cellphone service. Others are upset at the process used to approve the towers, which are attached to streetlight poles. One is being built next to a private park where no streetlights exist. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    This is one of 39 towers being installed by Crown Castle International of Houston to provide wireless Internet, cellphone and data tranmissions in the Broadmoor area. The new tower will replace the old, wooden streetlight pole next to it. Some are happy at the prospect of better cellphone service. Others are upset at the process used to approve the towers, which are attached to streetlight poles. One is being built next to a private park where no streetlights exist. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    So I made a few calls to the city and got the same response as Tracy and her neighbors.

    Peter Wysocki, director of planning, said his office gave Crown Castle administrative approval for a revocable permit to allow the lights and towers because it met all the city’s criteria for “stealth” because they are being erected on existing streetlight poles or on new light poles and in city right-of-way.

    Here’s where it gets tricky. Wysocki said the new tower at the park was approved because it met the stealth requirement because it is being camouflaged as a streetlight.

    “But we don’t decide where streetlights are installed,” Wysocki said. “That’s either Colorado Springs Utilities or the street department. I don’t know who decides whether lights should be installed in a location.”

    So I called Steve Berry at Springs Utilities and he said his folks install lights where they are told.

    “The locations of street lights are determined by the city,” Berry said. “We don’t determine where they go.”

    This is one of 39 towers being installed by Crown Castle International of Houston to provide wireless Internet, cellphone and data tranmissions in the Broadmoor area. The new tower will replace the old, wooden streetlight pole next to it. Some are happy at the prospect of better cellphone service. Others are upset at the process used to approve the towers, which are attached to streetlight poles. One is being built next to a private park where no streetlights exist. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    This is one of 39 towers being installed by Crown Castle International of Houston to provide wireless Internet, cellphone and data tranmissions in the Broadmoor area. The new tower will replace the old, wooden streetlight pole next to it. Some are happy at the prospect of better cellphone service. Others are upset at the process used to approve the towers, which are attached to streetlight poles. One is being built next to a private park where no streetlights exist. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    So I called Kathleen Kraeger, city traffic engineer, hoping she could help.

    “My only participation in this project was when they asked if I wanted the streetlight on the park turned on or left off,” she said. “I requested they turn the streetlights on. I don’t want a dark streetlight that people are reporting as broken all the time.”

    Maybe you can see why neighbors are frustrated.

    I called Crown Castle’s government relations manager on the project but she didn’t return my calls.

    So it remains a mystery how a Texas utility company got approval for a streetlight on a road that doesn’t have any nearby and without permission from the homeowners association that owns the park or the neighbors who must look at it.

    The Tracys and other concerned neighbors have hired an attorney to sort everything out. It will be interesting to see who gave approval and whether the streetlight ultimately gets installed. 

    This is one of 39 towers being installed by Crown Castle International of Houston to provide wireless Internet, cellphone and data tranmissions in the Broadmoor area. The new tower will replace the old, wooden streetlight pole next to it. Some are happy at the prospect of better cellphone service. Others are upset at the process used to approve the towers, which are attached to streetlight poles. One is being built next to a private park where no streetlights exist. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    This is one of 39 towers being installed by Crown Castle International of Houston to provide wireless Internet, cellphone and data tranmissions in the Broadmoor area. The new tower will replace the old, wooden streetlight pole next to it. Some are happy at the prospect of better cellphone service. Others are upset at the process used to approve the towers, which are attached to streetlight poles. One is being built next to a private park where no streetlights exist. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

     

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  • Racial diversity grows even in ‘gotta wear shades’ white Colorado Springs neighborhoods

    Mon, May 20, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    A map of Colorado Springs showing its racial/ethnic makeup in 2010 based on U.S. Census data. White neighborhoods are green, Hispanic are orange/red, black are purple and Asian are blue. Courtesy the Timoney Group.

    This map of Colorado Springs shows its racial/ethnic makeup in 2010 based on U.S. Census data. White neighborhoods are green, Hispanic are orange/red, black are purple and Asian are blue. Courtesy the Timoney Group.

    In my mind, I have a visual map of Colorado Springs.

    Maybe you do, too.

    In my map, I see neighborhoods in colors.

    For example, neighborhoods like the Broadmoor, Skyway, Peregrine and towns like Monument are white. Glaring, gotta-wear-shades white.

    These maps from the Timoney Group show how  the racial makeup of downtown Colorado Springs changed from 2000 to 2010.

    These maps from the Timoney Group show how the racial makeup of downtown Colorado Springs changed from 2000 to 2010.

    Others, like my neighborhood in Rockrimmon, are more off-white. Predominantly white but not starched-and-pressed white.

    That image probably is true for most of Colorado Springs, with exceptions.

    Hillside and Deerfield Hills, in my mind, were black and Hispanic. Same for the Lowell School neighborhood, Mill Street, Stratton Meadows and the Widefield/Security areas.

    Now, thanks to a cool website created by the folks at the Timoney Group in Denver, I have a new visual map of the area. And I’m surprised how different the reality is from the 20-year-old image in my mind.

    Brian Timoney, a demographer and social analyst, plugged in U.S. Census data from 2000 and 2010 to allow viewers to easily see how cities along the Front Range changed in their racial and ethnic makeup during the decade.

    Timoney said the website was helpful as Denver was redrawing its city council districts and trying to ensure minority neighborhoods were represented.

    These maps from the Timoney Group show how the racial makeup of the Broadmoor neighborhood changed from 2000 to 2010.

    These maps from the Timoney Group show how the racial makeup of the Broadmoor neighborhood changed from 2000 to 2010.

    “Oldtimers have a mental map that is often 20 to 30 years out of date,” Timoney said. “In Denver, many think of the Five Points neighborhood as predominantly black. But it hasn’t been for 25 years.”

    Similar changes have occurred in Colorado Springs, if not on the same scale.

    For instance, the Broadmoor remains solidly white. But from 2000 to 2010 the diversity of the neighborhood was slowly changing, as evident in Timoney’s maps.

    More dramatic change is evident in the southeast part of Colorado Springs. Take Hillside, long a racially diverse and predominantly black area. According to the map, Hillside experienced a surge of white and Hispanic residents by 2010.

    An interesting neighborhood to look at is around the Lowell School south of downtown. In 2000, it was predominantly Hispanic. Then came the townhomes and condos of redevelopment and suddenly it shows up as mostly white in 2010.

    These maps show how the racial makeup changed after the development of the Woodmen Vistas neighborhood in 2007.

    These maps show how the racial makeup changed after the development of the Woodmen Vistas neighborhood in 2007.

    Then there is the interesting case of the development in the Woodmen Heights region northeast of Powers Boulevard and Woodmen Road. The Cumbre Vista neighborhood is being developed there along with Woodmen Vistas, a 10-acre subdivision where the Habitat for Humanity and Rocky Mountain Community Land Trust are partners in building low-income homes.

    The two agencies launched the project in 2007 and when finished it will have about 70 homes.

    Look at the map and see what Woodmen Vistas has done to the racial makeup of the area. It’s gone from bleached white to predominantly Hispanic.

    It’s actually a little unusual to be able to clearly identify minority neighborhoods in the Springs, said Kee Warner, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

    “Colorado Springs, in comparison with cities across the United States, is not extremely segregated,” Warner said. “Racial minority populations are more evenly distributed here, than even in Denver. It’s not easy to identify certain neighborhoods as strictly African American or Latino.”

    There is no “Chinatown” or Irish or Italian neighborhood, as you commonly find in other cities.

    These maps show how the racial makeup of neighborhoods in southeast Colorado Springs changed from 2000 to 2010.

    These maps show how the racial makeup of neighborhoods in southeast Colorado Springs changed from 2000 to 2010.

    And based on the maps, the city’s predominantly white neighborhoods are trending toward eggshell, if you will.

    “These maps tell us something about how the community is evolving over time,” Warner said. “We’ve got significant diversity in our population below age 21 and we’re going to see that work its way into our broader population. We’re going to have an increasing diversity of our population.”

    Still there will be enclaves or concentrations of racial populations and they can be attributed to economics, whether it’s a public housing project in South Shooks Run or Hillside, or among the mansions of the Broadmoor neighborhood.

    “You’ve got to remember that the city is arranged by income levels as well,” Warner said, adding that while slight shifting is expected, don’t look for dramatic change in the racial makeup of wealthy neighborhoods any time soon.

    But as for the rest of the city . . .

    “Other neighborhoods will continue to shift,” Warner said, noting the folks seeking out specific schools can drive huge population shifts. “It’s part of the aging process of neighborhoods.”

    Check out the maps and tell me what you think you see.

    These maps show how the racial makeup of the Old Colorado City neighborhoods changed from 2000 to 2010.

    These maps show how the racial makeup of the Old Colorado City neighborhoods changed from 2000 to 2010.

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  • IDIOT TEENS COULD TURN MOCK DISASTER INTO REAL THING

    Wed, October 26, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with 2 comments

    The 116-acre ranch owned by Church for All Nations rises from Highway 115 at the base of Cheyenne Mountain. It has been the target of teens who drink, smoke dope and set buildings ablaze.

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    Vandals seemingly covered every inch they could reach with graffiti.

    A few weeks ago, emergency crews conducted a mock disaster drill on the premise a wildfire was ravaging Cheyenne Mountain in the Broadmoor Bluffs neighborhood near NORAD.

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    Sadly, the next chaotic evacuation may be authentic if kids keep trespassing on a century-old ranch in the neighborhood, getting drunk and stoned and setting fires.

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    That’s right.

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    Idiot teens — yes, I know “idiot teens” is redundant — repeatedly have set fires amid parched scrub oak and crispy underbrush at the bottom of a hillside rimmed by their parents’ mini-mansions.

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    An inferno capable to sweeping through all the Broadmoors — Glen, Oaks, Bluffs, Spires and Hills — seems inevitable, if someone doesn’t stop the kids.

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    Trying his hardest is Stan Horton, who manages the 116-acre ranch on behalf of its owner, Church of All Nationson Templeton Gap Road.

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    In recent weeks, Stan has caught 16 kids, many from Cheyenne Mountain High School, trespassing, partying and vandalizing the dozen or so old buildings, including the historic concrete house built around 1935 as a water tower but converted to a home.

    Property manager Stan Horton put teens caught vandalizing the concrete house to work painting it. Today it looks much differently than just a few weeks ago.

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    Already, two buildings have burned to the ground. Luckily the flames didn’t spread to the pump house or the dozens of surrounding homes.

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    But Stan fears a tragedy.

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    “It’s frustrating as can be,” Stan said as we toured the property. “We have fences. We’ve put up signs. But they keep coming in. They tag everything with spray paint. They destroy things.

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    “I’m fed up.”

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    Stan said the church was reluctant to press criminal charges as first. But as the vandalism and danger has escalated, Colorado Springs Police became involved.

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    “We call the parents and they want to make excuses for their kids,” Stan said, shaking his head. “They just keep coming, no matter what we do.”

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    The parents’ reaction is a mystery to Stan, a retired field artillery gunnery sergeant from Fort Carson.

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    This building is one of two burned to the ground by vandals.

    He can understand that kids are going to make poor choices. But parents’ shouldn’t reinforce those choices, he said.

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    Sadly, the arson and vandalism has been going on for decades, according to Don Failing, who has pastured horses on the property since 1980 or so. He said kids from Fort Carson used to come and play on the property, before the Broadmoor Bluffs neighborhood existed.

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    But in 1981, he said kids burned down a hay shed he had built for his horses. And then another small structure was burned repeatedly until it was destroyed.

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    “The kids from Broadmoor Bluffs started running wild on the place,” Don told me. “It’s been horrible the past 10 years.”

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    He described how the kids will cut entire sections of fence from a horse pasture, allowing the animals to run free in the neighborhood.

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    “They have a mean streak,” Don said. “That bunch from Broadmoor Bluffs is totally destructive.”

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    If the church can ever get the vandalism under control, it has big plans for the property.

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    “We want to developer a Christian retreat center here,” Stan said. “Kind of like ‘Praise Mountain’ where people can come.”

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    Already, the property hosts paintball tournaments for its youth ministry. Stan had hung a movie screen from one of the pump house balconies and hosted nearly 70 people for a “flashlight theater” movie night. He has plans for winter sledding, maybe motocross and horseback riding and more.

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    That is if the place isn’t burned to the ground by neighbors’ kids first.

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    Charred earth is all that remains of the building.Stan Horton, manager of the property, describes the damage done by vandals to the pump house as he stands inside the main level.

    The ranch was owned from 1920 to 2005 by the Bensberg family.

    Jim Bensberg, former El Paso County Commissioner, tells me the concrete building was built by his father and uncle in 1935. He said it was called “the Tower” and though it was designed for water storage, it was never used to hold water.

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    Bensberg told me a river running through the property was dammed above the Tower to provide water to the two residences, one of which to the north burned in a well-documented fire in 1950.

    Stan Horton, property manager for Church for All Nations, scrambles below a small dam that provided water to homes on the ranch.

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    Stan Horton, church property manager, describes the damage done by vandals to buildings on the ranch.

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    Nothing is safe from taggers, not even the water trough used for baptisims!

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    The view out of the concrete house.

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    Despite fences, chained gates and multiple signs, teens continue to trespass and vandalize the property.

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  • NEIGHBORHOODS TO GET NO VACATION FROM RENTALS

    Sun, June 5, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Neighborhoods in Colorado Springs will get no vacation from homes being used as short-term rental properties under new rules being proposed by city planning officials.

    Since 2008, a few neighborhoods have complained about the growing trend of vacation home rentals. We’ve seen it for years in ski resort towns.

    At the time, about 60 houses in the city were known vacation home rentals. Today, that number is 90 and growing.

    Most vocal among the neighborhoods was the Organization of Westside Neighbors, the Cedar Heights Community Assocation and a group in the Broadmoor.

    The took up the cause after chonic problems developed with vacation home rentals: neighbors upset having strangers around, coming and going late at night; loud and late parties; guests abusing wildlife; even a house in Cedar Heights being turned into an events center.

    But three years of study — including two task forces to look into the problem —  has not changed the city planners’ opinion that sufficient codes exist to regulate the short-term rentals.

    Welling Clark, OWN president, compiled extensive research on vacation home rentals and proposed a detailed code for regulating the properties.

    But the city was not swayed and, on Friday, distributed this draft of its proposed short-term rental regulations.

    xxx

    Essentially, the regulations make no changes to existing codes.

    To read more, check out this July 2010 column and its blog on the subject.

    And here’s a November 2009 column I wrote, as well as it’s accompanying blog.

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  • THE GRASS IS ALWAYS MEANER ON THE CITY RIGHT-OF-WAY

    Sun, August 15, 2010 by Bill Vogrin with 2 comments

    Fred Van Antwerp wants to walk his neighborhood in peace and out of the way of traffic.

    In the Broadmoor area of Colorado Springs where he lives, that’s a trick because there are no sidewalks and few curbs and gutters.

    Fred Van Antwerp stands on the spot where his property ends and the city's 9-foot public right-of-way begins outside his Broadmoor neighborhood home.

    So Fred walks on the grass along the streets. Lots of people in his neighborhood do the same thing.

    In many places, as on Oak Avenue in the photo above, folks respect the public 9-foot right-of-way that runs along every street in Colorado Springs. Their landscaping and fences set back from the road.

    But more and more homeowners are laying claim to the right-of-way, Fred says.

    It’s getting hard to stay out of the street because he encounters so many fences, or large boulders or hysterical homeowners all intent on shooing him off “their” property.

    Some even erect walls and thick shrubs to keep people off the right-of-way.

    Often, the landscaping looks very nice. But is it legal for homeowners to take control of the right-of-way?

    No, says Ken Lewis, city code enforcement administrator.

    He said the adjacent property owners are responsible for maintaining the adjacent right-of-way in what the city code calls an “aesthetically pleasing” manner. But they don’t own it and can’t keep people off it.

    Some even try to control the street in front of their homes. They put up fences to discourage walkers from straying on the grass and motorists from parking on the streets.

    Nice try. But definitely not legal.

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  • IS IT A HOME OR A HOTEL?

    Wed, July 21, 2010 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

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    Folks across Colorado Springs are complaining that properties in their neighborhoods are hotels masquerading as single-family homes.

    I’ve heard the complaints from upscale areas like the Broadmoor and the Old North End to gated communities including  Cedar Heights and Kissing Camels.

    And the complaints echo from more modest neighborhoods, too, like the Westside and Mountain Shadows.

    They all ask the same question: how can it be legal to convert a single-family home  into a hotel?

    Specifically they are talking about folks who rent their properties as vacation rental homes.

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    Turns out dozens of people have discovered they can make serious cash — upwards of $4,000 a week at peak weeks — by renting their houses to vacationers.

    Experts estimate there are 60 to 80 vacation home rental properties in the Springs. Cruise the web sites created to put renters in homes and you might think the number is far higher.

    Vacation Rentals By Owner is a popular one. Another is VacationRentals.com. Folks can advertise their places and search for a house to rent on these sites and others.

    Prices, according to a casual survey, seem to run in the $200 per day range.

    Prices peak during Air Force Academy graduation week each spring and during popular summer months. In addition, owners can ask a premium when the Springs is host to big youth sports tournaments and festivals.

    A city Vacation Home Rental Task Force was convened in the fall of 2009 but it produced nothing in terms of new rules to govern the practice as many other cities do.

     Manitou Springs, for example, requires folks who want to rent their homes on a daily or weekly basis to vacationers to apply for a conditional use permit. It goes through the planning commission and City Council. If approved, they must get a business license and pay sales and lodging taxes. Leases of 30 days or longer are exempt.

    The task force did discover that many homeowners are not registered with the city or paying sales taxes, as required.

    And many appear to be in violation of a city code that prohibits more than five unrelated adults from living in the same home.

    Dick Anderwald, the chief city planner, said he may reconvene the task force if enough complaints surface. His planner, Larry Larsen, is researching the issue and taking complaints at llarsen@springsgov.com.

    The only formal complaint this summer came from Cedar Heights where the Community Association president Lani Henneman asked about city codes. She said neighbors are upset about a house owned by Joanne Pearring being used exclusively as a vacation rental property.

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    Henneman said Pearring advertises the house as “Manitou Villa” and it is available to groups of 18-20 for $400 to $500 a night or $2,000 to $3,300 a week.

    .

     She recently rented the house to a baseball team in town for a tournament, Henneman said.

    .

    Pearring hung up on me when I tried to ask her about her house and business. Here’s a look from www.GoogleEarth.com.

    Henneman said neighbors have complained about loud, late parties at the house. It has been blamed for traffic problems at the security gate. Guests have been seen feeding wildlife. And throwing rocks at deer.

    She said Pearring, who lives in nearby Crystal Park and owns several other vacational rental houses, has “destroyed the whole purpose of a gated community” by introducing streams of strangers.

     But the homeowners association can’t do anything about it because covenants governing life in Cedar Heights never contamplated the issue.

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  • LIFE’S A VACATION, unless you live near a rental

    Sun, November 1, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Colorado Springs has appointed a task force to determine whether it should license, regulate and tax vacation rental homes.

    Turns out there are 60-80 homes sprinkled around the city that are advertised around the world in Web sites as vacation rental properties.

    vacationrentalwebsite

    They are favored by parents of Air Force Academy cadets when they come for parents’ weekend or graduation.

    Many families looking for a reunion site prefer vacation homes over hotels or bed-and-breakfast inns.

    Folks with special needs, like sterilized kitchens or quiet places for elderly or children, often choose vacation rental homes over hotels.vacationrentalwebpage1

     

    Problem is, they bring a parade of strangers into neighborhoods. Strangers who soak up parking spaces and sometimes hold late parties. A few people living near vacation rental houses have begun complaining to the city about the situation.

    So Dick Anderwald, the city’s land use and planning chief, created the Vacation Home Rental Task Force Committee to study the issue. He appointed neighborhood activists, vacation rental home owners and city planning staff to the task force.

    Here’s the agenda for the initial meeting in September:  vacationrentals. Please note that the roster of task force members changed after this was printed. Michael Clark and Autumn Hyser dropped out.

    One of the task force members, Jackie Ayers, owns the “Old Colorado Springs” 1902 Downtown House W/ Private Hot Tub - Colorado Springs  Here’s a look at her house from the Web site:

    1902downtownhouse

    She also manages a vacation rental for another owner. Ayers said the task force is an over-reaction to the complaints of a few people, including two task force members who live near vacation rental homes — one on the Westside and one in the Broadmoor.

    Anderwald apparently agreees. He said the issue appears to be confined to a small area of the city and the task force likely won’t produce new rules and regulations.

    However, owners of vacation rental homes likely will start getting tax bills from the city for sales taxes they have not been paying.

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