• Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum is an historic artifact worth preserving

    Fri, March 28, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    ARCHITECTURE

    The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum in a 2007 photo. Mark Reis / The Gazette.

    It’s no secret that I love the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.

    I love the building, which opened in May 1903 as the El Paso County Courthouse.

    And I love its contents — the collection of 40,000 items ranging from Van Briggle pottery and American Indian artifacts to the personal papers of Civil War Gen. William Jackson Palmer, who founded Colorado Springs and built the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad.

    These artifacts tell the story of life in the Pikes Peak region. (In fact, a Side Streets column is one of the artifacts that has been on display!)

    The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum boasts three styles of columns: plain Doric on the bottom right, ornate Ionic in the middle and elaborate Corinthian on the far top tower. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum boasts three styles of columns: plain Doric on the bottom right, ornate Ionic in the middle and elaborate Corinthian on the far top tower. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    So it concerns me when I climb the steps to its doors and see cracks and missing chunks from its towering columns — which vary from Doric to Ionic and Corinthian, I’m told by Matt Mayberry, museum director. I hate to see the towers’ ornate, carved stonework crumbling.

    “The columns are melting away,” Mayberry said as he ran his hand over the deteriorating, decorative carvings.

    And it bothers me to see the stains and streaks of water damage under the windowsills around the elegant old building.

    “The building needs a thorough cleaning,” Mayberry said.

    When I look closer, my concerns grow. I see large pieces missing from archways over doors. Mortar is cracked or missing between the pink granite and rhyolite lava base stones. And a growing collection of pieces have fallen off the building.

    A century of wind, rain and snow have caused significant damage to the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Chunks of stone have broken off. The exterior is gashed by cracks and stained by decades of water damage. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    A century of wind, rain and snow have caused significant damage to the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Chunks of stone have broken off. The exterior is gashed by cracks and stained by decades of water damage. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    It’s a comfort to me that Mayberry and his staff have been diligent in pursuing funds to restore the structure. But money is tight for things such as power washing and new mortar. People tend to want to donate for a new exhibit or something to which they can proudly attach their names.

    That’s why I’m writing a note in support of the museum’s effort to secure a $190,000 grant from the State Historical Society to help fund Phase 4 of a decade-long restoration project.

    A century of wind, rain and snow have caused significant damage to the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Chunks of stone have broken off. The exterior is gashed by cracks and stained by decades of water damage. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    A century of wind, rain and snow have caused significant damage to the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Chunks of stone have broken off. The exterior is gashed by cracks and stained by decades of water damage. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    In the first three phases, about $1 million was used to replace rusting metal and repair roof leaks and stones. Phase 3 is ongoing, and I watched Wednesday as a masonry magician finished work on an eroded column base near the main Tejon Street entrance.

    This is not easy or inexpensive work. Century-old mortar must be chemically analyzed for expansion and contraction rates so that matching mortar can be created. And some of the work is not easily accessible.

    Matt Mayberry, director of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, inspects decorative stone carving that has disintegrated on a column on the building. He is seeking a $190,000 grant from the State Historical Society to help fund the fourth phase of restoration work on the century-old building. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Matt Mayberry, director of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, inspects decorative stone carving that has disintegrated on a column on the building. He is seeking a $190,000 grant from the State Historical Society to help fund the fourth phase of restoration work on the century-old building. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    It will be quite a trick to reach weathered and crumbling overhangs and windows.

    If Mayberry lands his grant and secures a 30 percent match from the city and private donations, Phase 4 will begin next summer on the north and south sides of the building. Then will come Phase 5, which will involve repairing and replacing doors and windows.

    “We started planning for this in 2005,” Mayberry said. “We hope to have it completed by 2016. Then the outside of the building should be good for another 100 years.”

    It’s pretty amazing to think that with a little more tender loving care the Pioneers Museum should stand for another 100 years. Consider that in 1963 the El Paso County Commission declared the building unusable and began planning a new courthouse — the rectangular monstrosity across Tejon Street.

    This building that now resides on the National Register of Historic Places serves as a 146-foot landmark in downtown with its bell tower, four-sided lighted clock, 38 carved Indian head keystones, two lion head fountains, cage elevator and more.

    A century of wind, rain and snow have caused significant damage to the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Chunks of stone have broken off. The exterior is gashed by cracks and stained by decades of water damage. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    A century of wind, rain and snow have caused significant damage to the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Chunks of stone have broken off. The exterior is gashed by cracks and stained by decades of water damage. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    It’s imperative that we preserve what enlightened Springs residents fought to save from demolition 50 years ago when they rallied behind a “Save the Courthouse Committee” and raised $250,000 to buy it.

    After this architectural gem was boarded up in 1972, I’m thrilled the museum was able to move in seven years later.

    And I’m happy to add my voice to those seeking grants and donations to preserve the museum.

    I’d love to see some deep-pockets benefactor step forward to transform the shuttered fourth courtroom into an exhibit space, restore the tower clock and ditch the clock’s electric motor for its historic water-pressure operation.

    A before-and-after comparison of cherubs over a doorway of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Courtesy photo.

    A before-and-after comparison of cherubs over a doorway of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Courtesy photo.

    About the museum
    • First two floors have large yellow columns, or pilasters, called scagliolia, or plaster painted to imitate marble.
    • Building materials include pink granite from Platte Canon quarry south of Denver and rhyolite tuff called cotapaxi lava from Kerr Quarries near Howard, west of Cañon City.
    • During its 60 years as a courthouse, its basement housed the offices of the courts, surveyors, county physician and coroner.
    • The 16 columns on the top of the clock/bell tower are cast iron.
    • Each of the four porticos are adorned with two cherubs holding blank shields. Original plans called for them to be inscribed with “Justitia Dedicata” or Dedicated to Justice.
    • The building has three floors. The tower is disproportionately tall because it was designed to accommodate a fourth story. The tower was centered in the building, north to south. But it is slightly off center, east to west, to accommodate a larger main courtroom.

    Lions head water fountains grace the north and south sides of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. They are believed to be horse water troughs. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Lions head water fountains grace the north and south sides of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. They are believed to be horse water troughs. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Timeline
    1899: Excavation begins
    Labor Day 1900: Cornerstone is laid
    May 1903: Opens as the ninth El Paso County Courthouse. Construction cost: $420,000. Architect: Augustus J. Smith.
    1963: El Paso County Commission starts planning a courthouse, declares old building unusable
    1966: Commission announces building will be demolished. A “Save the Courthouse Committee,” led by retired Brig. Gen. Kenneth Curtis, persuades the commission to build on a new site and preserve the old courthouse. It raises $250,000 to buy the building after a bond issue failed.
    Sept. 29, 1972: Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
    1972: Building is vacated by the county and boarded up
    1973: Building is deeded to Colorado Springs, which assumes ownership
    1979: Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum moves from its previous home in the gymnasium of the Knights of Columbus Hall at 25 W. Kiowa St.

    The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum features 38 Indian head keystones over archways  around the building. Each face is unique. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum features 38 Indian head keystones over archways around the building. Each face is unique. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

  • Mill Street blues no more as neighborhood blossoms

    Sat, August 24, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    JoAnne Ziegler is one of the driving forces behind the Mill Street Neighborhood's community garden. She said its been a great way to stay connected to her neighbors in the working class area south of downtown near the Drake Power Plant. She hopes Colorado Springs Mayor Bach, the City Council and El Paso County Commission will join neighbors Saturday at a block party and view their success.

    JoAnne Ziegler is one of the driving forces behind the Mill Street Neighborhood’s community garden. She said its been a great way to stay connected to her neighbors in the working class area south of downtown near the Drake Power Plant. She hopes Colorado Springs Mayor Bach, the City Council and El Paso County Commission will join neighbors Saturday at a block party and view their success.

    JoAnne Ziegler fell in love with the Mill Street neighborhood when she was looking for a home 18 years ago.

    She didn’t mind that the working-class neighborhood south of downtown was gritty — a place with a little dirt under its fingernails no doubt from a life in the shadow of the Drake Power Plant.

    New streets, sewers, sidewalks, curbs and gutters are on display at the new Mill Street neighborhood community garden.

    New streets, sewers, sidewalks, curbs and gutters are on display at the new Mill Street neighborhood community garden.

    She didn’t mind the 150 or so houses were old and the streets worn. And she didn’t mind dodging coal trains that rumble through day and night, disrupting traffic and sleep for some.

    “I just fell in love with it,” JoAnne said. “It was such a nice little neighborhood.”

    But she and her neighbors did mind quite a bit when, in 1999, the city proposed building a $6 million center to consolidate all services to the community’s homeless.

     About the same time, Colorado Springs Utilities announced it would build a 500-foot-long railroad spur and store coal cars along Mill Street.

     Residents were outraged and channeled their anger into action. They organized, fought the shelter and actually won. The rail spur was built but its design was modified to remove fewer homes. It even helped by clearing 1.5 acres which was returned to the neighborhood and used to build affordable housing.

    JoAnne Ziegler is one of the driving forces behind the Mill Street Neighborhood's community garden. She said its been a great way to stay connected to her neighbors in the working class area south of downtown near the Drake Power Plant. She hopes Colorado Springs Mayor Bach, the City Council and El Paso County Commission will join neighbors Saturday at a block party and view their success.

    JoAnne Ziegler is one of the driving forces behind the Mill Street Neighborhood’s community garden. She said its been a great way to stay connected to her neighbors in the working class area south of downtown near the Drake Power Plant. She hopes Colorado Springs Mayor Bach, the City Council and El Paso County Commission will join neighbors Saturday at a block party and view their success.

     

    Now, JoAnne and her neighbors are inviting the city back to Mill Street.

    “We want to show them everything we have accomplished,” she said. “We’ve been working hard in our neighborhood to bring it back to life.”

    They want folks in power to come see new streets built to replace century-old gravel, thanks to its designation as a neighborhood strategy area deserving of federal block grants.

    Those new streets also have new street lights. Missing sidewalks are being installed. And 17 or so new homes have been built by Habitat for Humanity and other good folks on the vacant land.

    “It’s been a long process but the neighborhood is looking great,” JoAnne said.

    She is especially proud of Mill Street’s new community garden. It’s the product of another goodwill gesture from Springs Utilities. The garden sits on a deep, wide lot on Cascade Avenue where a chronic drainage problem led Utilities to acquire the house and bulldoze the home. After clearing red tape and getting permits and handling fees, the lot was made available to the neighborhood for a garden.

    Mill Street Flash 3Garden guru Larry Stebbins and his Pikes Peak Urban Gardens developed a plan and arranged for grants and last fall 106 raised beds were built. Eight irrigation pumps were installed to provide watering. A tool shed and greenhouse were built and even a picnic table was added.

    “The garden just looks great,” JoAnne said.

    In fact, they’ve specifically invited Mayor Bach as well as the members of the City Council and the El Paso County Commission to their annual block party on Saturday to see for themselves.

    I wondered if the talk of removing Drake and building a downtown ballpark was making folks nervous that Mill Street in the crosshairs again.

    “I’ve thought about it, sure” JoAnne said. “We want them to see how far we’ve come. It shows if you give somebody half a chance, we can do it.”

    Actually, everyone ought to visit Mill Street. It’s a great example of what folks can do with they pull together and work for positive change.

    “It’s the best neighborhood,” JoAnne said. “I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the city.”

    082413 Side Streets 3——————-

  • DRILLING IS A FRACKING DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN!

    Sun, November 6, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with 3 comments

    El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey

    Recently, El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey suggested an energy company’s plan to drill three exploratory wells likely won’t cause “a lot of heart burn” because the sites aren’t “getting close to people’s barns and houses.”

    I tried to reach Hisey for days to ask him about that observation because I’m hearing from neighbors who are grabbing for rolls of Tums at the thought of Englewood-based Ultra Resources converting the Banning-Lewis Ranch from a sprawling subdivision into a massive oil and natural gas field.

    Especially concerned are the 700-plus homeowners in Colorado Centre and another 70 or so homeowners in adjacent Cuchares Ranch.

    They rely on four wells drilled into the shallow alluvium of Jimmy Camp Creek to supply their drinking water. They are frightened by the thought of wildcatters a few miles away using a controversial technique of “hydraulic fracturing” in which they blast chemicals and water into shale formations to break the rock and release oil and gas.

    Critics blame the so-called fracking technique for damaging the environment and contaminating underground drinking water supplies.

    “Some of our residents have come to us with questions,” said Joan Lucia-Treese, a member of the Colorado Centre Metro District board. “The first of the three wells is not terribly far from us. Some residents are concerned. Our board has concerns.”

    The well in question would be at the corner of Drennan and Curtis roads, about three miles south of Schriever Air Force Base and about six miles east of Colorado Centre and Cuchares Ranch.

    What could go wrong?

    Enough, actually, that many residents are worried.

    But drilling, apparently, can’t be banned. Only regulated. And folks in Colorado Centre want their elected officials to take a hard look at the project.

    “We’re not trying to stop anyone from drilling,” said Al Testa, manager of the metro district. “But if there is any contamination, it’s going to get to us very quickly because our water is alluvium water. Not from a deep aquifer.”

    Colorado Centre, with Jimmy Camp Creek on the right, as seen from www.FlashEarth.com

    In other words, it flows just below the surface so it’s especially vulnerable to contamination.

    “We want to make sure there is a mitigation plan in case they end up polluting our community’s only water source,” Testa said.

    Seems reasonable. Wish I could have asked Hisey about it and, perhaps, gotten some assurances.

    “Our concern is ‘what if’ and what do we do,” Lucia-Treese said. “Who makes the call in the event of an accident?

    “What happens in that 24- to 48-hour period before the state declares an emergency and the oil company must begin remediation? Am I buying tons of bottled water for our 800 homes?  How long do we have to wait for reimbursement from the oil company? What kind of remediation can we expect?”

    Makes me want to say: No fracking way!

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  • WILL WOODMEN HILLS COVENANTS EVER BE ENFORCED?

    Sun, October 23, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    Woodmen Hills is a subdivision of about 2,200 homes in Falcon, an unincorporated community northeast of Colorado Springs along U.S. Highway 24.

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    NO, is the answer to the headline if a determined group of Woodmen Hills residents get their way.

    The Woodmen Hills Metro District wants the El Paso County Commission to give it the authority to enforce covenants in filings 1-10 of the subdivision in unincorporated Falcon, northeast of Colorado Springs.

    Only the 900 homes in filing 11 have a homeowners association enforcing covenants. The other 1,200 homes, in filings 1-10, have covenants attached to their homes but no active HOA to enforce them.

    And that’s the way many seem to like it.

    When the metro district began enforcing them in 2008, resident Chuck Warne led a group of residents who sued to stop.

     

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    A recreation center in Woodmen Hills.

    In May 2009, a district judge slam-dunked the  Metro District.

    Then, in June 2010, the Court of Appeals upheld the judge’s decision.

    Case closed, right? Ha!

    The metro district is determined to get authority to resume policing violations of covenants — rules governing parking, landscaping, fences, trailers and such.

    On Thursday, they tried to convince the El Paso County Commission to give it the authority as part of a new “service plan” it is seeking.

    The proposed service plan also would allow the district to raise its maximum debt authorization to $53 million from its current $16.2 million cap. And it would give the district a maximum mill levy of 60 mills. I found it interesting the covenant issue generated the most controversy.

    Residents lined up to denounce the metro district and its previous efforts at enforcing covenants and to plead with the five commissioners to strip the provision from the service plan.

    Among those testifying was Chuck Warne, who moved to Woodmen Hills in 2003 and sued in 2008 to stop the enforcement.

    “You’ve got a very small group of people trying to impose their will on the majority of people,” Warne said. He said if residents want covenant enforcement, they can do it themselves.

    “It’s up to the residents themselves if they want covenant enforcement,” he said. “They can create an HOA under their home rule powers. We don’t need the Metro District involved. They don’t listen to the people. They don’t care.”

    Larry Bishop

    Before Thursday’s hearing, Metro District manager Larry Bishop said many residents want covenants enforced and his board is responding to that demand.

    “There’s a misunderstanding about whether the metro district is going to become a dictatorship and force covenant enforcement down peoples’ throats,” he said. “Voters will decide. It will be a simple ballot question: Shall covenants be enforced in this filing?”

    I’ve spoken to folks in Woodmen Hills who would welcome the proposed vote in May 2012 and the enforcement of covenants.

    They say there are too many RVs and trailers parked on the streets and other issues.

    But it was enforcement horror stories that got the attention of commissioners Amy Lathen and Darryl Glenn last week.

    “We’ve heard outrageous examples of abuse,” Lathen said, adding that she’s never gotten a request for enforcement from Woodmen Hills residents. “But I’ve heard many complaints.”

    The commission delayed action until December. I’m guessing whatever the decision, the fight will go on.

    Here’s a link to an independent Woodmen Hills Info website.

    To read briefs filed in the appeal, click here.

    Follow this link to the Court of Appeals decision upholding the judge’s decision.

    The attorneys for the metro district wrote this letter explaining their position.

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  • CAN A NEIGHBORHOOD ACTIVIST GET ELECTED MAYOR?

    Sun, January 23, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with 2 comments

    To date, the answer is no. No neighborhood organizer/activist has ever been elected mayor of Colorado Springs.

    The mayor typically is a product of the establishment . . . a banker, attorney, businessman, a leader of a non-profit or some other executive.

    Even as neighborhoods have grown in sophistication, political savvy and influence at City Hall, they have not produced mayoral timber. 

    Sallie Clark

    The most successful product of a grassroots neighborhood movement, Sallie Clark, tried twice to win the mayor’s seat and lost. 

    In 1999, she finished third to incumbent Mary Lou Makepeace and car dealer Will Perkins

    Then in 2003 she again finished a close third behind winner Lionel Rivera and Ted Eastburn.

    Another neighborhood leader who joined her on the council was Margaret Radford.  They were followed by Tom Gallagher.

    In 2004 Clark deepened her political resume when she was elected to the El Paso County Commission.

    Margaret Radford, former neighborhood activist and two-term member of the Colorado Springs City Council

    She’s watching with interest the upcoming race for mayor. That’s because the race includes two men whose roots are in neighborhood organizing like hers: Gallagher and Dave Munger, president of the Council of Neighbors and Organizations, or CONO, the umbrella organization for the city’s neighborhood associations.

    Clark is wondering, like I am, if their backgrounds in neighborhood leadership, will translate into votes for mayor.

    Radford surprised me with her analysis. Having come from a neighborhood organizer/activist background, I expected her to echo the need for our next mayor to have strong neighborhood sensibilities and perhaps roots similar to hers.

    However, Radford said neighborhoods don’t have the corner on leadership training. She urged voters to elect the candidate with the best character, leadlership skills and vision. Interesting.

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  • BIRD BUSINESS GETTING EXPENSIVE AS FINES MOUNT

    Sun, January 9, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with 2 comments

    Round One goes to the Van Wormers. But Round Two is already costing them cash.

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    Cynthia Van Wormer kisses one of the birds she breeds and sells from her home in Woodmoor. The neighborhood homeowners association has ordered her to move her business because it violates covenants prohibiting animal breeding. Photo courtesy of KRDO Newschannel 13.

    Cynthia and Thomas Van Wormer convinced the El Paso County Commission on Thursday to wink at state laws and county ordinances and let them keep their Rocky Mountain Bird Farm & Pet Supply in their Woodmoor home.

    Thomas and Cynthia Van Wormer spoke Thursday to the El Paso County Commission in defense of their Rocky Mountain Bird Farm & Pet Supply business that they operate from their Woodmoor home.

    It didn’t bother three members of the commission — Wayne Williams, Amy Lathen and Dennis Hisey — that the business violates state and county rules for home businesses and bird breeding.

    Williams said if neighbors can’t hear or smell the birds, then the government should butt out. I call the policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Smell.”

    The three commissioners’ attitude incensed the Woodmoor Improvement Association, which is the homeowners association for the 3,000-home community in the woods east of Monument.

    WIA President Chuck Maher called the commissioners gutless and said he wished he hadn’t voted for them. And he vowed the WIA would do what the commission didn’t have the spine to do.

    Thomas Van Wormer, business partner Shawn Rapley, and Cynthia Van Wormer listen to testimony Thursday before the El Paso County Commission.

    “We will enforce our covenants,” Maher said, vowing to use all means necessary including asking a judge for a restraining order to evict the business from the home.

    In fact, the wheels of HOA justice already are turning.

    On Friday, the WIA won a court decision against the Van Wormers over legal fees associated with fighting a restraining order the couple brought against the association in October.

    The WIA submitted fees of about $1,600 in that case.

    And the couple now is liable for daily fines stemming from their home business.

    At a November WIA board meeting, the couple was found to be in violation of two covenants. Board members described it as a tense meeting in which Cynthia Van Wormer shouted and used obscenities in addressing the board and neighbors.

    It fined them $50 for barking dog violations and $50 for having an unapproved home business, according to WIA attorney Debra Oppenheimer.

    Both fines were suspended to let the couple remedy the violations. When their two wolf hybrids were shipped to a sanctuary in California late last month, they avoided the first fine.

    But Oppenheimer said the home business continues to operate and the $50 fine will be reinstated along with a $25 daily fine that will accrue until the business is gone. The daily fine took effect Dec. 31, meaning the couple now owes $250 and counting!

    I tried to talk to the Van Wormers about all this.

    Cynthia Van Wormer called the commission’s decision “fair” but declined to tell me her next move. Instead, she attacked me, accusing me of slanting my original column against them.

    Cynthia got very angry when I asked her about her testimony to the commission in which she said only about 25 percent of her 1883-square-foot home is dedicated to the business.

    I reminded her that she told me her entire basement — about 1,000 square feet — is filled with 50 birds and she had put her living room and dining room furniture in storage to accomodate another 48 birds. That sounded like far more than 25 percent — the legal limit — to me.

    Thomas and their business partner, Shawn Rapley, also criticized me and accused me of being unfair in my portrayal of them.

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  • 100 EXOTIC BIRDS, FIVE AKITAS, TWO WOLF HYBRIDS and a patridge in a pear tree

    Wed, January 5, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    Cynthia Van Wormer can’t understand why her neighbors care if she keeps 100 exotic birds, breeds them and sells them from her modest ranch home in Woodmoor, east of Monument.

    She doesn’t understand why anyone thinks her Akita dogs were vicious or dangerous and had to be destroyed.

    And she’s angry the county forced her to send her wolf-hybrids to a shelter in California.

    She hopes her response to complaints will convince the El Paso County Commission to let her keep her menagerie. At least her birds and her business at her home.

    “It’s really sad I can’t live and run a little business in my own home and be left alone,” Van Wormer said Wednesday.

    She blames her neighbor, John Clark, for her problems. He has filed repeated complaints against Van Wormer over her animals. It goes back to 2002 when one of Van Wormer’s dogs, Kai, left her yard and attacked his golden retriever pups.

    The humane society impounded Kai, held it 101 days before a judge released the dog and it returned home. A few months later, the dog died unexpectedly and Van Wormer blamed Clark.

    Here is a look at the neighborhood from Google Earth:

    Here is the packet of information prepared for El Paso County Commissioners by the code enforcement officers to be presented at Thursday’s meeting. Here is the second violation notice mailed in November.

    Clark denies Van Wormer’s allegation that he poisoned Kai. And tests of the dog were inconclusive. She sued him anyway and won a small settlement.

    Things intensified around 2009 when her bird collection grew to about 100, she got three new Akitas and two wolf-hybrids. She found herself facing complaints from Clark, other neighbors, the Woodmoor Improvement Association and the county.

    In September, the three Akitas were destroyed after complaints about vicious fighting. And Van Wormer sent the wolf hybrids to a sanctuary in California a couple weeks ago after county complaints.

    And she has sought a restraining order against Clark, accusing him of threatening her life.

    He denies making any threats and cites her “erratic” behavior as the reason he’s thinking of moving. He said he is scared of her after a domestic dispute in her home in June 2000 led to her arrest for assault on a police officer. And he cited her use of a gun around 1999, shooting at someone in her home.

    What about the shooting in 1999? She says an intruder threatened her life so she grabbed her husband’s gun and fired, being careful to aim about six inches to the side of the man’s head. The man fled and was not immediately caught.

    Van Wormer said Thursday the man was caught, eventually, and is incarcerated. But she did not give his name and declined to answer any more questions from me about the incident.

    What about that arrest back in June 2000? She said it happened after EL Paso County Sheriff’s deputies answered a call about a domestic dispute at the home. She wanted to throw her husband out of the house. She said he kicked the door in.

    But when police arrived, she said one of the officers sexually assaulted her by placing both hands on her breasts and pushing her up against a wall to restrain her. She responded by slapping him. The slap was minor, she said, and didn’t even leave a red mark.

    Here’s the police report of the incident. The arresting officers paint a much different, and darker, picture of events.

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  • SIGNS, SIGNS, EVERYWHERE SIGNS . . .

    Wed, March 17, 2010 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    And now, more and more of those signs are using Light-Emitting Diodes or LEDs.

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    LEDs are super-bright electronic lights.

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     Imagine thousands of the brilliant little suckers flashing messages on a 30-foot-tall billboard outside your bedroom window.

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    That’s happening all around the Colorado Springs region: in Security; on Austin Bluffs Parkway near Barnes Road; along U.S. Highway 24 near Petersen Road; and on Powers Boulevard near Galley Road.

    All five signs are owned by Lamar Outdoor Advertising, which spent upwards of $250,000 apiece for the boards.

    Here’s a photo of a two-sided board on Austin Bluffs, towering over the Fabulous TNT’s strip club:

    Neighbors are divided over the LED boards. Some hate the blinking every six seconds as the message changes. Others accept them, grudgingly, as a fact of life.

    Here’s a look at one that stands along South Academy Boulevard, in near Bradley Road, in Security. Folks living in modest houses amid the trees behind the storage warehouses are not thrilled with the sign.

     Lamar  owns an estimated 150,000 billboards in 44 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Of its inventory, about 250 are LEDs.

    Advertisers love them because motorists can’t ignore them. They can be networked nationwide. The message can be changed instantly for a single-day promotion. All with just a computer keystroke.

    But more cities are banning them because they pose a danger to motorists, who can’t ignore them. And folks living near them object to the bright, blinking signs.

    Critics include Scenic Colorado and the Council of Neighbors & Associations.

    Denver and Colorado Springs don’t allow them. But they were permitted in El Paso County last year after a staff review.

    Here’s a link to the 68-page report prepared for the El Paso County Commission on billboards in the county.

    Screen Magazine  describes LEDS as an efficient, effective and ultrabright alternative to incandescent light bulbs.

    A light emitting diode (LED) is an electronic light source. The first LED was built in the 1920s by a radio technician who noticed that diodes used in radio receivers emitted light when current was passed through them.

     The LED was introduced as a practical electronic component in 1962 (See Wikipedia). LEDs are considered more energy efficient and require less maintenance than traditional lighting. They also boast a life of about 50,000 hours–more than five years!

    If you’ve been to Freemont Street, seen below, in Las Vegas or Times Square in New York City, you’ve seen LEDs in all their glory.

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    These new billboards are light-years away the original billboards in the 1830s which advertised: “The circus is coming to town,” according to a history written by the Outdoor Advertising Association of America Inc.

    Electronic digital billboards go back about 10 years, again according to OAAA.

    Of the 450,000 billboards nationwide, about 2,000 are LEDs but the inventory is growing by the hundreds every year.

    The signs cost upwards of $250,000 or more, compared to $5,000 to $50,000 for a traditional billboard.

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  • EVEN IN DEFEAT, NEIGHBORS WIN

    Sun, July 19, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Residents of the Eagle Villas neighborhood were shocked when they learned in the winter of 2007 that San Diego attorney Miles Scully, owner of the Gleneagle Golf Course, wanted to close his 10.5-acre driving range.

    Here’s a look at Gleneagle from www.FlashEarth.com:

     gleneagleflash

     

    Scully wanted to build 47 patio homes on the property. Right in front of Eagle Villas and the folks who paid a premium to front a golf course. They organized a massive neighborhood effort, including an online newsletter, to oppose the project.

     The subsequent fight has been the subject of several Side Streets.

    Here’s a story I wrote in June, a previous story  from August 2008 and another I wrote in February 2008.

    I’ve also blogged about the fight in June and last August. In those blogs, I posted more detail about the project.

    Here is a closer look at the driving range and Eagle Villas neighborhood:

    gleneagleflashmap

    Anyway, the El Paso County Commission took up the issue at it’s July 9 meeting and after several hours of testimony and debate voted 3-2 to approve Scully’s rezoning request which would allow him to build the patio homes.

    You can listen to a recording of the hearing. Better carve out about three hours, though.

    But neighbors are celebrating. They had feared a complete smackdown from the commission. They worried that “property rights” would trump the concerns of neighbors whose property values stand to suffer if the entire golf course eventually is redeveloped into high-density homes as has been suggested by Scully.

    The commission gave Scully about a year to come back with a plan to protect the remainder of the 103-acre course from future redevelopment.

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  • GLENEAGLE GOLF – a property rights test

    Wed, June 10, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

     

    gleneaglegolf

    Property rights will be the heart of the debate when the El Paso County Commission takes up a request Thursday from the Gleneagle Golf Club to rezone 10.5 acres, including its driving range, to allow it to build 47 patio homes.

    Here is a look at the region from www.FlashEarth.com:

    gleneagleflashmap2

    Residents surrounding the golf course, led by the owners of the 28 Eagle Villas townhomes that overlook the driving range, are opposing the rezoning and patio home project. Below is a closer view from www.FlashEarth.com:

    gleneagleflashmap

    Here are preliminary architect’s drawings of the project:

    gleneagleblueprints

    Activists created an action group called GREAT, for the Gleneagle Residents’ Environmental Advocacy Team, to fight the plan.

    They raised $10,000 to hire an attorney, produce documents, mailings and set up a Web site to coordinate the battle.

     Now it’s all up to the five-member County Commission to decide whether the needs of the course owner outweigh the needs of dozens of homeowners surrounding the course.  Here is a view from the course.

    gleneagleview

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Here’s a link to my Feb. 24, 2008 column on Gleneagle and its driving range and my blog, as well.

    And here is a followup I wrote Aug. 21, 2008 about the conflict. I blogged about it in August, as well.

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