Huge crowd criticizes WP development pursuits
~ by Bob Volpe ~
More than 100 people crowded into the banquet room at the Shining Mountain Golf Course and Event Center to last week to protest a proposed Flying W Ranch- style venue, which would be located across the street from the popular links close to many residents.
Despite their outcries, the New Mexico developers and property owners for the land area plan to move forward with their proposed project, with expected hearings before the WP Planning Commission and City Council and possibly more neighborhood meetings.
The proposed project, called the Diamond A Chuckwagon, would include a 13,000 square foot show barn, gift shops, sporting goods store, bunk house for employees, four houses for the managers of the venue, 4-6 RV spaces for part time employees, a chapel, a variety of out buildings, and corral for petting zoo.
The show barn would be a dinner theater that would serve dinner and a show for up to 600 people. There would be shows daily during the season, which would run from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Jim Houk, planner for the project, described the project’s concept and scope. Houk provided artist renderings of the overall area and a rendering of some of the buildings that would be built on the property.
Woodland Park Planning Director Sally Riley then gave a detailed description of the process the project would go through to reach approval with the city.
Next to speak was the land owner and New Mexico developer, Tim Rabon. Rabon spoke about the history of the Diamond A Chuckwagon venues that already exist throughout the west. He made many comparisons with the Flying W Ranch venue in Colorado Springs, which had to close due to the Waldo Canyon fire. .
He then dispelled one of the pressing fears on residents’ minds. He explained that the project is not a non-profit organization and is not associated with the Dayspring Christian Fellowship and that he merely purchased that land from that group. Rabon assured the crowd that his project is a for-profit venture and would be paying property taxes.
The crowd listened orderly and intently through most of Rabon’s presentation, but the temptation to ask questions overpowered their patience.
One resident stood and asked whether access to the site would be off Hwy. 67, or off Sourdough Road. When Rabon responded, “Off of Sourdough,” the crowd erupted in a resounding, “Nooooo.”
At that point it was open season on the venue’s team and the crowd pounced, like a cat on a wounded mouse.
Questions began to rain down on Rabon like a summer cloudburst. Is the housing temporary or permanent? Will there be a caretaker on site during the off season? What about a sound barrier to stop the noise?
Those questions were just the appetizer. The red meat entrée dealt with questions on traffic congestion, and if this project is good for the city.
The venue team’s traffic consultant tried to quell the fears of residents by talking about the traffic study and improvements to Sourdough Road that Rabon would have to make, including widening Sourdough, adding turn lanes, and paving the road. But the development team faced much criticism.
Tamarac resident and former Colorado Springs police officer, Micheal Merson questioned the independence of the traffic study consultant. He said, “Who is paying you for this study? If you think you can put 300 to 400 hundred vehicles on 67, two times a day you’re going to have massive delays on Hwy. 24.”
The crowd erupted in applause with these comments. Merson continued, “You’re going to have people driving through the adjacent neighborhoods trying to avoid that traffic.”
The consultant tried to use the Flying W Ranch as an example of how the residents of the Mountain Shadows subdivision in Colorado Springs dealt with the traffic from the entertainment facility. But this comparison didn’t quell the growing neighborhood opposition to the development.
A resident immediately spoke up and said, “Flying W was there before Mountain Shadows. People buying
houses there knew what they were getting into before they bought their homes.”
Questions about the city’s pro-development stance
A woman in the audience addressed the elephant in the room. She said, “My question is, how is this good for the citizens of Woodland Park?”
She then repeated the question and addressed it to Woodland Park Planning Director Sally Riley. Riley responded by describing the purpose of the city’s comprehensive plan, Riley said, “When property is privately owned that
property owner must convince the city that the property is used in the best use on that property. When that property sits vacant it does not generate tax dollars.”
She was instantly shouted down by an irate resident. “We don’t care.”
Riley then tried to convince the crowd that a venue like this would increase in value, keep our taxes low and raise property values. The crowd responded to this like a group who was just told they would get no desert after dinner. It took a while to restore order.
Someone else stood and commented, “What happens to our town’s restaurants if you’re feeding 600 people a day?”
The crowd then turned its anger on the city.
A man stood and remarked, “I moved up here for the peace and quiet. Every time I turn around the city has ambushed us and put more stuff in. I went to a meeting and I spoke to the city about Stone Ridge rezoning (visitwww.mountainjackpot.com for more details). The people came to speak and the city did not listen. We want a small quaint town. We don’t want it big.”
He then asked the crowd for a show of hands. “How many people want this here?” You could hear crickets chirping. “How many don’t want this here?” Every hand in the audience went up. Some even got to their
Perhaps resident Timothy McMilen summed up the views of the residents best. He said, “You haven’t convinced us that this is in the best interest of our community.”
Rabon responded, “I don’t think I can do that. We’re building this venue in the best interest of our group because we are in the business of making money.”
McMilen followed up, “I think our biggest concern is that, we have seen, as citizens, projects that have been proposed without us having any kind of vote or say in the matter. Ultimately, our representatives do what they want to do. You can’t put a price on peace. You can’t put a price on quiet. You can’t put a price on this gentleman being able to watch the stars, because there are now headlights shining where his telescope is. You can’t put a price on the people who live on Sourdough and enjoy the peace now, knowing that six nights a week, all through summer, they’re going to have traffic, not just during your shows. There is going to be traffic running the entire time. I think it’s pretty clear these people don’t want your project. This used to be a quiet town. We have been compromised. City leadership has compromised us. This is not in the best interest of the city of Woodland Park who has to contend with this night after night.”
In a television report aired on KRDO, Rabon admitted he was surprised by the level of neighborhood opposition. However, he still plans to pursue the project at this site and to seek approval by the planning commission and city council. He also indicated he may have more neighborhood meeting.
But Rabon told TMJ News that even if the project is approved, it could take two years to develop.