by Rick Langenberg:
Woodland Park elected leaders have frowned on the prospects of gated, Broadmoor-like neighborhoods, saying they want an open community. However, that attitude may be changing, signaling a new perception regarding more elite, private subdivisions in Woodland Park. Last week, the city council by a 6-1 informal tally gave developer Chuck Murphy the go-ahead for transforming the 32-lot Wildernest subdivision, located near the Woodland Park Middle School, into a completely gated community with private roads and with no more public traffic.
With this plan, the developer and lot owners would be responsible for the maintenance of their elaborate infrastructure system, including roads, curbs, gutters and sidewalks. The developer expects to spend a minimum of $100,000 in setting up the gates and preparing to shut off the subdivision roadways to the public. The new proposed change was prompted by problems Murphy outlined with motorists, who don’t own lots there, cutting through the subdivision to avoid school traffic. In addition, he cited problems with people using the subdivision, which mostly consists of vacant lots, as a dumping ground. “It’s an unpleasant situation,” said Murphy, who indicated that he and the current lot owners have wanted a gated community for some time. “Times have changed in Woodland Park,” added Murphy Although the council’s verdict wasn’t official, it indicated a new attitude towards open development and the city’s sense of community. In fact, the council action appeared to surprise former Mayor Pro Tem Jon DeVaux. “We are an open community,” explained DeVaux, in describing the council’s resistance to these types of plans in the past. “We don’t have gated communities.” He described the council’s “no-gated communities” attitude as primarily a philosophical position.
This stance has been advocated by city officials. Currently, the city has no rules pertaining to the privatization and gating of subdivisions. Also, the city staff posed a slew of questions, regarding how Murphy’s plan would work and how the government would be protected. Through the detailed questions mentioned in a staff report, officials appeared to take the position that the council should think twice about signaling the green light for a gated community. But the council didn’t agree with these concerns and clearly sided with Murphy. “I like gated communities,” said Councilman Terry Harrison. Councilman Eric Smith, who works as an engineer and developer, echoed similar sentiments. “I don’t have an issue with gated communities,” said Smith. “There is no impact to the public infrastructure. Why not? He (developer Chuck Murphy) is taking the risk. We have unanimous support from the residents there.” For the most part, the council was swayed by the current dilemma facing the developer in trying to combat the current problems inflicting the subdivision with speeding motorists and trash dumpers. And if Murphy and the current lot owners are willing to pick up the tab for the extra maintenance costs, then the city shouldn’t object to the subdivision privatization plan, noted most council members. But the issue did spark some debate. Councilman Bob Carlsen questioned Murphy about his aspirations for the subdivision, with a gated set-up. “We are not the Broadmoor,” blasted Carlsen. He objected to comparisons that Murphy made to the success of a subdivision the developer controlled in Colorado Springs near the Broadmoor, which was transformed into a gated community. “These are public streets,” added Mayor Dave Turley, in describing the current infrastructure inside the Wildernest subdivision. The council even tossed out the idea of making the subdivision only partially-gated.
The developer, though, said he is quite optimistic of the prospects of the Wildernest, which consists of single-family lots, as a completely gated area. “There are a lot of changes in Woodland Park. I think the public would respond to it.” Currently, about five lots have been purchased in the subdivision. He mentioned the fact that a vast majority of home owners who moved into his company’s gated development near the Broadmoor came from other parts of the Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak region, rather than the Broadmoor. Initially, the council didn’t want to take an informal straw poll. But City Manager David Buttery advised the elected leaders to let Murphy know how they stood on this issue, so he wouldn’t waste a lot of money in doing preparation work for the development to become privatized.
During an informally tally, the entire council, except for Gary Brovetto, gave the idea the go-ahead. Thunderhead Inn changes In other related development matters in the same area of to town, the council also gave the initial nod to an annexation petition for an adjacent 3.7-acre area, which formerly housed the Thunderhead Inn. The council agreed that the area qualified as property that should become part of the city. “This is another hole in the donut,” said City Planning Director Sally Riley, in describing county parcels in this part of town that are surrounded by city land. The annexation bid still has to undergo a number of steps. Under the proposed plans by the Florida-based land owners, the area would become a suburban residential development, making it eligible for several home sites. The plans also call for restoring the old Thunderhead Inn structure, which in past years even served as a celebratory place for post-city council gatherings and those of other civic groups. However, no details were released last week regarding the old Thunderhead, which has been closed for a number of years. This area abounds with legendary tales of illicit gambling activities with the likes of Bert Bergstrom and other colorful characters during the state’s prohibition era.