Copper Ridge plan in jeopardy after road plan voted down

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The Copper Ridge at Northgate development is proposed near Stout Road and Voyager Parkway, southeast of I-25 and North Gate Road.

The Copper Ridge at Northgate development is proposed near Stout Road and Voyager Parkway, southeast of I-25 and North Gate Road.

The El Paso County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously today to reject a partnership between the county and developer for the proposed Copper Ridge shopping center.

Under the agreement, a portion of sales tax revenue from the shopping center would pay for an extension of Powers Boulevard.

The road extension is crucial to plans to build the shopping center, because without it there is not sufficient access to the mall’s site.

The commissioners listened to more than three hours of testimony from County Attorney Bill Louis and independent planning consultants on the viability of an inter-governmental agreement between the developer, Northgate Properties owner Gary Erickson, and the county.

But late yesterday Mayor Lionel Rivera sent a letter to the commissioners requesting they table the vote.

The commissioners continued with the hearing, although questions about the viability of the project quickly piled-up.

Among the commissioner’s concerns: The site should not have been designated as an urban renewal project by the Springs’ city council in the first place, the Colorado constitution does not allow the sharing of general fund money to support road and bridge projects (as reported by the Business Journal here), the cannibalization of current businesses, a $2.3 million drop in county revenue from the project as the county is already facing lower property tax revenues, questionable commitment from a viable anchor store and hesitation to use county money for a state project.

Testimony from independent auditor Andrew Knudtsen of Economic & Planning Systems was perhaps the most damning. His figures were more conservative than previous forecasts, and he said the project could potentially miss sales and square-footage targets needed for bond securitization.

The commissioners said they would be open to hearing a revised proposal, but encouraged the developer to pursue other financing options.