Hazlehurst: Banning Lewis Ranch under contract

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banninglewis_corralbluffsNor’wood’s press release (see below) announcing its pending acquisition of the Banning Lewis Ranch was, shall we say, interestingly uninformative. It’s full of tantalizing tidbits, of amiable bullet points intended to please community leaders, environmentalists and conservationists.

Are they serious, or is this just another mega-subdivision deal, another step in the continuing de-urbanization of Colorado Springs? How will it be structured? What will be preserved, what will be lost, what will be gained?

For the first time in many decades, the ranch is under contract for a realistic price (knowing Chris and Dave Jenkins, that goes without saying) to strong local buyers. That means we can expect focused, considered and attractive development. That the development will include major amenities that will benefit not only future residents of the B-L Ranch but also the entire city is also virtually certain.

Here, according to the usual unreliable sources, is how the deal will play out.

The existing 1988 master plan would be extensively amended.

The northern part of the ranch, mainly consisting of rolling prairie, would be developed in accordance with the revised plan. There’s no estimate of when build-out might occur – the market will do that. Unlike previous owners, the deep-pocketed folks at Nor’wood can hold land indefinitely.

In the central portion of the ranch, the existing (but undeveloped) 693-acre Jimmy Camp Creek Park would be linked with the 522-acre Corral Bluffs Open Space. As much as 2,480 additional acres of the ranch (much of it unbuildable) would be dedicated as open space and conservation easement-protected ranchland, forming a contiguous parcel of 3,695 acres.

The southern portion of the ranch, which is adjacent to Peterson Air Force Base, would be reserved for the possible expansion of the Peterson/Schriever complex.

These are exciting plans.

If realized, they would transform Banning-Lewis from a growth-inhibiting albatross on the city’s eastern border to a major asset. After so many years of disappointment, it’s hard to be optimistic about Banning-Lewis, but this may be the breakthrough we’ve all hoped for.

Mayor Steve Bach is hopeful.

“Talked to Dave Jenkins today,” said Bach in an email yesterday. “Nor’wood will apparently assume Ultra’s position in the bankruptcy court proceeding, looking for relief from the annexation agreement.

“That will be a matter for City Council’s involvement, since land use is its purview.

“It is good to have a local strong player controlling the property. Hopefully, Nor’wood will work with the city in rethinking the B-L master plan concurrent with helping us to achieve infilling.”

 

The text of the press release sent by Nor’wood is below:

Nor’wood Development Group is pleased to announce that the Banning Lewis Ranch has been placed under contract.

We believe…

… Land is a precious and non-renewable resource, and as such demands thoughtful, careful and long-term stewardship.

… Planning for our community’s suburban growth must be thoughtful and deliberate.  Our region must optimize existing utility, transportation and communication infrastructure and encourage infill development and re-development of existing areas as well as integrating new suburban areas into the broader community.

… The acquisition of Banning Lewis Ranch, under a fiscally viable and responsible land-use strategy blending residential, commercial, and industrial development interests together with preservation and conservation interests in beneficial ways, will significantly enhance our region’s opportunities for long-term prosperity andimprove our region’s quality of life for all citizens.

We will…

  • Promote responsible stewardship of the property’s environmental resources
  • Support efficient public services and facilities infrastructure that ensures high quality, cost effective city services
  • Support the long-term viability of the Peterson and Schriever Air Force installations
  • Support the protection of the property’s world-renown paleontological and archeological sites and a signature conservation effort that is locally and nationally significant
  • Support greater and more meaningful outdoor educational and recreational opportunities for our region’s citizens
  • Continue to engage and expand the group consisting of the Palmer Land Trust, Trust for Public Lands, Pikes Peak Community Foundation and other elected, military, civic, business, science and conservation organizations and individuals

As the due diligence period is lengthy, there are many complicated issues as well as numerous unknown conditions that need to be evaluated.  Should the property be purchased, Nor’wood will engage the best local and national experts and organizations to partner with the community to develop a land use plan and ownership structures that incorporates the above guiding principles.

Our next public update will be issued when the property is acquired.

2 Responses to Hazlehurst: Banning Lewis Ranch under contract

  1. Nor’wood is known for getting things DONE.
    The Jenkins Family is known to believe totally in the special nature of Colorado Springs.
    The BL Ranch development provides a multi-generational opportunity to shape the future of this City.
    I am thrilled with this news.
    I’m stunned to think of the opportunity for a 3000+ acre open space within true city limits.
    I guess the BL saga proves the point that sometimes ya gotta kiss a lot of frogs to get to where ya want to be.

    richard black
    June 11, 2014 at 2:21 pm

  2. Sounds like some interesting possibilities, but I wouldn’t agree that a big parcel of land sitting undeveloped is an albatross. That strikes me as stuck in the 50’s “pave the world” thinking. Especially when undeveloped land has very low municipal service costs.

    Dave Gardner
    June 11, 2014 at 9:39 pm