What really happened with White Acres
By City Councilman Jerry Heimlicher
I am writing to clarify some of the facts about activity to date on the possible acquisition of White Acres.
It has been reported [in another publication] that the City Parks Department recommended the purchase of White Acres and the City Council declined to approve that. The council meeting at which White Acres was discussed included the possible acquisition of a number of open space properties. At a closed session, the Parks Department presented several options for the use of Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) funded open space purchases. White Acres was one of those discussed as well as Section 16 and the Corral Bluffs property. After reviewing the funds available and the options for open space acquisition, it was decided to have the Parks Department present the Corral Bluffs purchase in open session, which they did, and the council approved the purchase. This property was approved for a number of reasons, including the price being well below the appraised value and the desire to have open space available in all parts of the city. In recent years the council has approved the purchase of Red Rock Canyon Open Space, Cheyenne Mountain State Park and the top of Cheyenne Mountain - all on the west side of town. In addition, the Corral Bluffs purchase used most of the funds available in the near term for TOPS acquisitions.
I consider White Acres to be a very desirable acquisition, but we do not have the funds available at this time. Funds are accumulating from the local Trails and Open Space sales tax. The highest priority, when funds become available, is Section 16, a 640-acre mountainside property which borders both Red Rock Canyon and White Acres. However, buying Section 16 will use up all those funds, so there would not be enough money in the near term to buy White Acres. It is unfortunate that the church owners of White Acres are having financial needs that caused them to seek a sale of the property which appears to go against the wishes of the family who gave it to the church. It is also unfortunate that the developer who, I understand, now co-owns the property, is proposing a residential development for the White Acres property. Because the developer has stated publicly and to me that he would rather sell the property to the city rather than develop it, I must question the true motivation of his involvement with the church in this negotiation.
There will be funds available in the long term to reconsider White Acres for an open space purchase, Until then, I hope the church can find a financial solution for the needed repairs that will allow it to retain ownership. I am a strong advocate for property owner's rights; however, that usually includes a totally transparent proposal, which this one does not seem to be. At this time, I cannot support the development of White Acres.
Heimlicher represents District 3, which includes mainly the southern part of the Westside.