Phase 1 development submittal for Gold Hill Mesa set for February

       Nearly a year after gaining conceptual approval from the Colorado Springs Planning Commission, the Gold Hill Mesa project apparently will be coming back next month… this time with plans for construction.
       Robert Willard, manager of Gold Hill Mesa Township, LLC, told a meeting of the Organization of Westside Neighbors Jan. 8 that he expects to submit the “first phase” of the 214-acre development plan to city planning staff by the end of February. Planning Commission and City Council would hold hearings, with council approval necessary to begin the work.
        Assuming timely city approval, Willard said he hopes to “start building by the third quarter of the year and have closings by the fourth quarter.”
       Phase 1 encompasses about 45 acres in the upper, southwest corner of the property. It will eventually have 300 to 350 homes, mostly single-family, in as many as 10 filings over about three years, Willard said, although the exact density and dwelling sizes will depend on the market.
       The conceptual plan, approved by Planning Commission last April 3, showed 12 to 20 units per acre for residential areas in the phase- one area.
       Speaking off the cuff and in response to OWN members’ questions, Willard waxed enthusiastic about the project at the meeting, saying that phase one’s small-lot single- and multifamily homes, along with a centralized park and community center will contribute to a “sense of community” for the residents. Features at the center could include a library, coffee shops and possibly even centrally located mailboxes. “We want a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood with a lot of social interaction,” he said.
        The Gold Hill Mesa location will make its homes unique. Because the project is being built on a former gold-milling site, potentially health-hazardous gold tailings are still in the ground and therefore must be covered. As a result, residents will not be allowed to have lawns or change the vegetation developers will plant in a “cap” of protective soil.
       But Willard stressed that most homes will be “near green areas” (the center and park). He added that the market for the homes is not intended for families but rather for people without children.
       To attract the technically oriented, the subdivision will include high-capacity fiber-optic lines when it lays in its underground utilities, allowing up to 10 Mbps broadband connectivity, he said. Even the old gold-mill smokestack will play a functional modern role, as it will be used to hold a concealed broadband backup antenna, Willard said.
       The expected sale price of a home is projected at about $162,500, he said.
       In support of the work on the site, the LLC plans to finish widening Lower Gold Camp Road and also widen 21st Street from Lower Gold Camp to Villa de Mesa Drive, Willard said. Plans for how this work will be accomplished are not yet complete, he said, but he said he expects 21st Street to become four lanes, “with maybe a fifth.” A median is also under consideration, although “some merchants (along 21st) will scream bloody murder.”
       The widening of 21st would likely be to the east - requiring some structural supports on the Gold Hill property - so as not to cut very much into the west side where businesses are located, Willard said.
       To help pay for off-site work, Willard said he is talking to the city about obtaining an urban-renewal designation for his project. He said this could potentially free up several million dollars for that purpose.
       Not part of phase one will be the eroded hill area visible from Highway 24. Willard said retaining walls and a drainage pond are probably needed, but such amenities would be in a future phase, four to five years off.
        The project as a whole is also expected to take many more years to complete, with up to 1,800 dwelling units by the time all five phases are in, he said.
       The LLC (limited liability company) ownership was ERS Holdings when it went before Planning Commission last time. The name change to Gold Hill Mesa Township is really just superficial, according to Willard, who has been the LLC manager throughout.
       One other wrinkle in the project regards the existing Gold Hill neighborhood on the cul-de-sac of Villa de Mesa Drive off 21st Street. The homes have been there about 30 years. Now, residents are concerned about the impacts of the planned development around them.
       The LLC has suggested connecting a street in the project to Villa de Mesa, but this is not to the liking of the residents, according to Lana Wright, the president of their homeowners association.
       “We want to remain a gated community; we feel that’s better at this point,” she said, adding that relations with the developer remain cordial despite this disagreement. “We hope it continues that way,” she said.

Westside Pioneer article