City OKs subdivision plan for 3300 block of Kiowa

       A development in the 3300 block of West Kiowa Street has frustrated neighbors since it started five years ago, and that situation appears unchanged after city approval in late January of a subdivision plan for part of the one-acre parcel.
       The city's approval was administratively granted by Land Use Review planner Steve Tuck. Technically, he approved two applications - a development plan and final plat.

The Kiowa duplexes, inside and out... TOP: The kitchen area, as it looked last November. A renter at that time said he'd enjoyed living there, but had problems with roof leaks. BOTTOM: The view from Kiowa Street shows the current duplex buildings. The unbuilt lots are just west of them. According to Colorado Springs Utilities, a legal easement will be created in front of both buildings, identifying gas, sewer and water pipes that cross the newly subdivided lot boundaries. The pipes go out to the street in line with the space between the buildings.
Westside Pioneer photos


       The main benefit of the approval is to “enhance individual ownership of the units,” Tuck explained after his decision.
       The approval includes the acceptance of an as-built configuration for the two existing duplex buildings (at 3325 and 3329 W. Kiowa) that differs from Colorado Springs Utilities policies that say water and wastewater service lines should not pass through neighboring lots on their way to city mains.
       This action led Richard White, the most adamant of the neighborhood opponents, to describe the city approval as “illegal as hell… If you're a developer, they say OK. If you're an individual, they say no.”
       Asked for clarification, Utilities Managing Engineer Harold Franson said that city code allows discretion in such matters - and in this case the developer would have had to excavate through nearly solid rock to achieve compliance. That in turn would have raised building costs by “upwards of $10,000,” Franson said, with “limited benefit” as a result.
       According to Franson and his employee, Utilities engineer Michael Troche, duplex buyers will be protected because the service-line status will be identified in a public-private utility easement that will be a legal part of the subdivision and thus findable on a title search.
       What the easement means is that any of the duplex owners with a service-line issue - for example, a sewer-line back-up - can dig into their neighbors' properties as needed to fix the problem.
       In an interview, Franson and Troche pointed out that the service lines as built for the existing 3325 and 3329 duplexes - which angle toward a utilities gap that was previously cut through the rock to allow connection with city mains in the street - complied with city codes when both duplex sides were on a single lot. But subdividing them, along the common wall of each building, changed that situation.
       A November letter from Tuck to the property owners regarding their applications includes advice from Troche that both the water and wastewater service lines “should not cross any other lot.” However, Troche also offered in the letter to work out a “solution… if some of those items cannot be done.” This eventually resulted in the easement plan.
       Citing past differences with the property owners and original developer - along with current concerns about the subdivision plan omitting the two lots on either end of what had been a six-lot property - White obtained 123 signatures on a petition opposing the subdivision and submitted it to the city, he said this week. Also, at a neighborhood meeting on the subdivision proposal in October, cynicism was expressed by the majority of about 50 people in attendance.
       Adding to the mix, the original developer has since gone bankrupt, and the property owners, Rick and Pat Shannon, are being foreclosed on by Colorado Capital Bank, according to an interview with bank representative Rick Squires.
       At the October meeting, Tuck was asked if he would automatically refer his subdivision decision to the Planning Commission, but he said at the time that although he sympathized with the neighborhood's issues he did not see any city code uncertainties that would make a referral necessary.
       Under city rules, his decision could have been appealed to the City Planning Commission, at a cost of $175. But the Jan. 31 deadline passed without that occurring.
       “They're going to approve it anyway, so there's no use arguing it,” White said, when asked about not appealing. He added that personally he is not as affected by the subdivision change as by other lingering development-related issues - including control of storm drainage and the completion of an alley upgrade between the Shannon/bank property and his. The alley work had been started on but never finished by the previous developer, and a City Engineering note on the Tuck-approved development plan requires completion of that work before any new construction occurs.
       The subdivision affects what had been the four interior lots of the property's six total. Each of those four, facing Kiowa Street, had been 7,000 square feet. The subdivision makes them into eight 3,500-square-foot lots, allowing each duplex “side” to be owned separately. The existing duplexes are now named Lots 5-6 and 7- 8.
       The subdivision's unbuilt lots are now numbered 1-2 and 3-4. When duplexes are built on those lots, their service lines must go directly to the main without crossing the neighboring property, the subdivision plans show.
       According to Squires, subdividing the lots will make it easier for Colorado Capital Bank to sell the duplexes than before, when two units were on each lot.
       The bank's position was clarified in a “justification” statement to the city by the bank-contracted surveying firm of Law&Mariotti as part of the subdivision proposal. “Homeowners typically maintain their homes and development with more care and diligence than renters,” the justification states.
       Construction of new duplex buildings on the unbuilt lots is not imminent. Squires said that the foreclosure proceedings would not stop the “replot” (subdivision), but would freeze any development activity for an undetermined amount of time.
       No plans have been announced for the two end lots. Lot 4 (just west of the new Lots 1-2) has been the subject of a surveying dispute with the neighbor just to the west, and Lot 9 (just east of the new Lots 7-8) has a large Garden of the Gods-style rock on it.
       The first developer had cut into the lower part of the rock in 2006, and at the October meeting some neighbors asked that the bank stipulate that the lot be left out of any future building plans.

Westside Pioneer article