Centennial snags: Posted bond amount too low; deal elusive on upgrades at intersections

       Last winter, paving Centennial Boulevard between Mesa Valley Road and Van Buren Street seemed fairly simple.

With the Indian Hills Village townhome development on the right, a view looks north up partially finished Centennial Boulevard from its future intersection with Van Buren Street. The now-defunct development company had posted a bond to ensure completion of the expressway segment between Mesa Valley Road and Van Buren, but City Engineering has since determined that it won't be enough to cover all the costs.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Developers Surety, the company holding the bond for that unfinished part of the bankrupt Indian Hills Village townhome development (now owned by a bank), would finish the work this summer. The connection between the two streets, along with an improved appearance, would help townhome sales and perhaps attract a builder to finish the 29-acre Mesa Springs-area subdivision.
       At least that was the plan. No work on Centennial occurred this summer, nor has a start date been set.
       It's not for lack of trying. City Engineering has been talking regularly with Developers Surety and studying what needs to be done. The problem is that those studies show the bond amount was too low, explained Steve Kuehster of City Engineering in a recent interview. As a result, Developers Surety is unable to contract out the Centennial work itself, said Edgar Neel, an attorney for the Denver-area company.
       The protocol in such a situation is for the bond company to write a check to the city for the amount posted (in this case about $236,000, according to Kuehster). The city now believes that will be enough to create a 12-inch gravel base and 4-inch asphalt overlay on four traffic lanes. But it's about $30,000 to $50,000 short of paying for the desired roadway, which should have two more inches of overlay, plus sidewalks and concrete on the median, he said.
       Complicating matters further, the original developer (Continental Divisions) posted separate bonds to cover needed improvements to Mesa Valley and Van Buren alongside the subdivision. They now dead-end at the Centennial right of way. Going east, they provide access from the north and south sides of the development down to Chestnut Street.
       Although the amounts in the street bonds (totaling $161,000, according to Neel) apparently are sufficient, the city and the company have not yet agreed on the precise details of that work - especially at their intersections with Centennial Boulevard.
       What's frustrating to Kuehster is having to deal with the bonds at all. During good times, the city requirement that developers post bonds for public improvements ahead of time is just a formality. Typically, developers soon start selling homes and making money, so the bonds never have to be used. Now what Kuehster is finding with Indian Village is that the wording of the bonds was not specific enough - resulting in the bond company questioning whether the city is asking it to do too much. “All the bonds say is 'streets and drainage.' That's fine when you don't have to use them,” Kuehster complained.
       Neel said the company is taking steps to “be sure we're on the same page” with the city. A recent move was to contact the original engineer for Continental Divisions and see what was truly intended - “where does Centennial end and the other streets begin?”
       Despite the prolonged discussions, Neel said he is confident that Developers Surety will be able to release the bond for Centennial by the end of this year.
       Whatever remains undone in the final deal (such as the median and sidewalks) will most likely be passed on to a future Indian Hills developer, Kuehster said.
       Ultimately, the city's traffic plans call for a four-lane Centennial Boulevard to serve as an extension from Fillmore Street to the Fontanero Street/I-25 interchange, thus relieving traffic at the Fillmore interchange. But it's been slow going, because the city is requiring property developers along that 1 1/2 -mile right of way to foot the cost… and the only ones so far have been Colorado Springs Health Partners (which completed its several hundred feet of road south of Fillmore three years ago) and Continental Divisions, which graded the less-than-quarter-mile segment between Mesa Valley and Van Buren in 2005 and put in curbs, light standards and a median. The traffic lanes remain as dirt.
       The city had approved Indian Hills Village for 80 units in 2005, but construction stopped at about 20 when Continental went bankrupt three years ago.

Westside Pioneer article