City JA consideration depends on county commissioners

       The Board of El Paso County Commissioners met on the Junior Achievement (JA) land-swap proposal Oct. 24 and was scheduled to discuss it again Thursday, Oct. 27. The City Planning Commission is to discuss the zone-change aspect of the plan at its meeting Thursday, Nov. 3 - but only if the commissioners approve the swap.
       “The county needs to approve the land swap or we need to postpone this request,” explained James Mayerl, the city's lead Westside planner. “The owner (JA) knows this.”
       Commissioner Sallie Clark said this week she could make no prediction for how commissioners would vote, but said she was not pleased that City Planning had allowed JA to recently change its zone request from planned business commercial to planned unit development, which she believed was intended to make the land more valuable. She said this change occurred since the County Parks Advisory Board gave conditional approval to the swap at its meeting Oct. 11.
       The issue has become controversial because the 1.67-acre parcel is adjacent to Bear Creek Park, and some nearby residents and workers object to the idea of a more intensely retail zone than what is allowed by its current office-commercial zone. The county is involved because JA has offered to trade part of the property to the county in exchange for park land.
       Clark said that one aspect commissioners were considering was a monetary payment from JA, reflecting a disparity in the amount of land the county would receive.
       JA, which provides economic experiences to thousands of area schoolchildren, has made no secret about wanting to increase the value of the property, which it had obtained for $368,000 four years ago. The idea then was to develop an office building for JA, but a better real-estate deal came along, making this property unneeded. As a result, JA hopes to sell it for top dollar to a developer who would see potential profit in maximizing a more flexible zoning.

Westside Pioneer article