Banning Lewis annexation change helps city attract businesses

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A recent change to a 30-year-old annexation agreement will help Colorado Springs attract new businesses.

“I think the revised annexation agreement for Banning Lewis Ranch is one of the major milestones the community has gone through — just like with the Southern Delivery System that gave us water for the next 50 years,” said Bob Cope, city of Colorado Springs economic development officer. “That water is a real competitive edge that we have over other communities, and now, we have land for expansion too.”

Colorado Springs City Council voted April 24 to adopt the revised annexation agreement for Banning Lewis, which is anticipated to bring 62,000 residents to the area over the next 30 years and generate $49 million in net revenue for the city.

“Because we have water and land, we are going to be able to keep up with demand and keep our cost of development competitive,” Cope said. “I think we are really positioned for long-term sustainable growth for the foreseeable future.”

The projected growth is expected to add $41 billion to the city’s economy during that same 30-year period.

“The economic impact is primarily due to, in the early years, when you have new homes constructed, there’s sales tax on building materials,” Cope said, adding homes that possibly would have been built in unincorporated El Paso County now will likely be redirected to land inside city limits.

The changes made to the agreement put it in line with similar annexation arrangements the city has while easing development of the 38-square-mile area that makes up the eastern side of Colorado Springs.

“Our city has made tremendous progress in the last couple of years, and as we anticipate continued growth. The revised Banning Lewis Ranch Annexation Agreement allows us to capitalize on that growth and recognize the enormous economic benefit it offers to our city,” said Mayor John Suthers in an April 24 news release. “The property has sat vacant for much too long, and that vacancy has cost us in terms of revenue and jobs. Now that the inequities in the agreement have been corrected, we expect to see both commercial and residential development, an improvement in our housing inventory and less urban sprawl due to the influx of developable land within the city limits. The agreement is the product of years of review, and the result is an intelligent blueprint for responsible and sustainable growth in the northeast quadrant of our city.”

Nor’wood Development Group owns 18,000 acres of Banning Lewis Ranch, while the remaining land, about 6,000 acres, is split among 40 different owners, including Oakwood Homes.

Adoption of the revised agreement will allow Nor’wood to provide economic opportunities and grow the region’s collection of natural assets, said Chris Jenkins, president of Nor’wood, in an April 24 news release.

“The future of Banning Lewis Ranch presents a once-in-generation opportunity to redefine the relationship between responsible development, large-scale recreation and conservation,” he said.

According to the news release, the company plans to fulfill its promise of being good stewards of environmental resources, support efficient public services and facilities, leverage opportunities for the long-term viability of local Air Force installations and encourage outdoor educational and recreational opportunities.

“Over the upcoming months, Nor’wood will collaborate with local municipal leaders, conservation advocates, community stakeholders and citizens and will propose long-term land use and development strategies for Banning Lewis Ranch,” the company said.

Banning Lewis is like the other roughly 10,000 acres of undeveloped land the city has when it comes to potential businesses targeted for the area.

“We always collaborate with the [Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC] and have targeted industries such as sports and medicine, technology-based companies and the aerospace industry,” Cope said. “In 1988, when the old agreement was made, part of the challenge was that area was a lot further east from development in the city. Now, we have grown up against Banning Lewis and are pretty much adjacent to it.”

An estimated 24,000 homes will be built in the Banning Lewis area over the next 30 years, which officials hope will alleviate some of the city’s growing pains.

“We are supposed to be the largest city in the state by 2050,” Cope said. “We are going be at a million people, and we are going to have to keep up with housing demand. Otherwise, we are going to have even more affordable problems and/or more homes pushed into unincorporated El Paso County. So we know there is going to be demand and now because of the agreement change we will be able to respond with supply.”