Fisher Canyon

The city wants to use $4.2 million in TOPS money to buy 343 acres west of Broadmoor Bluffs known as Fisher Canyon, city council will be told during its Oct. 11 work session.

It's the latest property identified for acquisition using the Trails, Open Space and Parks tax, most of which has been spent on property on the city's western boundary.

But the city doesn't have enough money for open space from the TOPS tax to fund the purchase itself in one year, so it will partner with The Conservation Fund to buy the land. Besides the $4 million appraised value of the property, the city will pay $229,000 more for the survey, property appraisal, an environmental report, The Conservation Fund's costs and recording fees.

According to agenda materials, the property, which shares borders with the Cheyenne Mountain State Park and the Pike National Forest, had been destined for home sites for 70 houses. The property's owner is Cheyenne Mountain Bluffs LLC, which was incorporated by Colorado Commercial Builders Inc.

"This property would provide the connectivity needed to continue the Chamberlain Trail along the City’s western mountain backdrop," a staff report said. "It features rolling grassy meadows, tall ponderosa pine stands, and encompassing views across the City from its higher elevations. Conservation of the City’s western mountain back drop is a goal that is identified in the 2014  Park System Master Plan, and this property would contribute to protection of that uninterrupted view scape and wildlife habitat by leveraging undeveloped lands on the west and the south of the property for a larger open space impact."

Although the owner "entertaining other proposals," the city and fund struck an agreement with the owner for $4 million.

But the city doesn't have enough TOPS money to cover the purchase, the staff report said, so it teamed up with The Conservation Fund. The Fund will buy the property and then sell it back to the city in two phases, one this year and another next year.

As the staff report said, "the total price of the property exceeded the funding budgeted in 2021 for an open space purchase."

It's worth noting the city is asking voters to approve doubling the TOPS tax in the Nov. 2 election, but reducing the amount earmarked for open space to 21 percent of the total collected. The original TOPS measure dedicated 60 percent of the tax to open space.

Asked about that, TOPS Program Manager Britt Haley said via email the TOPS budget this year had $4.2 million available for open space acquisitions.

"You might remember that in April of 2021, TOPS completed the phase II purchase of the balance of the Pikeview Buffer Open Space property from The Conservation Fund for a cost of $2,797,113," Haley said. "That leaves $1,437,706 for additional purchases in the budget. The cost of the land for this phase one purchase is $1,421,000. Thus, we need the assistance of The Conservation Fund to make the entire 343 acre property purchase possible."

The first phase purchase totals 258 acres, and the second 85 acres.

"You will see a number in the request for appropriation of $4,175,000," Haley notes. "The additional $54,000 is proposed to be paid from separately budgeted funds which are intended to pay for real estate acquisition costs, such as for the land survey, the property appraisal and the phase I environmental report. These are all standard costs of evaluating an open space purchase. TOPS would reimburse The Conservation Fund for those expenditures at cost."

After the council briefing, the Parks Advisory Board is due to consider the purchase at its Oct. 14 meeting.