Colorado Springs’ population could grow by as much as 180,000 over the rest of the century after an historic vote Tuesday by City Council. By a 7 to 2 vote, councilors approved an amended and restated annexation agreement for Banning Lewis Ranch, a 24,000-acre swath of mostly undeveloped land encompassing roughly the entire one-third of the city limits.
"This is a significant event in the history of Colorado Springs," said Mayor John Suthers after the vote. Banning Lewis Ranch was originally annexed into city limits in 1988 at a time when the property was miles east of the furthest stretches of development in the city. But terms of that annexation agreement proved too onerous for would-be developers and the land has remained largely untouched for the ensuing 30 years while development leapfrogged around it into unincorporated areas of El Paso County, specifically in the Falcon area. City Economic Development Officer Bob Cope says leapfrogging over Banning Lewis Ranch has cost Colorado Springs tens of millions of dollars in property tax revenue and economic development, plus thousands of potential jobs.
The amended annexation agreement approved by Council on Tuesday relaxes many of the terms of the original agreement, making it more attractive to developers who are anticipated to build nearly 24,000 homes over the next 30 years, increasing the city’s population by nearly 62,000 people over that time and adding more than 35,000 jobs. Planners say all that new development will relieve pressure on the already-exploding Colorado Springs housing market, helping to keep prices affordable as supply increases to meet demand. The increased amount of jobs and businesses created to support the new developments, plus the property and sales tax revenues generated by the new homeowners and businesses are projected to result in nearly $47 billion in positive economic impact over the next 30 years. With developers paying the cost for construction of roads, parks, utilities infrastructure, drainage, and stormwater projects, planners say current Colorado Springs residents won’t feel an impact. "Not only will it not cost our citizens or our ratepayers, development of Banning Lewis Ranch will actually subsidize the rest of the community," Cope said.
Development won’t begin immediately. Developers still must submit master plans for their communities and go through the usual review and approval process. However the amended annexation agreement will expedite the planning process. The 30-year projection figures offered by city planners are based on an assumption of just 6,400 developed acres out of the 24,000-acre parcel. If fully developed over the remainder of the century, Banning Lewis Ranch could ultimately accommodate more than 180,000 new residents, bringing the population of Colorado Springs close to that of the City of Denver.