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City orders work to stop on controversial water tank in Colorado Springs neighborhood

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) - The City of Colorado Springs ordered Colorado Springs Utilities to stop work on its controversial water tank in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood.

The Code Enforcement division issued a stop work order on Aug. 30, stating it is “unlawful to to use any building, structure, or land or to erect, move, structurally alter, convert, extend, or enlarge any building or other structure except in conformity with the requirements established in the zone district in which said structure, building, or land is located and in compliance with all applicable provisions of this UDC.”

Back in June 2022, the city approved the development of a new Springs Utilities water tank near Wilson Road in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood. Springs Utilities said the old tank that was built in the 1960s was corroding.

The plans said the new tank would be 40 feet high — practically the same height as the old tank right next to it. However, once construction began, residents noticed the tank was taller than what was approved.

Larry Starr, whose backyard abuts the new water tank, said he called Springs Utilities and the company admitted the tank was now going to be 60 feet. Residents in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood tell 13 Investigates they were never told about the height change.

The City of Colorado Springs claims it wasn’t aware of the height change either.

Colorado Springs Utilities submitted an amended plan in July with the new height, but by that time the new water tank was already up. For three months work continued, despite the unapproved modification.

“It seemed totally inconsistent to be saying this is not an approved project, but every day they kept working and they even worked overtime on it on Saturdays,” Starr said. “That seemed to be a concern.”

Residents in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood filed complaints with the city’s code enforcement division, claiming work was being done on an unapproved project. On Aug. 30, the city issued a stop work order — about three months after residents notified CSU and the city of the unapproved height.

“As of today's date, Wednesday, August 30, 2023, immediately stop any and all work associated with the construction of the water tank located at 6560 Alabaster Way,” the order states. “Any changes or amendments made for this development plan (AR DP 21-00526) must first be reviewed and approved through the City Planning Department.”

The water tank with a new height of 60 feet will have to be approved by the Planning Commission. If either side appeals the decision, it will then go before the City Council. But Starr is concerned the vote for the project will be too late.

“​​It's almost a de facto approval because per the schedule, they're going to bring it online and start leak testing it before they even review the unapproved project,” he said. “Something just doesn't make sense in this whole thing.”

And if it goes before the city council, Starr worries about a conflict of interest, given the city council is also the Colorado Springs Utilities Board.

“All of the city council should recuse themselves of this since they are on the board and this is their project,” Starr said. “They should recuse themselves and they should take this to a judge or some other third party to take a look at this.”

CSU said, “We are evaluating our next steps and are unable to provide additional information at this time.”

“There's definitely an appearance of impropriety,” Starr said. “Whether it's there or not, I don't know, but my concern is that it is.”

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Quinn Ritzdorf

Quinn is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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