PUEBLO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- A vacant parcel of land that neighbors said hosted cattle auctions decades ago, will return to agricultural use as part of a planned project announced Thursday by Pueblo County commissioners.
The project, to be called the St. Charles Mesa Community Center, is one of around 20 projects that are part of the county's voter-approved 1A community improvement efforts.
The center will be near the intersection of Roselawn Road and Cooper Place, just southeast of the Pueblo city limits, in what's known as the Salt Creek neighborhood.
Commissioner Chris Wiseman said that the center will offer sports facilities, a garden for holding events, and will also be the permanent homes for Pueblo County 4-H and the Colorado State University-Pueblo Extension Office.
Details on the project's start and completion dates were unavailable Thursday.
"This shows our support for agriculture, and that's important," Wiseman said. "The extension office and 4-H had been meeting at the state fairgrounds and other locations when space was available. You will see an improvement in the home values in that area. People look for this type of area to walk in."
Neighbors said that the property -- surrounded by fences and still having a house and several buildings on the grounds -- has been vacant for years. One homeowner expressed mixed feelings about the plan.
"I've lived here for 40 years and it's always been quiet with just a few neighbors in this area," she said. "I'm all in favor of progress and 4-H is good for kids. But I'd like to know if they're going to build stalls and have animals there for extended periods. When the cattle auction was there, the stench was awful in the summer because the wind always blew in our direction."
Another change can be seen on part of Cooper Place, that used to end at a cul-de-sac but now is extended to connect with a road through a medical complex -- and serves as a shortcut for drivers.
"That just happened a few weeks ago and now we have more traffic through here than we ever have," she said. "My neighbor lost part of his property so that the road could be extended."
Another neighbor, John Vigil, said that more traffic and activity in the area could be a good thing.
"There are always weird people walking through the vacant lots around here," he said. "Maybe having more people in and out will discourage suspicious activity."
However, what worries Wiseman is the progress of state Senate Bill 200 -- which he fears could eliminate some of the tax revenue deferred from new businesses that is financing the local projects.
"If the bill passes, Xcel Energy's Comanche #3 power plant would close in 2030 instead of 2040," he said. "That would raise utility rates for many people here, including a large percentage of low-income citizens. And that would reduce our projects' funding from $60 million to $30 million."
Wiseman said that he hopes the Legislature will honor an existing 2019 agreement with Xcel, Black Hills Energy, the governor's office and the county to close the plant in 2040.