COLORADO SPRINGS — On Tuesday, Colorado Springs City Council voted against a development project at 2424 Garden of the Gods in a 5-4 vote.
The controversial rezoning project would have put more than 400 new apartment units west of I-25, but failed at Colorado Springs City Council by just one vote.
The location has a commercial building on the property at the intersection of Garden of the Gods and N 30th Street. According to those on Colorado Springs City Council, the developer would have built three apartment buildings with approximately 420 units surrounding the original building.
"It doesn't make a lot of sense to infill areas that are already at high risk. Whether those areas happen to be in a floodplain, whether they happen to be in a wildfire danger area, you know, those things need to be looked at really hard," said Richard Smith, a concerned neighbor who said he worked for the Colorado Springs Fire Department for over 30 years.
Opponents said that the project would have a negative impact on traffic, which could be dire during wildfire evacuations.
"The developer and the city want to put up 420 units at the choke point of the evacuation... We will not be able to get out of our houses to escape a fire," said John Mclain, another concerned neighbor.
Many residents are also worried about the impact the apartments would have on bighorn sheep.
Council reviewed the results of a traffic study that was requested in June before the final vote. The city hired Kimley-Horne and Associates, which is a traffic engineering and transportation planning firm, to do the study.
The conclusion section of the study states, "it is believed that the existing surrounding street network will adequately accommodate project traffic volumes generated by the 2424 Garden of the Gods project."
The city told News5, that based on the study, the recommendation to approve the rezoning has not changed.
According to those on Colorado Springs City Council, there was an initial traffic review study conducted last year. "The original study was done during the middle of 2020, and my concern was during that period of time, the traffic would have been much less... My understanding is that their traffic analysis is pretty consistent with the one that was done in 2020," said Tom Strand, the President of Colorado Springs City Council.
Memories of the Waldo Canyon Fire are vivid for those who lived through it. In 2012, the fire burned more than 300 homes and killed two people.
“When traffic got stalled, when cars were getting choked out on the smoke and ash, they feared for their lives. Because they were just sitting there as the fire was moving around," said Mountain Shadows Neighborhood Association President Bill Wysong.
When looking at the Wildland Urban Interface data from the City of Colorado Springs, the entire west side appears to be at high risk in general.
However, when you zoom in on the neighborhood level, more detail emerges showing lower risks per location.