(COLORADO SPRINGS) — On Tuesday morning, Aug. 15, in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood, people were walking their dogs, riding their bikes, and doing yard work. What once was filled with the sounds of nature, is now filled with the sounds of construction on a new water tank.
“I feel really bad for my neighbors and for the neighborhood because it really affects their homes and their property values and just overall well-being,” said Mountain Shadows Homeowner, Anna Buckwalter. “People just love living here because you can just sit and have a cup of coffee and just look at the beautiful surroundings and that just has been taken away from my neighbors.”
Colorado Springs Utilities (Springs Utilities) informed the neighborhood of the need to update the prior water tank due to heavy corrosion and metal loss on various internal structural components and failure in the widespread coating system.
The development plans show 45 feet as the maximum height with code regulation.
“We were told when they started to build it would be exactly the same size and shape,” Buckwalter said. “And a few months ago, we realized that they actually did put it up about 30% higher than what it’s supposed to or actually even 40%.”
Buckwalter attended several of the public meetings that Springs Utilities held to hear neighborhood feedback.
“They actually admitted that they made a mistake, and I don’t understand why they would file for the amendment to build it higher after they have already built it,” Buckwalter said. “Especially that we live in the hillside, and it is really difficult to get a permit to build an extra construction or additions and they just basically just go away with whatever they want to do.”
In a statement provided to FOX21, Springs Utilities shared the new water tank is indeed larger than the original dimensions.
“The design of the new tank resulted in a taller overall finished structure that maintains an elevation to support necessary water pressure. Unfortunately, we failed to communicate the accurate height to the neighborhood in a timely manner. The correct tank dimensions have been filed in an amended development plan submitted to City Planning on July 18, which follows the City’s process for approval.
While we believe the new tank design is the most reliable and cost-effective solution for serving customers in the area well into the future, we regret that the height was not accurately communicated to its neighbors. We are re-visiting our processes to ensure better communication in the future. “Jennifer Jordan, Senior Public Affairs Specialist for Colorado Springs Utilities
For homeowner Larry Starr, he realized the dimensions of the new tank were different when he was sitting to eat dinner and looked out his second-floor window.
“They started putting the scaffolding up and we watched and watched, and they kept getting higher and higher and I started getting a really uncomfortable feeling,” Starr said. “That evening when I went in and I sat down in my dining room and I looked up out of a top set of windows, I could see the top of the scaffolding exceeding that and the old tank being… 32 and a half feet, I believe, and the new tank was to be about the same size as what it was qualitatively set.”
In almost every window of Starr’s home, the tank is visible, and he expressed how upsetting this is.
“It was a very difficult moment when I realized that’s totally on landscape level,” Starr said. “You cannot put anything in front of a 60-foot tank to keep from ever seeing it… But that moment I realized that I had been trusting in perhaps something that I shouldn’t have. I still don’t know, and I won’t say that it was total deception, but it’s a combination. If it’s not deception, then I would say it can only be explained by incompetence.”
When it comes to what Starr would like to see next, he hopes to see the right thing done.
“What would somebody who did this and was independent of the city have to do, and that is correct their mistake,” Starr said. “I don’t know how that’s up to them to figure out but get it back to the tank that they said and were approved and meets city code.”
Down the road is Flying W Ranch, where visitors are transported back to the Old West through its charm and history. The owner of Flying W, Leigh Ann Wolfe, expressed how the new water tank is impacting her business.
“Everybody says, ‘what is that?'” Wolfe said. “So, what has happened here, they have materially changed the ambience of Flying W. No longer are we keeping the West alive, we’re illustrating what Mars looks like. We have horse and carriage rides. We have the American milking Devon oxen that brought the settlers west in the 1800s. We have all of this Western ambiance that has just been killed by that monstrosity that was unethically, illegally constructed.”
Now looking out on the property, Wolfe stated how upsetting it is to see the original proposal not being followed.
“When the size went up and then it was so fast, that thing was up in eight or ten days because they wanted to get that up as quickly as they could,” Wolfe said. “Once the cat was out of the bag, that they had absolutely deceptively, deceitfully, illegally, unethically built the wrong thing.”
Wolfe’s grandfather donated the land which the original tank was built on, now she is asking for accountability for these actions.
“My granddad was a man of integrity first and foremost,” Wolfe said. “First and foremost, a man of integrity and that’s what we’re asking for. Our local utilities, our local regional building, our local City of Colorado Springs. Be people of integrity, be accountable, just like I am held accountable. They need to be held accountable to the very same process.”