COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Tempers were short and emotions high Tuesday in Colorado Springs during a long City Council meeting on a controversial affordable housing project.
The council upheld a January decision by the city's planning commission and approved the continuation of plans for The Ridge, a 60-unit complex in the Broadmoor Bluffs neighborhood.
In a pair of 6-3 votes, the council rejected appeals of the project's location and its development plan.
Councilmen Bill Murray, Andy Pico and Tom Strand voted in favor of the appeal.
"To force a community to stand up and take action against everybody is counterproductive in its entirety," Murray said.
The votes came after 90 minutes of regular council business that started at 1 p.m. and followed a public hearing that lasted five hours and was occasionally heated among the council, the property owner and developer, and the Broadmoor Bluffs Neighborhood Association which filed the appeal.
Supporters of the appeal cited a number of reasons including the location, the construction plan, traffic impacts, the project's relative distance from bus routes and schools, safety concerns and a lack of sidewalks and access for the disabled.
But Councilwoman Jill Gaebler saw a different motive.
"We're here tonight going through this undignified process," she said. "I'm sorry, but it really does appear to be because you don't want low-income people living next to you."
Several audience members responded by hooting, "You're the one who's undignified. You should recuse yourself."
That brought two police officers into the council chamber to restore order.
Councilwoman Yolanda Avila echoed Gaebler's comments.
"It was quite disturbing to hear (transportation and disabilities) used in such a way as to make a point (about) why not to have the development there," she said.
Pico said there was enough scolding to go around.
"I think these personal (insults) have been very inappropriate and disheartening," he said. "And it's been both ways -- including from the (council table)."
Five citizens spoke in support of the project while 12 spoke against it.
Lee Patke, executive director of Greccio Housing, the project's developer, said he was relieved the council voted to continue the project.
"Today was a tough day," he said. "But we're trying to look past the emotions and focus on providing safe and stable housing."
Patke gave no timetable for the project but said the complex will open around a year after groundbreaking.
Council President Richard Skorman said project opponents still could challenge the vote in court.