The battle over Sertoma Park in unincorporated Widefield was a loud, angry fight in 2008.
Sertoma Park, as it is known, looks like a big vacant lot with an access road off Squire Street. It is surrounded by homes and slopes steeply to the west where there is a pond and trees.
Neighbors, led by Joe Berkhoff, denounced the sale of the 5.4-acre vacant lot by the Widefield School District to a developer.
They alleged violations of law.
They accused officials of misdeeds.
They claimed conspiracies.
They attacked the developer who proposed building a 72-unit senior assisted living center.
They even tried to buy the property, offering $175,000.
But developer Ron Hall had an option on the land for $210,000 so the neighbors were rebuffed.
This thing got ugly.
Berkhoff and his neighbors were passionate about this property.
The 5.4-acre parcel known as Sertoma Park in Widefield as seen from Google Earth.
I’d even say irrational to the point of making angry threats to me when they didn’t like what I wrote about the dispute.
They felt ownership of the property. It was their park, in their minds. They played there. Walked their pets there. Berkoff’s aunt even used it as the driveway to her garage.
So when it was sold and plans were announced, they felt betrayed, misled, lied to by just about everyone.
Blueprints for the Senior Assisted Living Center
I don’t blame them for being upset if someone had promised them a park and suddenly they discovered it was private property and soon a nursing home would be built.
I understand why they’d be angry at the thought of their cul de sacs becoming through streets.
But I don’t understand the nasty way they approached Hall.
Developer Ron Hall had concrete barriers placed in front of the garage of Anna Maria Stevens, 73, in June 2008 in retaliation for her family's opposition to his senior living center project.
Hall got so upset at the public thrashing he received that he indulged in a petty bullying tactic and piled a bunch of concrete barriers in front of garage doors of Anna Maria Stevens, Berkoff’s aunt, blocking her access.
He removed them after a few days.
I talked to Hall, who has had financial problems since the economy crashed. He still hopes to resurrect his project.
But El Paso County project manager Craig Dossey said the property has a huge drainage problem which will expensive to overcome. He hasn’t heard anything from Hall in months.
And the property owner, Daryl Slinkard, wants to be rid of the property, leading him to post it for sale. He is shocked Berkhoff declined his offer to sell him the land and even finance the purchase.
Berkhoff said his circumstances have changed since 2008. No other neighbors want to step up and help buy it. He can’t afford it. And the price is too high.
But he vows to sue if Hall tries to build the project as planned with emergency access roads coming off Raemar Circle and Raemar Place.
Here’s a link to my April 2008 column on Sertoma Park. My accompanying blog can be read here.
This link takes you to the June 2008 blog I wrote after Hall blocked Anna Maria Stevens.
An artist's rendering of the proposed senior living center.