WOODLAND PARK • Construction of apartments for Charis Bible College students began Thursday on the nearly 500-acre Andrew Wommack Ministries campus in Woodland Park. student residence project.
Each 40-bed complex will cost about $6.5 million to build, said Andrew Wertz, senior vice president of Andrew Wommack Ministries and Charis Bible College.
This amount is an additional $1 million per unit as of November 2021, when Andrew Wommack, founder of the evangelical Christian organization and vocational Bible training college, announced at a campus open house that the next phase of construction was about to begin.
The first four units are still expected to open in time for the fall 2023 semester, Wertz said. Wommack said last year he wanted to erect up to eight student apartment buildings, depending on funding.
Construction was delayed five months, due to conditions imposed by city leaders a decade ago when Wommack decided to develop a mega-campus in Woodland Park and relocate the headquarters of its college and its organization from Colorado Springs to the small mountain town to the west. .
A clause added after the department presented an original development of planned units, known as a PUD, and received approval from the city council was at the center of the controversy.
The city had later inserted a requirement into the approved ordinance that the ministry would privatize future student housing, which made the planned dormitory development subject to property taxes.
Andrew Wommack Ministries didn’t know, CEO Billy Epperhart said in an interview Thursday.
The organization has emails from 2012 regarding the PUD before the clause was added, he said, and later objections later in 2012 and again in 2015, when his attorney informed the city that the organization did not know that the tax condition had been inserted and objected to it.
“The PUD just referenced a late night meeting with the mayor,” Epperhart said. “He didn’t say anything about student housing.”
The case constituted a mistake on the part of the city council a decade ago, Wertz said.
The current board agreed on August 4, approving by a 5-2 vote a request from Andrew Wommack Ministries to amend the PUD and remove the condition. The organization’s attorney argued that because Ministries and Charis Bible College are nonprofit religious entities, they are tax-exempt and cannot be taxed by law.
The amount of the “one-time, non-binding” donation to the city’s utility department was an internal decision the organization’s leaders arrived at after studying the city’s needs, Wertz said.
Some wondered at last month’s city council meeting why fire or ambulance districts weren’t equally beneficiaries.
Those entities are outside the city’s jurisdiction, City Manager Michael Lawson said, adding that discussions about the city’s tax structure are ongoing.
Residents who opposed the proposed change to PUD said the college, which enrolls about 1,050 students on-site this semester and hosts numerous seminars with thousands of attendees, is straining the city’s infrastructure and services. .
Since opening in Woodland Park in 2014, Charis has donated more than $800,000 in money, services and goods to local efforts such as food pantries, the fire district and the Teller County Sheriff’s Office, said Mike Pickett, vice president of the Bible college. The sheriff’s office received a horse trailer, stun guns and body armor, he said.
Lawson said the organization’s charitable contribution to city coffers is pleasing because “it takes a step forward from a difficult political issue.”
Some residents have complained that the college has negatively affected traffic flow, housing affordability and availability, and the overall nature of the community.
The city’s housing shortage predates the college’s arrival, Debbie Miller, president of the Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce, said during a presentation to freshmen Thursday. Miller said the lack of housing was a problem when she moved to the area in 2005, as she encouraged students to become a benefit to the community.
The city plans to spend Charis’ donation on additional water rights, Lawson said, because “without water you can’t grow.” City leaders view the Twin Lakes Reservoir as a potential long-term supply source, he said.
Between 7,950 and 8,200 residents live within the city limits, according to various counts from the U.S. Census Bureau and the State Demography Office, the House’s Miller said.
Woodland Park’s growth has slowed in recent years and is limited by the water taps available for new construction, Lawson said. This year, the city sold 29 water faucets and there are 51 left for sale, Miller said.
The construction of new student apartments should ease concerns about the college’s contribution to the area’s housing crisis, officials said.
“We’ve always wanted to be a good neighbor, and I think this donation is just one of the many ways we can help Woodland Park during this time of continued growth,” Epperhart said Thursday, presenting the city manager with a ceremonial check.