The city of Colorado Springs has embarked upon a two-year, $500,000 process to update its comprehensive plan.
Why bother? Isn’t the existing comprehensive plan sufficient to the city’s needs?
“Since the plan was last updated, our city’s needs and priorities have changed,” said Planning Director Peter Wysocki last week. “There are concerns about infill development, and about revitalizing Academy Boulevard and South and North Nevada, and many other issues that may not have seemed significant 15 years ago.”
The new plan’s dedicated website (coloradosprings.gov/plancos) touches on some of the topics the plan will address.
“The city of Colorado Springs, together with city council, is creating a comprehensive plan for the city’s future, and they want an abundance of citizen input,” the website said. “The ‘PlanCOS’ campaign is a two-year process that asks citizens, ‘What do you want Colorado Springs to be in 10 years?’”
It also has a more prosaic purpose: to create a community-based framework to guide the mayor, city council, the planning commission and city department heads.
“When land-use proposals come before the Planning Commission,” said Robert Shonkwiler, who serves on the commission, “they have to conform with the comprehensive plan. Sometimes you find that a use that’s harmonious and appropriate to one person is neither to someone else, and that’s where a good comp plan can make a difference. It gives some guidance and a basis for decision-making.”
In 2014, the city abandoned plans to update the comprehensive plan. The council originally set aside $150,000 in the 2014 budget to start what was then a three-year process to update the comprehensive plan, with plans to spend a total of $500,000. At the time, Wysocki said there might not be the money to continue the plan in the next three years. Instead he suggested using the money to study then-Mayor Steve Bach’s economic opportunity zones on South Academy Boulevard and North Nevada Avenue. The economic opportunity zones are still part of the city’s lexicon — and are a major focus of the study as the city begins developing a new comprehensive plan.
But at least one elected official has some concerns.
Emphasizing that good planning requires good data, City Councilor Bill Murray said that city databases are insufficiently cross-linked and accessible.
“The city is building these elaborate databases, but if you ask them what happened last month, they don’t know,” he said. “They don’t even understand the question.”
Murray also has serious doubts about the timing of the plan.
“I disagree that it should take two years,” he said. “I think it’s deliberately being held up so that the new Banning-Lewis agreement can be approved [by city council]. The B-L Ranch is 60 percent of the [developable] land in the city. And once that’s done, what’s the point of a comp plan?”
“I don’t think that Bill really understands the process,” she said. “When we did the infill development plan, a much smaller subject, we thought it would take a year, but it took 18 months. If you shorten the process, it tends to favor special interests — and that doesn’t just mean developers. We need to hear from everybody and give people a direct, unfiltered voice. That’s what we’re trying to do with our twitter feed [#PlanCOS].”
A steering committee appointed by Mayor John Suthers has begun community outreach. Headed by City Councilors Merv Bennett and Jill Gaebler, the 17-member committee is a cross-section of the city’s leadership class.
It includes powerful developers, business owners, CEOs and two planning commissioners. Also represented: Colorado Springs Forward, the Housing and Building Authority, the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, the Urban Renewal Authority and the Trails and Open Space Coalition.
• Councilor Merv Bennett, chairman;
• Councilor Jill Gaebler, vice chairwoman;
• Rachel Beck, policy and communication manager for the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments;
• Lynette Crow-Iverson, CEO of Conspire;
• Bob Cutter, founder of Colorado Springs Forward;
• Susan Davies, executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition;
• Charles Deason, small business owner and retired civil servant;
• Kent Fortune, vice president and general manager of USAA;
• Kevin Kratt, president and founder of Kratt Commercial Properties;
• Hannah Parsons, head of community development for the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance;
• Eric Phillips, chairman of the Colorado Springs Planning Commission;
• Jim Raughton, member of the Urban Renewal Authority;
• Harry Salzman, Realtor and owner of Salzman Real Estate Services;
• Tim Seibert, owner of N.E.S Inc., a local planning firm;
• Robert Shonkwiler, member of the Colorado Springs Planning Commission;
• Doug Stimple, partner and CEO of Classic Homes; and
• Taj Stokes, co-founder and director of Thrive Colorado Springs.
The committee’s first task: to go on a six-hour bus tour of the entire city, with an apparent emphasis on southeast Colorado Springs and redeveloping areas of South and North Nevada Avenue.