As a consultant team gathers information from residents and businesses for a new El Paso County master plan, it’s making sure to focus on the area’s military installations.

Military operations and increases in personnel at the installations affect land use decisions, said Craig Dossey, executive director of the El Paso County Planning and Community Development Department.

That’s one reason why the county has undertaken a 2½-year process to create a master plan that will shape land use over the next several decades and has made sure to include military representatives in the planning process.

Brian Potts, a planner with the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, runs the Joint Land Use Study, which looks at the intersection between military and the community and how land use and development impact military operations.

“We were invited to join the advisory committee” that is working with Chicago-based consultant Houseal Lavigne to gather data and develop a vision for the county’s future, Potts said.

“We’re there to observe and weigh in on anything related to military installations,” he said.

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The joint land use study wrapped up at the end of last year, just as the master planning process was beginning, so it was available to help inform the process.

Although he doesn’t know what form the master plan will finally take, it “should help inform what types of land uses around bases are more compatible than others,” he said. That could help guide business owners who want to locate near an installation.

Transportation will be a major component of the county master plan.

The joint land use plan addressed transportation generally, Potts said, by identifying the most important routes about which the military has concerns when there is construction on them.

“Peterson and Schriever have been trying to work with the state and county in getting improvements to the operation of Highway 94,” he said. “We made sure to identify that as a top priority that the state and our community partners continue to work on.”

Military installations have their own rules that apply within the bases.

“This is why there’s been a desire to do lot more discussion between civilian and military planners,” Potts said. “The military doesn’t have jurisdiction on what’s going on right outside the base line; therefore, partnerships between the military and the communities are essential.”

The military relies upon good infrastructure and land use planning around the bases, he said.

“Since 70 percent of the people that work on our bases live in the community, obviously you can’t have one without the other,” Potts said. “So everything has to be taken as a whole and thought about in that context. Otherwise, you can end up with some things that aren’t working very well both inside the fence and outside the fence.

“Mission encroachment is the term that’s used for activity that is occurring outside the fence that has an impact on operations inside the fence. Trying to reduce that encroachment is — or should be — a major goal of any community plan.”

The consultants contacted planners at each of the area’s five military installations early in the process to gain an initial understanding of the military’s main concerns.

This ad hoc military compatibility group will meet with county planners and the consultants three or four times during the master planning process and also will weigh in through online comments and input at public meetings.

Potts said he understands that the master planning document will have a section titled “Military Base Compatibility.”

State statute requires that any plan within two miles of an installation must be referred to the installation command, and there are already a number of opportunities and venues for military leaders to get involved with planning.

Military members are on the PPACG board and transportation advisory committee as nonvoting members, for example, Potts said.

“I think that the master plan will document that,” he said.

“Given that businesses are usually looking for some certainty in the landscape or understanding of our government’s policies when it comes to economic development and development, I feel like this plan will give better idea on both where the community and businesses are,” he said.

The county is asking business owners to fill out a brief survey that is posted on the county’s website to help the planners understand their major concerns. There’s a separate survey for residents, and many people are completing both.

For more information on the master planning process, see the July 19 edition of the Business Journal.

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