Q&A: City not alone in facing planning issues

NED B. HUNTER Updated: February 8, 2013 at 12:00 am • Published: February 8, 2013

Peter Wysocki is a man with a plan — it’s his job, after all.

Wysocki became the director of the Colorado Springs Planning and Development Department in December.

A native of Poland, Wysocki came to the U.S. when he was 13 and spent his childhood in Fontana, Calif.

He is a 1994 graduate of California Polytechnic University in Pomona, Calif., where he earned a bachelor of science degree in urban and regional planning; he also is a certified planner from the American Institute of Certified Planners.

Wysocki has worked in planning departments in Nevada and Wyoming and spent the past two years as the planning, development and service director for the 102,000-population town of Round Rock, Texas. The city is the largest suburb north of Austin, Texas. His staffs have won several awards for their work in urban planning.

Wysocki has a wife, Amy, who is from Nevada, and two sons, ages 6 and 8.  He said he and his wife wanted to come to the Springs to be “back out West and close to the mountains.” Wysocki is an avid skier and cyclist.

Question: What are some of the common planning problems cities face across the U.S.?

Answer: One is the revitalizing and redeveloping of downtowns and the redevelopment of older neighborhoods. For us, those are in the south, south central and southwestern areas, the east side and the city central area. We are looking at more infill development within downtown as well. (Infill is empty lots or lots that are underutilized that can be developed.)

Q: What are some of the challenges as you address those areas?

A: It is challenging working with different business and land owners and trying to find a common vision for downtown. Also, as we expand throughout the city, transportation is a challenge in making sure we provide complete streets with bicycle access.

Q: What parts of the city are seeing the most growth?

A: The city has a minimal area to grow to the south and west, so the growth opportunities are to the north and east, meaning north of Briargate and east of Powers. There are a number of large tracts of land that are now becoming ripe for business and commercial development.

The Northgate area is a great opportunity for the city as is North Voyager Parkway and InterQuest Parkway. There are also great opportunities around the airport for a business park, a  combination of office space and aviation-related businesses and some transportation being close to airport.

Q: What challenges does possible future oil and gas drilling within the city limits pose to your department?
 

A: We will need to be sure we are in compliance with state regulations and that we provide a fair and equitable review. We will need to make sure there is compatibility with adjoining neighborhoods and protect what falls under our purview of the city’s infrastructure.

A proposed ordinance governing drilling within the city includes financial securities to insure that if there are any negative impacts that damage or erode our roads or drainage areas that the oil and gas companies assist the city in maintaining that infrastructure.

Q: Are we seeing true growth or is the city simply experiencing a shift in growth from, say, south to north, that occurs in so many towns?

A: I think it is premature for me to answer that question. But what has historically occurred is a phenomenon that cities across the country face, and that is how do you reuse these 15- and 20-year-old shopping centers?

To some degree, our population has grown, and as we get more rooftops, there will be attractions for more merchandisers and retailers to locate here. But how we address those older shopping centers is a challenge, and an opportunity, across the country and in Colorado Springs.

Q: What are some of the development challenges facing the Springs as it continues to expand?

A: My initial observation is certainly funding the expansion of city infrastructure of drainage and roadway and the utility infrastructure as these larger projects will occur. The timing of that, and who pays for those infrastructures to the subdivisions, is challenging.

Q: What do you want to focus on during your first year?

A: Right now I am in the process of establishing a work plan for the next 24 months, and I have asked my staff to identify some of the important long-range projects that had to be put on the back burner. I am also seeking input from various members of the community.

We also are working toward the mayor’s priorities. One is becoming a business friendly community and working to transform our department to facilitate business growth in the community.

Questions and answers are
edited for brevity and clarity.
Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.

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