Council told to abandon Colorado Springs' master plan, instead focus on short-term fixes

April 22, 2014 Updated: April 22, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Colorado Springs' city staff asked the City Council to abandon a three-year plan to update the city's master plan and instead spend the money on some short-term fixes.

Peter Wysocki, the city's planning and development director, told the council Monday that there might not be enough money to complete a $500,000 update to the city's Comprehensive Plan - the blueprint to the city.

The City Council set aside $150,000 in the 2014 budget to update the city's Comprehensive Plan, which was last updated in 2001. The Comprehensive Plan is a guide to the city's physical growth. The council had envisioned a series of public meetings, zone reviews and discussions on the how the future of the city would be developed. They envisioned a three-year process.

But the staff now is warning that it would be a bad idea to start the update this year and risk not having the money next year to finish it, Wysocki said. Instead, the city could take the $150,000 and work on Mayor Steve Bach's Economic Opportunity Zones, he said.

Bach set up committees to review two corridors -- South Academy Boulevard and North Nevada Avenue. The idea is for the city to develop a plan to jump-start the two economically declining areas. Nevada Avenue north of Garden of the Gods Road was declared an urban renewal site in 2004 and was transformed from a string of old motels and businesses into the University Village Colorado shopping center.

The South Academy zone, which covers 12 square miles between Maizeland Road and Drennan Road, has a population of 70,000.

In March, committee members reported their findings to the City Council. In both plans, the No. 1 recommendation was for the city to hire a project manager to oversee both plans.

Wysocki said the city could do just that with the $150,000.

"We could refocus the $150,000 and spend the money to hire temporary, full-time staff in the planning department to address the ideas that have been recommended by the Economic Opportunity Zones," Wysocki said. "We believe the $150,000, if split over two years, we can achieve many of the low hanging fruit identified in those plans."

But council is not sold on the idea, at least not yet.

A majority of the council members said this week that they are reluctant to drop the update to the city's Comprehensive Plan because it drives all the other plans, including the city's Urban Renewal Plans.

Council member Joel Miller said the City Council needs more information about the plans for the two economic opportunity zones before it switches gears. The council only has been briefed about the two corridors one time.

"What I liked about the Comprehensive Plan was that it was going to be a huge public process," he said.

"I'm not comfortable abandoning that."

Council member Val Snider said he wants to hear more about the tradeoffs.

"If we don't update the Comprehensive Plan, it's not clear what we would base our ordinances on," he said.

Wysocki said in a perfect world he would spend money on the economic opportunity zones and on the Comprehensive Plan. He will come back to council next month with more details, he said.

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