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Planning appeal rules drive debate for Colorado Springs council

June 27, 2016 Updated: June 27, 2016 at 2:36 pm
photo - Colorado Springs City Hall Photo by
Colorado Springs City Hall Photo by  

So you want to appeal a Colorado Springs planning decision? You might not qualify to do so under proposed changes to the City Code. But if you do, you likely will have an extra two days to appeal.

The changes, backed by the Colorado Springs Home Builders Association, Regional Business Alliance and the Council of Neighbors and Organizations, have prompted some consternation among City Council members.

The limits on who can appeal particularly irritated Councilman Bill Murray.

Any aggrieved person can file an appeal now, for a $176 fee. Under the revised code, appeals would be limited to "legally constituted and active" homeowner associations and people who live within 500 feet of the applicant's property or who were mailed an official notice of the proposed change.

For hearing-based appeals, rather than administrative ones, people also would qualify if they provided written comments or testimony when the change was proposed.

"Let's look at the (planned) Penrose Hospital 200-foot (height) limitation," Murray said at a council work session last week. "If my house is outside the 500-foot barrier and these people are blocking my view all of a sudden, I cannot actually come in and be an appellant? You're actually denying me the right to say this building is blocking a view I paid for?

"So you're denying citizens the right to appeal. ... It's a denial of due process."

Councilman Don Knight later said "aggrieved person" needs to be defined not by where people live but by whether they're losing property value or facing diminished quality of life.

"I do want to give citizens every chance to appeal if they've been aggrieved," he said. "But we have to narrow it somehow."

Knight also pushed to give people more than 10 calendar days to appeal. The Planning Commission later approved a 12-day window, which satisfied Knight and now is the staff recommendation.

The Home Builders and Business Alliance prefer 10 days. The homebuilders argue that developers don't get funding until the appeal is done, and the business alliance said a filing period longer than those elsewhere would make the city less competitive.

Cities closest in size to Colorado Springs - Omaha, Neb., and Raleigh, N.C. - grant 15 and 30 days, respectively, Knight said.

Denver grants 15 days, as does Huntsville, Ala. Austin allows 14 days after a board or commission decision and 20 days after an administrative decision. Columbus, Ohio, gives 20 days to appeal.

Salt Lake City and Aurora, though, give 10 days.

The council typically accepts the Planning Commission's advice, so the extension to 12 days stands a good chance of being enacted.

Knight also dislikes a move to grant an "automatic bump" to applicants but not appellants.

That would let a developer postpone a presentation until a later City Council meeting. Currently, either side can request one delay.

"If it's good enough for the applicant, it should be good enough for the appellant," Knight said.

"I don't buy into this, that we're favoring the developer over the citizen. Either we remove the automatic bump totally, or allow it for both. This is a deal killer."

Carl Schueler, the city's comprehensive planning manager, said the developer invests the money. "If they want to impose that delay on themselves, that's their choice to make. You're self-imposing a delay in one case; you're having a delay imposed on you in another."

But Councilman Tom Strand shared Knight's concern. "I just don't think that's equitable," Strand said.

Knight also wants the code modified so a person who doesn't fill out the form correctly isn't immediately denied an appeal but is granted a one-time correction.

And he wants the Parks Advisory Board added to those whose actions can be appealed: the Planning Commission, Historic Preservation Board and Downtown Review Board.

Knight got five nods from his colleagues, so the city staff can revise the code section before the council next addresses the proposal.

That was delayed till July 11, so the council will have ample time at Monday's meeting to discuss how to regulate construction in landslide zones. The meeting starts at 1 p.m. in City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave.

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