Colorado Springs home construction (copy)

Work underway on a single family home under construction in this Gazette file photo.

Are we ready?

By some estimates, 50,000 people could be moving to Colorado Springs in the next couple years if we land the headquarters for U.S. Space Command. That includes Space Force brass, support staff, government contractors, engineers, satellite jockeys and construction workers. And remember, that’s on top of the 13,000 or so people who are already moving here every year to begin with.

Do we have the houses, the road capacity, the fire stations, the miniature golf courses?

El Paso County already leads the state in population growth, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Our county had the largest year-over-year population increase in 2018 with a net gain of 13,056 people, the State Demography Office recently announced. That brought the state’s second-biggest county to a total estimated population of 713,856.

A new study has ranked Colorado Springs among the top 30 fastest-growing large cities in the nation.

By 2050, Colorado Springs will pull ahead of Denver as the state’s biggest city, and El Paso County will pull ahead of Denver County as the state’s biggest county, according to Cindy DeGroen, the state’s projections demographer.

Are we ready for that kind of explosive growth on top of what we already have?

What do we need to do to avoid carmaggedon gridlock like you see in Denver? How do we keep America’s most livable city livable? How do we enjoy the benefits of growth and jobs and a healthy economy without killing what it is that makes Colorado Springs such a pleasant, special place to live? How do we make sure young families can afford houses here?

No other issue has lit up our phones or packed our comments streams or inspired passionate letters to the editor lately like growth. 

So, as my psychologist wife always says, let’s talk it out.

Some of our best local thinkers on growth and the challenges of growth have agreed to assemble for a robust Community Conversation on Responsible Growth in Colorado Springs. And you're invited to ask them questions, raise your issues, and find out where we’re headed as a city.

The forum, presented by The Gazette and KKTV and sponsored by AARP, will be held Wednesday, Jan. 29, at 6 p.m. at Studio Bee in the Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts, 190 S. Cascade Ave.

You can register for the event and submit a question for our panelists at www.gazette.com/growth.

The panelists include Peter Wysocki, director of planning and development for the city of Colorado Springs; Dirk Draper, President and CEO of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Organization; Richard Strasbaugh, interim chief executive officer of the Council of Neighbors and Organizations; Tim Seibert, vice president with Nor’wood Development Group; and anti-growth advocate Dave Gardner.

Wysocki has worked in planning departments in Nevada, Wyoming and Texas, where his staffs have won several awards for their work in urban planning. A native of Poland, Wysocki came to the U.S. when he was 13 and spent his childhood in Fontana, Calif.

Draper has been a resident of Colorado Springs since 2003, during which time he has volunteered on numerous community boards, committees, and initiatives. Draper’s educational background is as a regional economist, including an MS in Natural Resource Economics from Colorado State University.

Strasbaugh has served in both the public and private sectors, including policy-making positions on Capitol Hill and in the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C.. He's also been a newspaper and magazine reporter focusing on government and politics. CONO is a hub for connecting neighbors to each other, to other neighborhoods, and to community and local government resources.

At Nor'wood, Seibert manages development of Wolf Ranch and Banning Lewis Ranch. Prior to joining Nor'wood, Tim owned N.E.S., a top land planning firm in Colorado Springs. He says Nor'wood "wholeheartedly believes in the potential of Colorado Springs.  As city builders, we are creating places that offer the promise of Colorado to every citizen of the Pikes Peak Region."

Gardner hosts the GrowthBusters podcast about growth issues and sustainable living. Prior to that he produced and hosted the syndicated radio series and podcast, Conversation Earth. Gardner produced the documentary about growth, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth (2011). Colorado Springs featured prominently in the film. Gardner ran for Colorado Springs City Council in 2009 with the slogan, “Growth created our problems; it can’t be their solution."

The Big Question for these panelists, and for our city in general: Can we learn from other cities' mistakes (see Denver, Austin, San Francisco, Seattle) and figure out a responsible way to grow that keeps bringing people here without strangling the golden goose (quality of life, lack of traffic, affordability, mountain views) that is bringing them?

Let's talk about the future of Colorado Springs now, before its too late.

Are we ready?

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