After more than two years of work, El Paso County this week released the first draft of its new master plan, expected to guide local development for the next 20 to 30 years as the county plans to pack in hundreds of thousands of new residents in the coming decades.
County planners will use the new master plan as a basis for future strategic plans, water projects, military facilities, major roadway infrastructure projects, utility projects and more, county planner Nina Ruiz explained in an informational video about the master plan posted to the EPC Community engage website, the county’s public-facing information series.
The plan will also help the county prepare for an explosion of growth and determine what “appropriate growth looks like,” El Paso County Planning and Community Development Executive Director Craig Dossey told county commissioners this week.
The county’s population, including Colorado Springs, is projected to grow from roughly 720,400 residents to about 953,700 in 2040 — and could hit more than 1 million people by 2045, according to the Colorado Demography Office.
“Why this is so crucial is managing that growth in a way that puts El Paso County where they need to be in a few decades while maintaining and protecting what is most cherished: the environment, the character, the unique sense of place that El Paso County is,” said John Houseal, co-founder of design firm Houseal-Lavigne Associates, who partnered with the county to develop the new plan.
Through April 9, residents can review and comment on the draft proposed plan on the project website, elpaso-hlplanning.hub.arcgis.com. Residents can also find details on the planning process, important dates, informational videos, the public adoption process and how else to get involved.
The completed plan will be 14 chapters long, outlining what planners called its “key components,” including a vision for the community, land use, housing and communities, economic development, transportation and mobility, community facilities, infrastructure, military installations, recreation and tourism, community health, environment, resiliency and hazard mitigation.
Thirteen of its chapters are drafted, Houseal said. The final chapter, which will outline all recommendations across each category in a “matrix-style” format, will be drafted after county staff and the Master Plan Advisory Committee have reviewed and vetted each recommendation in the document.
Areas of growth and property that can expect transformation have also been identified in the plan and the county expects many of the new homes, shops and other development to flow east of Colorado Springs.
A draft map of areas of change in the county shows most new development going east of Colorado Springs along major transportation corridors such as Colorado 94 and U.S. 24. It also defines areas of transition that are likely to redevelop, like some older commercial areas that could become residential and single-family housing areas that could become multifamily.
When the public comment period closes, the draft plan will be updated and presented to the El Paso County Planning Commission at its May 5 and May 26 meetings, planners said. The meetings are open to the public and begin at 1 p.m. They are livestreamed on the El Paso County Facebook page (@ElPasoCountyCO).
The new master plan is anticipated to be adopted in May, Dossey said, and will go into effect immediately after.