Election (copy)

Colorado Springs may no longer allow neighborhood associations to appeal land-use and planning decisions under a proposed change to the zoning code.

Neighborhood associations, including the one that successfully pushed to block a major apartment development near Garden of the Gods, would be prohibited from appealing Colorado Springs land-use decisions under a plan the city is mulling.

Residents involved in neighborhood groups raised concerns about the proposed change at a city meeting held this week to review a draft version of the city's zoning code known as RetoolCOS, which governs development and will shape how the community looks for decades to come. 

Dutch Schulz, the president of the Old North End Neighborhood, called the proposal "unsettling" and promised to fight it during the meeting.  

"The way you preserve neighborhoods is you have a watch dog for what is happening in your area," Schulz said in an interview.   

Residents found the change in a footnote in the proposed zoning code amid the hundreds of pages, he said. 

"We’re not supposed to be that kind of city. If you have got a policy, let it be known," he said.

Under the proposed code change, only residents or property owners within 1,000 feet of a project could appeal a planning or land-use decision.

Those decisions include rezoning property to allow new uses such as businesses or housing and variances for projects outside of what's allowed by city code.

Even if the resident was a member of a neighborhood association, the group could not appeal on the individual's behalf, said Morgan Hester, planning supervisor. 

Limiting who can appeal planning and land-use decisions is meant to ensure that residents are not filing frivolous appeals or appealing decision that don't directly affect them, said Don Elliott, with Clarion Associates, the city's consultant. The city currently allows anyone to appeal. 

The new Historic Neighborhood Partnership also expects to ask the city to retain neighborhood associations' right to appeal, chairwoman Dianne Bridges said. 

"We do want to support our neighbors because maybe they don’t have the time and resources to appeal," she said. 

Associations could continue to provide support to residents who appeal, city spokeswoman Jamie Fabos said. 

The Mountain Shadows Community Association's opposition to the apartments and commercial space at 2424 Garden of the Gods involved hiring a lawyer, raising money and organizing numerous comments in opposition. The association was successful in August in its efforts to convince the planning commission and city council to the block the project. Developers are now fighting the decision in court. 

Bill Wysong, president of the Mountain Shadows association, said he expected the proposal would upset people across the city. 

"You talk about taking away the rights of the neighbors and existing population. ... That is just not right," he said. 

Council President Tom Strand said he was aware of the proposed change to limit who can appeal and he did not support it.

"Anytime you cut off the opportunity for review, which we’ll call appeal, that tends to negatively effect the due process," he said.

The city of Colorado Springs will accept comments on the proposed zoning code draft until Nov. 2. Comments can be submitted to RetoolCOS@coloradosprings.gov.

This story has been updated to clarify that associations could continue to provide support to residents who appeal. 

Contact the writer at mary.shinn@gazette.com or (719) 429-9264.

Load comments