El Paso County is planning for hundreds of thousands of new residents to move in during the coming decades and expects many of the new homes, shops and other development to flow east of Colorado Springs.

The areas of new growth and property that can expect transformation have been identified in a draft master plan the county expects will guide development for 20 years. The plan is nearing completion after a year and half of work and the county is seeking feedback on areas identified for growth, said Craig Dossey, executive director of the county’s Planning and Community Development Department.

The county needs to prepare for growth because the population of El Paso County, including Colorado Springs, is projected to grow from about 720,400 residents to 973,000 in 2040, according to the Colorado Demography Office.

“We know it’s important to have a plan for our future,” Dossey said.

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 Highway 94 and U.S. Highway 24. Growth along Highway 94 could be likely in the coming years particularly if Schriever Air Force Base is selected as the permanent home for U.S. Space Command, Dossey said.

A link to an interactive version of the Areas of Change map can be found HERE

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El Paso County expects much of the growth and change in the county to east of Colorado Springs. Growth is also expected south of Fountain.

Some of these areas of growth could be annexed into Colorado Springs and Fountain as they fall within three miles of the municipalities’ boundaries. The county has not calculated how big the areas of growth are all together, but they slated large unsubdivided properties for growth. Sections of the county already subdivided into smaller ranchettes are not anticipated to see major growth, Dossey said. 

The map also defines areas of transition that are likely to redevelop. For example, some older commercial areas could become residential and single family housing areas could become multifamily.

Cimarron Hills, an area of the county surrounded by the city, is one of the largest areas identified for transition. The county expects growth and change in the area because the city has been annexing northern portions of Cimarron hills, including vacant lots of land, for higher density residential projects, he said.

It’s unlikely all of Cimarron Hills would ever be annexed into the city because it wasn’t developed to city standards and the Cherokee Metro District, not the city, provides water and sewer to the area, he said.

The county did not map areas for potential new industrial businesses, but the staff does recognize the need to identify where industrial businesses can locate and the master plan will include an analysis of appropriate locations, Dossey said.

For example, more heavy industrial businesses could locate near Pikes Peak International Raceway where they could be served by a railroad, he said.

The county is taking feedback on the Areas of Change map and will be accepting comments on the master plan until it is approved by the El Paso County Planning Commission late this year or early next year, Dossey said.

The county has struggled to get feedback on its master plan since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, in part because it has been unable to hold any public meetings and residents have been focused on other issues, he said.

The last two questionnaires put out by the county on the master plan drew less than 30 responses, according to a presentation given during the planning commission this week.

“It’s probably the toughest time in the history of planning to get input on something,” Dossey said.

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

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