More than 25 Colorado Springs citizens attended the Thursday night Town Hall meeting with Councilmember Don Knight in the Colorado Springs Fire Station 14 community room. Knight represents District 1, which includes parts of northwest and northeast Colorado Springs.
Knight, who is, according to a city council communications specialist, very accessible to the citizens in his district, discussed concerns including deer, panhandlers, speeding and stop signs, and short-term rentals. Knight typically holds three Town Hall meetings a year to discuss citizen concerns.
Traffic concerns ranged from excessive speeding in neighborhoods to “radical enforcement” of stop signs by police officers. One citizen claimed that District 1 residents had been “sold down the river twice now by (huge) companies,” that were causing excessive noise pollution, as well as unsightly garbage and construction.
Knight explained measures that had been put in place to address the issues when he could, and directed citizens to the proper departments and channels when he could not provide solutions to the issues himself. The proliferation of panhandlers and homeless in the city and the large deer population were also discussed at length.
Knight explained that the excessive deer population has been an issue since he took office, but little has happened to reduce the population because there are no clear solutions. He also shared some of the city’s findings of the city’s deer population and methods for controlling it. According to studies requested by the city, there are approximately 70 deer per square mile west of I-25 in Colorado Springs. In contrast, there are about four deer per square mile outside the city.
Solutions including birth control and bow-hunting permits have been ultimately proven unrealistic or not advisable for the city. Many of the deer in the city have chronic wasting disease, a factor that prevents the deer from being relocated to locations outside the city because wild deer do not have the disease. Lethal population control options include trapping and euthanizing deer, then taking them to a separate location and to be preserved while they are tested for the disease. The cost to euthanize the deer would be about $500 to $700 per animal.
Citizens also discussed their concerns about a large homeless and panhandler population in the city, claiming it was bad for business owners, that the population seemed to be growing by the day, and that private property was being damaged, among other concerns.
Knight said that the courts would generally not rule in favor of businesses, and laws prevent forcing someone off of public land if they don’t have a place to go because it is “cruel and unusual punishment,” and that people have “a right to live,” to which one woman replied, “business owners have rights too!”
Knight discussed recent measures that have been taken to address the large homeless and panhandling populations in the city, making a clear distinction between the two groups.
“We just appropriated $500K that we’re giving to the Springs Rescue Mission and (Salvation Army), and they are putting in (a couple hundred more beds), and that is going to give us 100 more beds than there are homeless people (according to a point-in-time count of the homeless population in the city),” Knight said, adding that the additional beds would help officials get homeless people into shelters and off public land.
One man rebuffed the city’s solutions, claiming that additional shelter beds would encourage “vagrants and panhandlers.”
Michael Applegate, a member of the Neighborhood Preservation Alliance and a key player in the opposition to the city’s recently-approved short-term rental ordinance, was also at the meeting. He waited until others had voiced their concerns to speak about the ordinance.
Applegate talked about the proliferation of short-term rental units like Airbnb in the city, and about the rejected city-wide cap on the number of rentals. The recently approved ordinance includes requirements for short-term rental owners to obtain permits, pay taxes to the city, and to be available to address neighborhood concerns. Copies of the ordinance were available at the meeting for citizens.
Applegate said his goal in bringing up the ordinance was to raise citizen awareness about the issue of short-term rentals, and Knight said he planned to revisit the topic after the upcoming elections.
Several citizens stayed after the meeting that ended at 7:30 p.m. to speak with the councilmember further. For more information about the city council, recently passed ordinances, or local meetings, visit coloradosprings.gov.