Three things about Colorado Springs’ growth that we’re watching this week

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Colorado Springs City Hall. May 31, 2022.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Colorado Springs City Hall. May 31, 2022.

Colorado Springs will be making decisions this week that will impact its growth and development for decades to come.

The following issues will be discussed by local leaders this week. Check back here for updates on how they voted.

Water supply

Update, Tues. Jan. 10, 2023: Colorado Springs City Council voted 5-4 to approve the ordinance on this initial reading. It needs a second vote before it's officially adopted. The approval included an amendment that would allow a majority of council to approve service extensions, rather than a supermajority.

Original Text: The city is considering an ordinance that would impact how and where Colorado Springs extends its water service. The city wants to make sure there's enough water as it continues to grow.

Currently, Colorado Springs Utilities is required to maintain a surplus water supply. But there’s no definition of how much extra that actually is. So what they want to do is define it as a 30 percent buffer between supply and demand, calculated on a five-year rolling average. 

This calculation is important because if the buffer is too big, some say there won’t be enough customers to pay the costs of maintaining it. On the other hand, too small a surplus puts the utility at risk of not being able to keep up with growth. Half the city’s water comes from the Colorado River Basin, which is threatened by drought and overuse. The utility is acquiring new water rights and promoting conservation measures, but they also want this change to city code. 

The outcome of this vote is expected to determine whether the city ultimately approves the annexation of a new development that does not actually touch city limits but would be the site of some 9,500 homes. More on that is below.

The City Council is expected to meet on Tuesday at 9 a.m. Read the full ordinance here.

Land annexation

Update, Wed. January 11, 2023: The Planning Commission voted to postpone consideration of the proposed Amara annexation until an undetermined date.

Original Text: The Planning Commission will be voting on more than a dozen agenda items related to a proposal to annex nearly 3,200 acres to the south and east - primarily adjacent to Fountain. It could eventually become the site of some 9,500 homes of different types.

It’s been controversial because most of the annexation area does not actually touch city limits. And while it could provide more housing, a lot of people are opposed to it because of concerns about traffic, safety and water.

The Planning Commission is expected to meet on Wednesday at 9 a.m. Check out the full agenda here.

Zoning code

Update, Tues. Jan. 10, 2023: Colorado Springs City Council has voted unanimously to delay a decision of an overhaul of the city's 30-year-old zoning codes after numerous residents asked for changes to the proposal, known as ReToolCOS. Council members will offer amendments to the plan and are expected to take it up again in two weeks.

Update, Weds. Jan. 11, 2023: The 8,000 seat amphitheater will move forward after city council voted 8-1 to reject an appeal brought by citizens. Residents said the music venue doesn't follow local ordinances and would create problems with parking and increase traffic and noise in the area. Supporters include the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Chamber of Commerce and the city's Urban Renewal Authority. They say it would boost the city's economy and provide 500 new jobs.

Original Text: The city is considering updating its 30-year-old zoning code, which governs how land can be used, with a proposal called ReToolCOS. City staff says this change will promote logical growth and affordable housing. It’s aimed at being more user-friendly and flexible — making it easier for developers to get through the approval process.

It may also allow new uses in some areas, which worries residents of historic neighborhoods who are concerned that apartments could be built in neighborhoods with mostly single-family homes.

Some are also concerned about the appeal process outlined in the 400-page draft document and what recourse someone might have if they object to plans proposed by a developer or a new use in their neighborhood. The public would still have a chance to comment on proposals. But long-time resident Dianne Bridges said participating in the commenting process is not always easy, especially if it includes an appeal.

“Most people don't have the time,” she said, “like some of us do right now, to deal with this.”

She’s not the only one concerned about the appeal process. ReToolCOS sets out the rules for who is allowed to appeal proposed projects. For example, an individual would have to live or own property within a two-mile radius of the project and have participated during the original approval process for it.

Notices would be posted at the project site and people within a 1,000-foot radius will get a postcard. So for example, according to a member of the city planning commission, it's unlikely anyone would get a postcard about the Amara development if it is annexed because it doesn't border the city. That also means not very many people live within two miles who would be allowed to officially comment.

The planning commissioner also noted another proposal city council will consider on Tuesday, the Sunset Amphitheater. It's an 8,000-seat outdoor venue that could go in on the city's northeast side. Some concerns might be about noise or traffic. He said it's unlikely any residents live within 1,000 feet of it, so most people who might be affected won’t get a postcard. That means the most likely the only way they’d know about it is by word-of-mouth, social media or local news.

The City Council is expected to meet on Tuesday at 9 a.m. Read the ordinance here.

Each ordinance gets two readings at city council, the first is this week. City staff expects ReToolCOS to be in place by May, if council approves it in a timely way.