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What Should We Know about COS?

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These PlanCOS "Snapshots" provide a quick overview of key subjects identified as important to the community. They provide a baseline as the community begins to discuss future trends and priorities. They also begin to prepare us to be able to make informed choices on alternative options to reach this future.

Growth + Demographics

What we should know about WHO WE ARE and HOW WE GROW

With a land area of 195 square miles and a 2015 population of 451,585, Colorado Springs is Colorado’s largest city by area, and second only to Denver in population. By population, we are now the 40th largest city in the country. By 2040, our City could have well over 600,000 people, and El Paso County is expected to be home to about one million people. Regardless of the exact rate of growth, twenty years from now our senior population is projected to increase extraordinarily and we will be considerably more diverse.

Housing

What we should know about HOW and WHERE WE LIVE

Families continue to be attracted to Colorado Springs’ housing quality and affordability, and much of this new housing stock will continue to be built as single-family homes. However, an increasing proportion of housing will need to meet the changing demand for smaller, multifamily, and specialized units, and to address our ongoing imbalance in affordable/ attainable housing. These shifts in the housing market will be driven by increases in the young, senior, and one- and two-person households, as more than one quarter of households now consist of people living alone. In the near term, there is pent-up demand for quality infill and redevelopment units in Downtown and other urban neighborhoods, particularly from workers. Going forward, new and existing suburban neighborhoods should expect to incorporate a wider variety of unit sizes and types, which offer the chance for householders to up- or downsize while remaining in their chosen neighborhood.

Land Use

What we should know about HOW and WHERE WE BUILD

Future cit­­y growth for the next 20 or 30 years can be accommodated within our existing boundaries. Development options include the over 25% of the city that is vacant and undeveloped (the majority of this area is in Banning Lewis Ranch) as well as many additional opportunities for redevelopment and infill. Although our mix of land uses is in overall balance with the market, there are inefficiencies in how some uses are distributed throughout our community. Changes in the location, quality, and intensity of existing land uses should be expected especially in mature areas, including but not limited to, older arterial corridors.

Transportation

What we should know about HOW WE GET AROUND

In 2004 and 2012, voters in Colorado Springs and in the surrounding communities passed a one-cent sales tax to fund transportation and transit maintenance and improvements, demonstrating that our citizens value a transportation system that efficiently moves people and goods. In late 2015, City voters approved a 5-year 0.62% sales tax increase for maintenance of our approximately 5,400 lane miles of existing roadways. These transportation-related investments have resulted in reducing congestion along many of our major corridors, and are beginning to improve our standard of maintenance. Coupled with auto-dependent land use patterns and an emphasis on access control and de-emphasis on local street connections has resulted in very few trips using alternate modes of travel such as  transit and bikes. Our challenge is to maintain a long-term cost effective and efficient transportation system for the automobile while increasing safe and convenient opportunities for alternate modes of travel.

Utilities + Stormwater

What we should know about HOW WE PROVIDE ENERGY AND WATER

Colorado Springs has made great strides in catching up on prior deficiencies and ensuring that its future infrastructure meets demands. Our per capita utility usage is decreasing due to sustainability and conservation measures; however, as the City continues to grow, overall demand continues to increase for utilities and stormwater infrastructure will require further development.

Parks + Recreation         

What we should know about WHERE WE PLAY

Colorado Springs is known as one of the top outdoor cities in the nation due to its location at the base of Pikes Peak; access to over 17,000 acres of parks and open space; and double the per-capita usage rates for these facilities as compared to similar communities. We are “ultra-users!” Studies show strong economic returns and health benefits of investing in recreational amenities. Our future challenges will be in identifying necessary funding options to retain and enhance this high level of community valued amenities.

Community Character

What we should know about WHAT DEFINES US

The built environment of Colorado Springs, from our architecture and sculpture, parks and wide boulevards, to our identification as Olympic City USA - helps define our iconic individualism. By the 1940’s Colorado Springs was known as the “City of Beautiful Homes” with strong neighborhood pride and traditional community gathering places. A series of historic areas has since been identified to identify this character, and today, we recognize over 200 individual neighborhoods. As we look forward, a structure for better identifying, rejuvenating, and enhancing the character in many of the neighborhoods could be implemented through the prioritization and development of neighborhood plans.

Economic Trends

What we should know about HOW WE WORK and DO BUSINESS

The near term economic outlook for Colorado Springs is very positive. The City’s unemployment at the end of 2016 was down to 3.2%. Job opportunities in military, cybersecurity, and healthcare are abundant, and in some cases openings in these robust sectors have been difficult to fill. The employment economy and jobs will continue to evolve over the next 20 years with less emphasis on traditional long-term employment with fixed hours and more need for office space that nimbly adapts to changes in technology and market demand. Although many jobs will continue to be tied to a physical location, employers will have more choice in where to locate their jobs, and many knowledge workers will be less tied to one work location. Within this evolving context, enhancing urban amenities and housing options is expected to increasingly be a factor in attracting and retaining top talent.

Fiscal Sustainability

What we should know about HOW WE INVEST

Well over 25% of the land in the City and a complex network of utilities and other infrastructure and is owned by its citizens. PlanCOS provides a unique opportunity to understand how growth, development, redevelopment, and reinvestment choices affect the City’s current and future fiscal condition. Understanding this relationship can help inform land use and policy decisions leading to a fiscally sustainable comprehensive plan and City. The fiscal sustainability of additional growth outside of the city boundary and lack of intergovernmental agreements will also continue to be an issue.

Cost of Growth

What we should know about HOW WE PAY FOR GROWTH

The PlanCOS process can help identify where existing infrastructure and services can accommodate additional growth in the City, where current development patterns are fiscally beneficially, and where redevelopment makes sense fiscally. This is also an opportunity for meaningful dialogue on cost burdens and community priorities for services and infrastructure that ultimately can be embedded in PlanCOS policies and goals.

Revenue Trends

What we should know about HOW MUCH FUNDING WE HAVE

Like most municipalities in Colorado, Colorado Springs is dependent on sales tax revenues to fund core services and infrastructure. Current per capita retail spending in the City is just above the statewide average. However, shifts in consumer behavior and demographics in the City may have a direct effect on our future fiscal sustainability. Anticipating these trends and seeking to mitigate negative fiscal impacts through physical planning and policies can create quality places and opportunities to maximize revenue.

Expenditure Trends

What we should know about HOW WE SPEND PUBLIC DOLLARS

Lower per capita City revenues has resulted in fewer dollars available for core facilities and services compared with many other communities. PlanCOS provides an opportunity to understand and consider implications of these expenditure trends as well as assumptions related to the physical development and care of our City.

Special Districts

What we should know about HOW WE PUBLICLY FINANCE

The City allows the use of special districts to reimburse developers for a share public infrastructure costs and increasingly as a means to finance the ongoing maintenance of community facilities not maintained by the City. Given prior decisions to allow districts and the City’s revenue constraints, this tool is likely to stay in place for future generations. However, PlanCOS provides an opportunity to review special district policies in light of other larger discussions on “who should pay for what,” as well as to identify possible changes to special district policies in line with PlanCOS goals and objectives.