Does the city have a plan to deal with all of this growth? Of course! A lot of that centers around our planning department, so we’re talking with the director to get an idea of what our city planners do and what they don’t do. Are you wishing for a certain store or restaurant in your neighborhood? Or do you wish all the development would just slow down? Hear about the city planning’s role and why it’s so important to have a vision for the future of COS.
Tell us what you'd like to hear on Behind the Springs! Email us at BehindTheSprings@ColoradoSprings.Gov
Listen to the Episode
Here's more information about topics we mentioned in this episode.
- Planning and Development
- PlanCOS: the city's comprehensive planA comprehensive plan is a guiding document that provides a framework for city policies and priorities regarding the physical development of the city. It is a long-range vision of what we want our city to become and is a tool for making decisions about how that vision should be achieved. It outlines strategic steps to make the vision a reality and provides targeted and strategic planning of the physical development of the city.
- Springs View: zoning information about the city
- City for Champions
- Soccer is free program
- Bear resistant trash can ordinance
- Flooding and erosion work near Rock Ledge Ranch nears completion
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Behind the Springs. You know, it's tough when your, your mother calls your boss and inside look at your local government. Even tougher when your boss is the mayor, so she's going to be proud in the end. Yes. Colorado Springs, nearly 500,000 people, Olympic city, USA, garden of the gods, Pikes peak. It's a growing city. Our local government has a lot of employees. What exactly do they do? They do. How does it impact my life? This is where you find out behind the Springs and inside. Look at your local government.
If you live in Colorado Springs and even if you don't, do you know the business is booming. People are catching onto what a great place this is to live and love it or hate it. We are in the midst of a major growth spurt, right, Ted?
Well, yeah. Well all areas of our city government are working to facilitate this growth in a responsible way. We want to talk today about one group in particular.
That's right. We're referring to our planning department and you may think you have a general idea of what they do, but we realized after hearing from some residents, and even Ted, I, I think there's a lot of folks, us included who don't know the true purpose and focus and so we're really happy to welcome Peter Wysocki and he is our planning and community development director. Peter, thanks for being with us.
Thank you for having me, Jen and Ted.
Yeah. And we are going to start with a very simple first question. We want to talk a little bit about you give us some personal background on how you came to move to Colorado Springs and how you came into the position where you are.
Well, thanks. Well, um, I had the privilege and honor to work and live in a number of different States and cities, uh, throughout the inner mountain West. Uh, most recently I moved here about seven years ago, a little over seven years ago from, uh, uh, Austin, Texas area, uh, where I held a very similar position. Uh, quite frankly I just enjoy Colorado. The lifestyle that it offers. Colorado Springs in particular, great access to the mountains, uh, wide open spaces. Um, so, uh, really feels like home to me and I'm really enjoy working here as well.
So you've lived in two of the top three best places to live by us news and world report. Which one's really better? Austin or Colorado Springs?
Well, I'm a member, I'm a cyclist. Um, so I'll have to take a pay cut. Colorado Springs for sure.
Yeah. Probably by, by a long distance here. Right?
Yeah. But you know, Texas barbecue is pretty darn good.
That's all they got. That's all they got.
And we've got Rudy's at least here. So you know, you can get a little taste, I think different Texas. Right? So you get a little taste of, uh, of back there, but you also, uh, you manage more than one department. So tell us about all of them and how they all help plan for the future.
Well, planning and community development department is made up of a number of different divisions. Of course, the one that kind of received the most, um, contact with the citizens. Probably our planning, uh, division, uh, does the division that regulates, um, enforces all our zoning, uh, standard zoning regulations. Uh, those all the development review, uh, within, uh, for projects within city limits. Uh, we also have neighborhood services, uh, formerly known as code enforcement. That's the division that basically addresses any complaints from citizens or businesses regarding nuisances. So trash on, on private property, uh, things of that nature. Uh, we have a community development which administers, uh, federal grants for, uh, housing projects for basically projects that benefit, uh, families and individuals, uh, that would be considered low and moderate income. Uh, and then lastly, we have a real estate services which administers on acquires or sells, uh, land, um, that is, um, owned by the city acquires easements, uh, for roadway projects for Colorado Springs utilities. So it's more of an internal department, uh, but nonetheless, uh, very, very important as we grow and expand our infrastructure and parks systems
and plant. Even though we could talk about all of those departments, we're going to focus on planning today just so people get to know exactly what that department does and what the function is. Um, and you said that's the one that really the public is dealing with the most. In what way are you serving residents in the planning department?
Well, um, and I'll try to be as brief as a, as possible and then cause concise as possible, but make a fun. Uh, majority, majority of the cities, uh, throughout the country, certainly including state of Colorado have zoning regulations. Uh, there are ordinances that regulate what can happen, what can be built and how it can be built on private land. Uh, that is most commonly referred to as zoning. Uh, whether it be residential, commercial, uh, in each of the zoning districts has its own separate rules. So as an example, if a property is zoned, single family residential 6,000, uh, equates to 6,000 square foot lots. So if there's new development proposed, uh, those lots have to be a minimum of 6,000 square feet. And then when once homes are built, you know, zoning regulates the heighth, uh, setbacks between structures a how far a shed can be constructed from property lines, uh, and so on and so forth. And of course,
don't normally think of, but are so important. Right? Yeah,
correct. Um, and of course, when this is applied to commercial development, likewise, uh, commercial zoning districts regulate the number of parking stalls are required, uh, per particular, uh, business or, or use type. Um, there's different parking standards for restaurants, office buildings, industrial buildings, and so on and so forth. So really it's often residents don't realize it is, but that is, uh, probably one area of local government, um, that really have very, has very direct on, on our lives, uh, and how cities develop. And the one thing about zoning regulations, it's, it's not a, it's not a black and white science, it's more of an art. Uh, it's a Nard that is different, um, for each city. Uh, it's whatever, however, cities develop the fabric of the city, uh, political appetite of adopt certain regulations that may be pre, may be seen as, uh, impediments to development.
So would you say that's why different cities just feel different? You know, I mean like you go into a certain city and you say, Oh, I just, I love the way the city is laid out. I love the way it feels. It's, it is almost like an emotional thing. Um, you say the way it develops.
What would you say then our identity is as if Colorado Springs is a canvas and you guys are the artists? Uh, what, what's the, uh, what's the look that we're going for and trying to maintain?
Well, I think the value of our community is certainly the beautiful views we have, uh, particularly of Pike's peak and our, uh, many other parks. Um, I think, uh, we are unique and in this way that, uh, we are a very large city. Uh, we don't have, um, significant or larger suburbs, uh, that border our, our city, let's say like other metropolitan areas like Denver for example. Uh, Denver city of Denver itself, uh, is not that much bigger and population than we are. Certainly much smaller in area. It just feels bigger because it has suburban communities around and, or a sister cities and that sister cities bud. But cities that that make up the metropolitan area. We're a little unique that we are a fairly large city. Uh, yes, we have neighbors to the North monument and of course fountain to the South. But as you look eastward, um, like Falcon area and Peyton that's really unincorporated El Paso County land. So we kind of um, can't control our own destiny of how we grow there. But we also need to realize that this is a very desirable area to live, to locate businesses and of course to, to recreate. So, uh, if I would characterize how we're growing is really emphasis on a good quality development development that pays for itself, but take into account the real beauty of our area. Uh, that brings us all in here.
And I should, I should point out in this kind of leads into my next question is we aren't the sole artists, it's not like your the one orchestrating the way everything looks right. It's now not all up to city government. The way everything develops and happens. Can you explain about that and the developer's role versus our role?
Right. And that's a very good question because I think there is a little bit of a misconception that the city is, is, doesn't have sufficient regulations to, to deal with the growth, uh, and so on and so forth. And, and quite frankly, you know, this city has done a very good job preserving its character, preserving its quality of life. Zoning regulations are our ordinances. So they're adopted by, by city councils. Any changes to those ordinances, of course, a need to go through a public stakeholder process and public hearings and so on and so forth. There are some, some developments, uh, maybe, uh, or can be approved administratively, uh, meaning they do not require a hearing, but many of the larger type developments, uh, go through our hearing process. Uh, the bottom line is, is if a proposed development conforms with city regulations, the cities have minimal authority to deny him.
So it really comes down to, you know, our, our city standards or city regulations, uh, appropriate for, um, for our city, uh, for our, um, I guess our goal or goals, right, right. And our vision set out in a kind of the overall guiding document, which is our, uh, comprehensive plan plan cos um, so often when there's objections to projects, unfortunately city staff is in a difficult position because our job is to just to ensure that it complies with standards and then with, if it does, then unfortunately we have very limited authority to deny him. Having said that, uh, we do need to ensure that projects de mitigate their significant impacts. And often that's where the very subjective, uh, discussion occurs. Uh, either be at city planning commission, city council or with, uh, with the neighboring residents about, you know, what is a significant impact and how development mitigates it. Okay.
Well on the, you mentioned plan cos the comprehensive plan, I want to get into that. Um, cause that was just done last year. Uh, and what that means for the city of these comprehensive plans are only done every couple of decades. The, if I'm correct. That's correct. Typically there are 20 to 25 year document. Yes. Okay. So we're going to jump into what that document means going forward. And I guess that that can be even more of the, uh, being an artist and having the canvas and everything. So we'll get into that after a quick break.
Well, did you see that huge pothole? As soon as my car hit it, we need to let the city know so they can fix it. Whoa. Good luck with that. And done. I just sent a repair request to the city on the new go cos phone app. The what go cos it's a new app from the city of Colorado Springs. Super easy and it's free. You can report things like vandalism, potholes and other non-emergency issues. It even has a GPS feature that pinpoints your location downloaded today. That's go cos the app, it keeps Colorado Springs going.
We're here talking with Peter, why Saki, our planning and community development director about the planning department. And Peter, you're doing a great job of explaining the basics for us. Thank you so much. Thank you. This is actually a little bit of fun. It's educational for us. And, um, you know, I think one of the biggest questions that I hear from people a lot, and I know you do, is, you know, why don't we have, um, so-and-so restaurant in my neighborhood and why can't you get a grocery store one block from my house? And why can't you orchestrate it all? Why, why, Peter? Do you get these questions a lot? And what's the answer?
Well, we sure do. And I certainly have my favorites. I love to have them close to my neighborhood. Absolutely. And that, and that is actually a very, very good question. I often try not to engage in debates on social media, Facebook and so on, so forth. But even with my, you like your job and you know, every social event, Hey, you know, why can't you just get such and such store here? Or my husband and my wife a significant other, they want this, that, or the other. And the fact of the matter is, local government simply just doesn't regulate. Um, you know, what a restaurant we can get in the building and so on and so forth. Obviously those are a private sector decisions. Amazed on, on their business plans. And I will say the one thing that developing commercial development or commercial uses is also an art.
Uh, and typically what, um, not just a city, but every city that I've worked with a commercial development follows residential rooftops. Um, I, I, it sounds like a cliche and this is repeated very frequently, but unfortunately that, that that is the truth. Um, businesses want to locate in areas where there are people and unless there are people that can go to these restaurants to, to patronize the businesses, it's, it comes down to those business decisions. And we all have our favorites. Um, and we certainly, uh, encourage chain restaurants, chain type businesses. But of course we always encourage small local businesses to locate, uh, near neighborhoods, uh, even in large shopping centers. Cause I think that brings certain excitements, earning uniqueness, um, to Colorado Springs that perhaps other cities of our size that we compete against quite frankly, um, may not have. So yeah, local government unfortunately can't say you can have a target. Uh, but not a Walmart or a Safeway or a King. Soopers that just, um, that's beyond our, our legal authority.
It's a good point to make. You guys can encourage, um, and encouraged by, uh, how it was using analogy and the break that view of the city. Like it's a pie and you're cutting up the pie and there's different types of slices that might be commercial or residential or whatever it may be. But the other thing I always harp on when I hear people upset about growth and maybe hit me over the head if I, if I go too far, Peter, but, uh, already there, you can hit one of our alarms that we have over here. Um, I always say capitalism, everyone loves capitalism until it might impact you until maybe capitalism impacted you negatively, where that target or whatever you want doesn't go into the place that you were hoping it was going to go in or a beautiful hotel goes up or something else that maybe that space was vacant before. But there's somebody that's come in to invest in that plot of land that's doing it fully legally around all of the restrictions that we've already created. We can't control that. We just can control what the, the process of it and the restrictions around whatever that piece of pie is. So I like to use food analogies. I think people get food allergies.
Good point. That not everybody is saying, Oh I want five stores to come in my neighborhood. Some people were saying, how can you stop these five stores from coming to my neighborhoods? I'm sure Peter receives both extremes. Correct. People who are ecstatic about the growth and people who are very frustrated by it.
Well, our first Ted, great comments. We're actually hiring some planning staffs or.
hopefully council isn't listening so that.
I'm not going to interview here on, on the podcast.
There's a good podcast, a look inside an interview.
But that is a very good point. And, and um, maybe just follow up to my prior comment about zoning. Let's say a piece of um, let's say two acre piece of property is zoned for a restaurant. Um, well, yes, we have a defined process and city code how to approve a restaurant building. But whether that restaurant is a, uh, a three or four star sit down restaurant or a drive up drive through some sort of chain, restaurant or chain, we don't control there. Now we might have regulations for what we do have regulations for drive up windows, for example, uh, in parking. But to say that you can have a fast food or not a fast food or a, um, a local restaurant or a chain, uh, we just can't, uh, can't do that.
And Jen, your question about yes, the proverbial debate about, yes, we want more growth because that our city grows. It of course, generates a revenues for the city and, and the demand so we can pay for the demand of, of our residents. Um, that is a, um, very challenging, uh, part of a planner's job in any city. The position I generally take is that as long as cities have good regulations that can mitigate the impacts, uh, and the process that is transparent, uh, then growth in itself isn't, isn't bad. It's what his definition of growth is. Often what I ask, uh, when I have, you know, conversations over coffee or libations is, um, cities can't stay stand constant could they stagnate? There's always going to be some level of growth. Now whether it's growth that is called redevelopment, uh, basically redeveloping parts of cities, uh, with new, with new projects, redeveloping shopping centers that are 30 or 40 years old with and you were shopping center or some housing.
Housing in those cases is typically at a higher density. Um, that that is considered growth. I mean, that is growing as a city may be growing more vertically, uh, or redeveloping those mature areas. But it is considered, um, what I would consider growth. Now there's of course there's growth of adding new land into, you know, into a corporate seats, city limits. Um, my perspective on great cities is great. Cities offer, uh, amenities for various demographics. Uh, whether it be, um, or whether it be, um, you know, um, individuals and families that are now aging and re moving towards the retirement age and looking for smaller homes on smaller lots, whether it be younger families that are ready to start, uh, to start families and looking for more master planA plan for the development of a portion of the city that contains proposed land uses, a generalized transportation system, and the relationship of the area included in the plan to surrounding property. communities with parks, trails and little larger lots and larger homes. And those, I want to, you know, live closer to downtown centers and, and want to walk, uh, ride buses or bicycles, um, to get to their destination.
So a great city should provide, um, those opportunities, um, for, for the different, uh, demographics that are represented. Um, so I feel like city of Colorado Springs is in that maturing stage. I mean, we, we've grown, uh, trans nationally illustrate that the aging population is looking for a different, uh, home product, uh, which traditionally we have lacked, uh, you know, lacked. Um, we were traditionally developed as a sort of, um, the American dream single family home on a larger lot. Uh, what we're seeing is the smaller homes and smaller lots are, are very successful. And, uh, quite frankly, uh, sell very well. Um, so the bottom line is as long as the cities have diversity, diversity, right, right. And with, you know, in jail we do, we do. And change is sometimes difficult. It's changed some of these difficult for planning professionals that are sort of ambassadors of, of making cities think, uh, 10, 15, 20 years into the future.
Uh, it is not because we want to protect the character and preserve the character of what made the city great. Uh, but at the same time we realized that is not if there is no private investment, uh, and if there is no some level of change, um, then there isn't that investment. Um, and neighborhoods quite frankly just are replaced with newer, fresher neighborhoods. So the key always is the balance between sort of the new development and how we address redevelopment of mature parts of the city dimension.
When you talk about 10 to 15 years that people can go on our website, Colorado springs.gov/plan cos find out more
about that comprehensive plan. And we could have a whole episode on plan cos, but can you give us your most bite sized approach to what plan cos is and maybe some of these other,
Why do we have it, why should we care, you know?
Well, my best, uh, so plant cos is the title of our city's comprehensive plan. It's a 20, 25 year high level policy document. Um, and most cities and even counties, uh, have comprehensive plans. There are sometimes called master plans or general plans. My best definition of that in a kind of a short a sound bite is it's a blueprint, uh, for the physical development of a city. It basically sets the foundation, uh, the blue lines, if you will, of how the city should grow into the future. And it is, uh, in our case was a two and a half year process. Um, high involvement, of course our city owned our communications department was a very integral part of, wasn't an award winning today. It was, yes, yes we did. We,
so many people gave input and great input. Right, right,
right. So really it's, it's, it's say it sets the vision and provides policies on, um, how the city should develop both, you know, redevelop. Um, you know, one of the very, um, policies that is, um, very pronounced in and plan cos is that we want more diverse neighborhoods, that we want more walkable neighborhoods and that although that external growth will continue to occur in Pike's peak region in general, not just city of Colorado Springs reinvesting into the downtown and to the more mature neighborhoods, uh, particularly, you know, the ones that are in that 30 to 40 year old time timeframe that we create their own special places and unique places. In fact, we have a chapter that's entitled, unique places.
So we don't just keep growing out, we take care of what we already have. Right.
But the flip side, you know, and new development is introduced into existing neighborhoods. It is often objected by the residents.
Yeah. It's difficult. It's change. It's difficult. Right.
Well, and uh, last question for you cause we like to end on fun. So, uh, talk about one of the most unique or exciting projects that you've had an opportunity to work on. You've had to see some interesting ones. Right?
I, I have and, um, you know, I've been in this profession and working for local government for all 26 years now and I will say that, and that was, I'll give you a little controversial here. I think city for champions, uh, love it or hated or in different opinion. I think how, um, uh, it was, uh, it's a bold initiative. Um, and I think I can appreciate that. Um, I think it had some challenges obviously, but I think what it brings is bringing some boldness on, on the part of the too and community stakeholders to, um, Colorado Springs and more unique, um, and different place. Um, I do work on a number of different, you know, projects. Um, I do believe that plants, cos quite frankly is, has been one of the most successful, um, sort of, um, long range projects. Um, sometimes I, I uh, well I worked in Nevada also in Nevada, has very interesting, um, land use regulations. I would imagine on brothels. So, but we won't get into that.
I thought you were going that that's where one of your favorite projects was. But we'll save that for the, uh, the behind the Springs, uh, after dark.
I will say though, my very first jobs was about 15 minutes from a heavenly Valley ski resort up in Lake Tahoe. So expanding a ski resort and redeveloping the base area was quite exciting because there was a lot of field trips, um, and visits particularly in the winter months.
Sure. That was tough.
Oh, that's where the skiing's it's the love for skiing started. Right. That's great.
Well in city for champions, all I gotta say is I'm excited to watch some soccer down
and if you're not aware of those projects, there's four different projects. You can also find a lot of information on our website, city for champions or their website and um, just some awesome, awesome things going on. Yeah. Well do you want to get in some events that are coming, have awesome things going on. We got a few things.
Should I give you a little music in the background? We're bringing back the events segment. You want to go first? You want me to go?
Yes. We want to start by congratulating the graduates of our 70th police officer class. A January 23rd Colorado Springs police department, sworn 60 new police officers during a graduation ceremony and they have completed 27 weeks of rigorous physical mental training way to go and they joined 700 other sworn officers.
Well and then we're going to look over at the Colorado Springs fire department promotions next Colorado Springs, CSF D held a promotion ceremony January 17th. Mayor Suthers helped them celebrate several career advancements and congratulations to those dedicated public servants as they take on their new roles. Give them applause to Oh yes. Well you know, I gotta do everything over here. Reading and pushing buttons.
Do a nice job with the sound effects. Yes. We also want to let you guys know about a new program, um, in Colorado Springs, K through second graders are going to get to play soccer for free in Olympic city, USA in the spring, which is super cool. We've already had hundreds and I mean hundreds of kids sign up, which is awesome, but it's an air horn. But um, and we want to thank um, Comcast, NBC universal and children's hospital Colorado for their support and grant funding. However, all these hundreds of kids need coaches and so we would love, love, love for some more volunteer coaches to sign up. You can go to Olympic city usa.com and sign up through our parks and rec program. It's so easy to coach. So much fun. Um, my husband was an assistant coach for easy. They give you all the equipment and training and it's just so meaningful. So please, please, please consider that when soccer is just a great sport to kick this thing off. I know you don't even have to know about soccer. It's football.
Oh yes, I'm sorry. Football. Football is a great sport to start this through second graders. So you just gotta teach him. I'll tell him bunch up, get around the ball and then just kinda run all like one group together. Slash soccer city of Colorado Springs, completes flooding and erosion work near Rockledge ranch. You may have noticed work going on at the South end of Rockledge ranch. It's part of the city's longterm efforts to protect the garden of the gods park and downstream communities from flooding.
And if you were here for Waldo Canyon fire, you know how important this,
yeah. And it's a, it's great improvements that they're making over their work. Led to realignment of the foothills trail near Rockledge ranch and relocating the pedestrian bridge along the trail that spans camp Creek to accommodate improvements. Take us home, Jen.
All right. City of Colorado Springs. That's us. We're asking West side residents for a big favor. Be bear smart and do your part. We've got a new trash ordinance to reduce bear activity. It takes effect on March 1st and basically we're asking residents on the city's West side who are very familiar with the bear population. Um, in fact 45 bears were euthanized as a result of, you know, just them coming into the trash cans in El Paso and tell our counties, uh, in the last couple of years. So what we're asking is that, um, you only set the trash containers on the street on trash collection days between 5:00 AM and 7:00 PM and then otherwise you store them in a secured enclosures like your garage or a shed at all. Other times be great if you've got a certified bear proof container and you don't have to do anything with your recycle bin,
which you can work with your waste provider for those, uh, those bear well bear resistant cans. I learned that you can't call him bear proof cause sometimes they can get a little Wiley but uh, you can also buy those at some of your uh, local retailers as well.
Guys want to hear about out there. Do you want to hear more about events? Would you like to have certain guests on? We would love to hear from you behind the email@example.com is our email address or you can ping us on social media any way you want to get in touch with us. We would really love to hear your feedback.
Yeah, we want, we want to know what you want to hear about and hopefully you've enjoyed this episode of a listing about planning here in the city. Any last words by you, Peter?
Thank you, Peter.
No, thank you for having me. It was great time and hopefully you invite me again.
I think we probably will. This is going to be a, an ongoing thing because I think people are always, uh, uh, want to learn more about the growth of the city. Well, thanks a lot again for listening behind the Springs. Please rate like, subscribe. Uh, and like Jen said, reach out to us. Let us know what you want to hear.