Adaptable Implementation: Key Projects and Implementation Strategies

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It is important to note that PlanCOS is an overall guiding document that is linked to numerous other planning tools, including intergovernmental agreements, land use regulations, facility plans, and capital improvement programs. The success of PlanCOS is therefore dependent upon the implementation of a variety of other legislative, regulatory, technical, and financing mechanisms, requiring coordination and cooperation between the public, private, and non-profit sectors within Colorado Springs and where applicable with the County and surrounding municipalities.

Most Important Implementation Initiatives 

PlanCOS is intended to provide a framework and impetus for a variety of implementation initiatives throughout the city organization, and intended to be undertaken collaboratively. Highlighted below are some of the key initiatives with a particularly high degree of relevance and importance to the success of PlanCOS. 

1. Update Zoning and Subdivision Code

Chapter 7 of the City Code (“Planning Development and Building”) contains Code provisions pertinent to the 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., Zoning, and Subdivision. This Chapter has been periodically amended over time and was most recently re-codified in 2001. However, the last fully comprehensive evaluation and update of the entire Zoning Code was finalized in 1994. During this period a lot has happened including the addition of almost 200,000 residents, a resurgence of Downtown, the maturing of many areas, and citywide changes in land use demand, trends, patterns, and design. The way we provide and fund infrastructure has changed dramatically, and the impacts of technology on our physical development have been profound. For these reasons, a comprehensive update is recommended. The intent of PlanCOS is not to prescribe the details of the process, format, and content for this Code update, but rather to recommend broad areas of focus. These include the following:

  • Improved overall alignment of Code provisions and processes with the themes and priorities of PlanCOS.
  • Increased user access, navigability and leveraging of technology.
  • Updated codification and organization.
  • An overall de-emphasis on the required segregation of land uses within many traditional zoning district categories, especially for those districts that allow relatively higher densities and intensities of uses.
  • Potential application of form based and performance zoning approaches to other urbanizing or changing centers and corridors in addition to Downtown.
  • Possible simplification of the overall number of zoning categories.
  • Consideration of a “transit supportive” zoning base districts or overlays applicable to identified developing and redeveloping corridors.
  • Note: full transit oriented development (TOD) zoning approaches are not recommended for full implementation at this time because they are not practical until higher levels of transit are either in place or programmed.
  • Evaluation and refinement of standards and processes pertaining to mature area reinvestment and redevelopment.
  • Reconsideration of standards and process for appeals of land use decisions.
  • Incorporation of options to effectively integrate additional housing design options and choices in additional areas of the city, including smaller and potentially more affordable units such as accessory dwelling units (ADUs).
  • Specific elimination of the Mixed Use Zone District (MU) which was created as an option in 2004 but has not been implemented.
  • Overall updating and realignment of developer land and infrastructure dedication requirements.
  • Update Subdivision Code to modify and reduce requirements for traffic studies in redeveloping areas, systemically scale back and adjust access control standards city-wide and modify level of service criteria and standards accordingly.

2. Intermodal Mobility Plan

The interrelationship between land use and transportation planning is fundamental and essential. The City’s overall intermodal transportation plan (ITP) has not been comprehensively updated since 2001, in conjunction with the previous major update of the Comprehensive Plan. Since that time our city has grown and changed considerably and transportation demand, technologies, priorities, and impacts have also evolved. Although individual motor vehicles continue to account for the predominant share of the miles we travel within our city, the way we use and interact with them is changing. PlanCOS recommends a more holistic and integrated approach in the form of a comprehensive update of the Intermodal Transportation Plan as an Intermodal Mobility Plan (IMP). Although PlanCOS does not intend to prescribe the details of the expected content and format of this plan, the following high level recommendations are provided: 

  • Improved overall alignment of Code with the overall themes and priorities of PlanCOS, including the goals policies in Chapter 5: Strong Connections.
  • Increased user access, navigability and leveraging of technology within the IMP document;
  • Proactive and adaptable recommendations for anticipated changes in transportation demand and technology;
  • Renewed focus on walkability and bikeability throughout the majority of the transportation system;
  • Emphasis on maximization of capacity of the existing roadway system using technology and other transportation system management (TSM) approaches in order to reduce the need for additional lane capacity for primary corridors;
  • Overall de-emphasis on high levels of access control for most major roadways, allowing for higher levels of street interconnectivity;
  • Additional focus on designing or managing major transportation corridors to mitigate their impacts as barriers to local street and non-motorized connectivity;
  • Additional support for designing local street networks to be narrower, more connected and with a de-emphasis on motor vehicle speed; and
  • Incorporation of stretch goals and a plan for achieving higher level transit service particularly for key activity centers and corridors, and to include intercity connections along the Front Range.

3. Neighborhood Planning Program

Effective and viable small area and neighborhood land use plans are essential for implementation of the PlanCOS vision. PlanCOS sets the overall vision and framework, but neighborhood plans are necessary to apply this larger vision in a practical manner. They allow planning and implementation at scale that can address the unique characteristics and needs of different areas of the city. 

Colorado Springs has accumulated a daunting backlog of neighborhoods that either have no active land use 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. or with plans in excess of 20 years old. This is the result of the fact that very few new or updated plans have been adopted in the past two decades, and because large parts of the city have transitioned into more established and matures neighborhoods during this same period. 

A key recommendation of PlanCOS is that Colorado Springs needs to become more proactive and intentional about neighborhood planning. Because neighborhood planning is an inherently time consuming and a resource intensive process, the City cannot afford to create new and updated plans for all areas with a need, particularly if the processes used to create them are drawn out and expensive.

An overall and long term goal of PlanCOS is that every neighborhood in the city has an active and up-to-date neighborhood or land use master plan. Given the current backlog and the ongoing reality of limited City resources, PlanCOS recommends two primary strategies to best use the resources that do become available:

  1. Prioritized Neighborhood Planning Areas. Collaboratively create and adopt a citywide list of the highest priority neighborhoods in need of a new or updated plan. Neighborhoods that are at-risk, distressed, or disadvantaged as determined by established criteria should be prioritized. Update the list every five years.
  2. Neighborhood Planning Template. Create, adopt, and implement a template to include a replicable process that can be used for the creation of new and amended plans along with an agreed-upon standardized format for organization and content areas for neighborhood plans.

Prioritized Neighborhood Planning Areas

Process for Prioritizing Neighborhood Plans 

The process of creating a citywide list and map of the highest priorities would include analysis of the most relevant factors in coordination with applicable staff citywide neighborhood advocacy groups. Recommendations would be considered by senior City staff, reviewed by the Planning Commission, and periodically endorse by City Council. Actual programming for plans would be contingent on annual budget appropriations, other potential funding sources and available in-house staff resources. 

Relevant Factors for Choosing Priorities

A combination of one and likely several of the following factors are expected to be relevant in identifying Prioritized Neighborhood Planning Areas:

  • Lack of an existing active neighborhood or land use master plan
  • An existing neighborhood plan that is effectively and functionally out of date, based on experience
  • Neighborhoods experiencing or expected to be impacted by substantial land use activity and change, particularly if decisions have been controversial
  • Neighborhoods with identified community development needs 

Neighborhood Planning Template

Purpose and Need for a Neighborhood Planning Template

The creation and use of a reasonably systematized and standardized process and format for new and updated neighborhood plans is expected to reduce the time and resources needed to complete each plan, and also result in more complete, effective and useful plans.

Process Standardization

The expected outcomes of incorporating some standardization into the neighborhood planning process include reducing the time and cost necessary to complete each plan. An agreed-upon overall process should also foster citizen participation by reducing the amount of time and resources necessary to create and agree upon a unique process for each individual plan. This reduces uncertainty among participants and should allow for a greater relative allocation of resources toward productive stakeholder input including identifying needs and proposing recommendations and solutions. 

Format Standardization

The development and implementation of a “template” outline and format for new and revised neighborhood plans should reduce both the cost of preparing plans, and the uncertainty of participants in the process. With more standardized formats, some of the basic content of the plan could be pre-populated and participants could focus more on responding to the data, contributing to content in each section, and recommending actions and priorities. A template neighborhood plan would better assure all relevant topics and citywide priority areas are addressed, as applicable for the particular neighborhood. These topic areas would include goals and priorities aligned with PlanCOS. Additionally, a more standardized template would be more efficient to access and use for property owners, developers, staff, and decision makers, because relevant information would be easier to find. 

Process for Creating and Adopting a Neighborhood Plan Template

The process for creating and adopting a model process and plan would begin with City staff but include a full spectrum of stakeholder input including from citywide neighborhood advocacy groups and the development community. The template would be reviewed by the Planning Commission and endorsed by City Council. Ongoing modifications would be proposed based on experience.

Use of the Template Process and Format

The purpose of the template process and format is to optimize the productivity and results of neighborhood planning and not to impose a strict “one size fits all” approach or set of assumed and preconceived policies and priorities on each individual neighborhood. The intent is to establish a level of certainty, predictability, and consistency with citywide goals and priorities, while allowing participants and the city the freedom to address the particular circumstances, needs and priorities of each neighborhood in innovative and creative ways. The expectation is that these process and format templates will be used for plans supported by outside consultants as well as those that are staffed primarily by City personnel. They should also be effective in those neighborhood planning efforts involving higher levels of resident participation in plan creation.

4. Attainable HousingAttainable housing means decent, attractive, safe, and sanitary accommodation that is affordable for the full spectrum of the city's residents. While a cost of no more than 30% of gross household income is a good rule of thumb for affordability, there will be some circumstances where higher or lower thresholds may be more applicable. Plan

Attainable housing is arguably the most important but also most challenging topic addressed in PlanCOS. A key recommendation is to create and maintain a broad spectrum plan with multiple but coordinated strategies. These would all be directed toward the goal of providing a range of housing types and programs that together will contribute to more attainable housing along the full continuum from homelessness to workforce housing, throughout the city and within its subareas. This would be a City-initiated and maintained plan that would complement but extend beyond the planning requirements associated with federal and state housing programs and funding. 

Included in the plan would be analysis of overall needs and conditions from a community perspective along with ongoing city recommendations and priorities for strategies to address overall housing attainability. 

5. SmartCOS Plan

The City is developing a Smart Cities Strategy in partnership with private sector, and regional partners. Based in part on the outcome of that process, it is recommended that a SmartCOS program should put the strategy into action through piloting efforts. When completed and implemented, that plan should be consistent with and supportive of the vision and themes of PlanCOS.

7. Annexation Plan Update

PlanCOS recommends systematic update of the City’s annexation strategies and policies to follow the outline of the 2006 City Annexation Plan. Recommended areas of revised policy or emphasis include the following:

  • Guidance for strategic annexations of properties along the periphery of the city that support economic growth or accommodate expansion of the regional roadway network.
  • Evaluation of annexation policies to be consistent with the vision, goals, and policies of this plan and in coordination with Colorado Springs Utilities, El Paso County, and other municipalities.
  • Additional focus on policies and strategies directed toward more expeditious inclusion of enclaves and near enclaves within city limits. (Note: “Near Enclaves” is defined as a non-legal term for an unincorporated area that is largely surrounded by the city but does not technically qualify as an enclave.)
  • Reconsideration of the current annexation recommendations uniquely applicable to the Cimarron Hills enclave in coordination with Colorado Springs Utilities.
  • Update of current recommendations for properties along the periphery of the city including the annexation of eligible and logical city-owned properties.
  • Update of the “3-Mile Plan” for unincorporated properties using a version of the current land use designations. 

Other Implementation Strategies 

Strategies are described within Chapters 2 through 7 as approaches to further the identified goals and policies. Many of these strategies outline additional programs, plans, standards, and projects that the City can initiate. 

The annual review of the keystone indicators will assess the progress towards the vision and goals of the community and help to identify priority strategies for the upcoming year. As part of the Annual Review, City staff should evaluate the work completed over the past year and prioritize strategies for implementation based on how well the City is achieving its vision and which implementation measures are most needed.

Other Implementation Strategies
  Implementation Strategy
Expand City support of small business and neighborhood assistance programs
Plan a small business-supportive community hub in the southeast part of the city
Implement the Experience Downtown Master Plan
Develop design standards for redeveloping corridors and centers
Revise and adapt codes and requirements for water conservation standards
Promote electric vehicles in collaboration with Colorado Springs Utilities
Complete a fully strategic Downtown Parking Plan
Expand the Art in the Streets program
Build one or more outdoor amphitheaters
Complete the first phase of a public arts plan
Identify and develop city-owned land for community gardens, experimental/educational gardens, and urban agriculture
Develop a local food production, distribution, allocation, and consumption master plan
Create management plans for greenways
Establish a composting program on City-owned properties
Initiate an adaptable climate response plan
Create a City program that recognizes individuals, businesses, and nonprofits for outstanding environmental stewardship behaviors and practices
Develop a creative citywide integrated urban forest and noxious weed management plan
Update and implement the Colorado Springs Hazard Mitigation Plan

Each strategy can be assessed on cost/effort and effectiveness. The figures below illustrate the methodology to assess each strategy. Quadrant 1 includes projects that are transformative in nature with a higher cost; while Quadrant 2 projects include projects that are a little less costly and will have incremental positive change over time. Quadrant 3 and 4 projects should be pursued as part of a longer work program and evaluated annually by City Council. Many of these projects would also require additional funding sources, including special assessments, or state or federal agencies.