Zoning out, zoning in

Filed under: Opinion |

After six long Tuesday nights, 38 of my classmates and I graduated from the Community Planning and Design (CPDW) workshop. Jim Ramsey, the past president of the Southern Colorado chapter of the American Institute of Architects turned me on to the program, which is conducted by the Partnership for Community Design.

CPDW started as a result of the Citizens’ Goals Project 2000 Task Force. Urban design had been identified in 1986 as one of two major concerns of Colorado Springs residents.

The partnership’s mission is to “enhance the appearance and livability of the Colorado Springs area through cooperative initiatives which establish long-range design goals, preserve existing amenities, promote public awareness and implement projects that demonstrate a quality community.”

The program was led by Ron Bevans of the city’s Community Development office and Crystal Collette, executive director of the partnership.

The founders and the volunteer board of the partnership deserve kudos for putting together a comprehensive program about planning, zoning and development, which all in one way or another affect our quality of life.

My classmates – planners, architects, developers and concerned residents – and I learned about community identity, vision and comprehensive plans, zoning and subdivision ordinances, development issues and quality of design.

The program ended with a mock planning commission trial at which all of us played various roles. I was a transportation planner (my name was Whey Awfcorse) and luckily I was under the watchful eye of our planning director Mr. Shades O’Gray, played by Patrick Kerscher of Trammell Crow.

My other classmates played the roles of president of the homeowners association, Don T. Tredonmey played by Richard Guy; Morey Delay, played by Mike DeGrant; and Bo Meeaweigh, impeccably played by Bill Healy, the city’s planning director; and planning commission chairwoman Fayette Izenso, played by Susan Saksa.

I learned a lot about how our community is planned (or not) and the time and investment a developer puts into a project. This is a high-risk business and it does not always have high rewards.

Our final project was turning 25 acres bordered on the west by Nevada and on the north by Fillmore into a mixed-use development. We had to apply for zoning and explain circulation (how streets are set up for traffic patterns, not newspaper circulation).

The area needs some help. The businesses along Nevada on the east side of the street would have to go to make room for the project; Walgreen’s on the corner would stay. Some good ideas were bounced around, and you could almost develop a vision of the area’s potential.

Any developers out there who want to invest? The CPDW class of 2004 has several creative plans for you. Of course, the class had an unlimited budget to develop the area.

If you’d like more information about the next class, call Crystal Collette, partnership for community design director, at 440-4838.

I’d like to offer a very special thank you to sponsors La Plata Investments, Nor’Wood Development, NES Inc., the Housing and Building Association, the Colorado Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects and the American Institute of Architects for making this $10,000 program available to the Springs’ community.

Lon Matejczyk is publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal.