CDOT, city maps imply higher density in Westside of future

       What's the zoning where you live?
       People in residentially zoned properties on some parts of the older Westside might be unaware that their areas are predicted for redevelopment by the year 2020 in a land-use map prepared about seven years ago by Colorado Springs Planning as part of the city Comprehensive Plan process.
       Others might not know that the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) “Envision 24 West” team - a group of CDOT planners and hired consultants who are planning a Highway 24 expansion - has adapted that aspect of the 2020 map into its own color-coded map that it is using to “sell” the Highway 24 changes with the help of a large-scale greenway project. Moreover, CDOT has designated other areas, ones that even the 2020 plan shows residentially zoned, as “mixed use” (meaning a combination of commercial and residential) in its version of the Westside future.
       Both Ira Joseph of City Planning and Dirk Draper of CH2M HILL (CDOT's principal “Envision” consultant) emphasized in separate interviews that their maps were in no way intended to push the concepts of redevelopment or commercial activity in current residential areas nor to imply that such should occur in the older Westside's neighborhoods.
       The 2020 map is intended only as a “guideline” that may or may not come to pass, explained Joseph, who leads City Planning's ongoing Comprehensive Plan efforts. For the most part, the map draws on the Westside Plan, which was passed by city ordinance in 1980 and is viewed as the “master plan” for the older Westside, he said. As a result, the 2020 map planners gave the term “Mature Redevel-opment Corridor” to areas that the Westside Plan map had called “planned commercial” or “planned industrial.”
       The chief “redevelopment” swaths on the Westside Plan/2020 maps are roughly defined as the Near Westside between Highway 24 and Boulder Street, the Midland area between Highway 24 and Robinson Street/Bott Avenue, Gold Hill Mesa and both sides of South Eighth Street. Both the Near Westside and Midland are almost fully built out and are a mix of residential and commercial uses, while Gold Hill is being developed as a planned community with residential and commercial uses and South Eighth is nearly all commercial.
       Complicating the Near Westside issue is its inclusion in the historic overlay zone that has been proposed to the city by the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) as a way of protecting that area's older houses. However, Joseph cautioned that the overlay plan still needs formal City Council approval and it “may or may not result” at all.
       The color-coded “Envision 24 West” map has been displayed at the first two open houses on the expansion's “greenway” element in January and March; it also appears in a four-page brochure (available to citizens) that discusses a “community vision” for the corridor and how the highway and accompanying creek/ landscape upgrades will “integrate into the community fabric while providing safety, accessibility and mobility.”
       On the map, an area identified as “mixed use” is shown between the highway and Colorado Avenue and from 8th to about 26th Street. Currently, along those busy perimeter roads (as well as 21st and Colorado Avenue) are various commercial or even industrial uses, but 30-some interior blocks are zoned almost entirely residential and are generally shown as such on the 2020 plan. Nevertheless, Draper defended his mixed-use designation, saying that the area also contains “quite a few residential structures with commercial uses, such as real estate brokers or insurance offices.”
       Among the area's houses are many that were built in the early 20th century (or earlier), leading to OWN's decision to include it in its proposed historic overlay zone as well.
       Draper said the CDOT effort was “to show broad patterns of land use in the area; we're not trying to show block by block.”
       Why would CDOT want such a map at all? “We're trying to show how land use and transportation needs are tied together,” Draper said. “I think it shows where there are greater concentrations of commercial use and will help us identify what sort of traffic volumes to expect.”
       However, he stressed that such a map was not meant as a reference for making zoning changes - which would require a public hearing before City Council - nor in projecting future traffic patterns. “There is no ulterior motive here,” he said.
       There is at least one highway-expansion issue where the CDOT map might cause confusion. This is the tentative “Envision 24 West” plan to put a new highway access and/or egress at 15th instead of the current 14th street. If the surrounding area is shown as mixed use, such misinformation could conceivably influence the comments offered by citizens. And, as the CDOT brochure displaying the map indicates, public input is key. For example, “input from stakeholders” led to the CDOT decision to make the expansion an expressway instead of a freeway, the brochure states.
       Draper added that the project team may restudy its map strategy, with the possibility that, “in future versions, we will look at getting back to a block-by-block version.”
       OWN President Welling Clark was not pleased to learn that the Westside Plan - which a long-ago OWN membership helped write - has been used to create the city's 2020 land-use map and now CDOT's follow-up version. “It's time to update the Westside Plan so residents don't get zoned out of their homes,” Clark commented.

Westside Pioneer article