‘Parenthood’ plan prompts protestation

       With public uneasiness mounting, a meeting has been scheduled Wednesday, June 2 on a proposal by Planned Parenthood to more than double its space at 14th Street and West Colorado Avenue, removing three residences and a garage/shed in the process.
       The meeting will be at 6 p.m. at the City Administration Bldg., 30 S. Nevada in the old City Council chambers.
        The private reproductive health services business would also replace the site's 37-year-old, one-story, 2,812-square-foot clinic with one that is 5,000 square feet in size, according to “preapplication” information provided to the Colorado Springs Planning Department.
       Both the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS) and the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) have already announced opposition to the plan, based on neighborhood compatability and the removal of homes - “two of which are clearly historic structures,” an OCCHS resolution notes.
       A key reason for the expansion is a parking need for customers and staff, according to Lenox Powell, public affairs coordinator for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. The pre-app plan calls for 36 spaces, compared with about 12 in the current lot.
       Asked if the project would also mean an expansion in services, Powell said she did not know, and that more detailed development plans “are still in process.” Included in the floor plan will be a larger waiting room for clients, she noted.
       Significant services provided at the site are the contraceptive patch, emergency contraception (involving medication) and abortions, Powell said.
       The site is one of three in Colorado Springs. The other two are on Academy Boulevard (one south, one north). Powell said Planned Parenthood likes its location on the Westside, where it has been since 1967, and wants to continue being an “active part of the community.” A larger lot and building will help achieve that by adding parking and relieving traffic congestion, she said.
       The three adjacent lots needed for the expansion are not yet purchased. That effort is being “worked on,” Powell said.
       Project architect Michael MacDonald told the Westside Pioneer that the design would be a “very attractive southwestern style (with an) adobe look.” He added that by the time of the meeting, he expected to have a façade and a more developed site plan. The pre-app plan shows the new site and a building location on the east side of it. However Powell told the Pioneer that Planned Parenthood is not sold on that design and is open to ideas on the facade and the building footprint itself.
        The OCCHS resolution details several objections to the project, charging that it would hurt property values and go against the 26-year-old Westside Plan as well as recent zoning changes, which encourage residential usages for economic and aesthetic reasons. A commercial use in place of homes also flies in the face of an ongoing volunteer effort (for which OCCHS has pledged $2,000) to document and present the City of Colorado Springs with a historic overlay plan for the Westside, the resolution states.
       OCCHS asks that the city's Historic Preservation Board and its assigned staff person be included in the review process.
       The historical society resolution describes three of the structures slated for demolition as being “period 1880s structures.” In actual time, none appears to have been built that early. The earliest is 1899, according to the El Paso County Assessor's Office, a date which applies to 17 S. 14th St. - one of the houses behind Planned Parenthood, whose address is 1330 W. Colorado.
       The house next to the business, at 1322 W. Colorado, dates back to 1909. The third house, just east of 17 and facing onto the alley, shows an address of “15,” but the Assessor's Office does not list an address with that number on South 14th. The building is close in style to 17, however.
       Losing the 1322 building might compromise the buffer it now provides between an “already too-modern Planned Parenthood structure (and) the historically outstanding Painted Ladies three-story, classic Victorian building” at 1318 W. Colorado (built in 1894), according to OCCHS.
       The shed is behind 1322, next to the alley, and has the number “1322” painted on it.
        Some of the community concerns emerged at the regularly scheduled OWN meeting May 13. By chance, news of the preapplication had just surfaced - as a result of the city sending out postcards to nearby property owners after Planned Parenthood presented its proposal in early May - and Larry Larsen of City Planning came to the meeting at OWN's request.
       He told the group he had received several responses from the cards and thus had already scheduled the public meeting June 2.
       One of the concerns raised at the meeting by OWN board member Kristine Van Wert was whether Planned Parenthood would use the expansion to perform more abortions.
       Powell later said she did not have an answer to that because the project plans are still being developed.
        OWN board member Jim Fennimore, noting that protests by anti-abortion protesters have been occurring at the Westside location for many years, said an expanded facility could lead to more protests, which would be bad for the image of the Westside and could negatively affect property values.

Westside Pioneer article