District 1 Report: The need for zoning enforcement

By City Councilman Scott Hente

       The Colorado Springs City Council recently approved a revised ordinance that created additional zoning enforcement remedies. These remedies would include the authority to charge re-inspection fees for long-term violators of the zoning code and the issuance of a summit and complaint.
       Zoning codes are a system of rules that help ensure compatibility within various parts of the town. While zoning codes accomplish a lot of things, one reason they were put into place was the recognized acceptance that some types of land uses are incompatible with other uses. For example, it would be inappropriate to allow a concrete mixing plant in the middle of a residential neighborhood.
       In an ideal world, we would have no need for these additional authorities. Individuals, particularly those living in the various residential zones, would respect their neighbors and not act in a manner that is counter-productive to the overall good of the community. Or said another way, they would exercise common sense and common courtesy. Unfortunately, that is not always true. Some people have car repair businesses in their front yards or have accessory structures that crowd (if not encroach) their neighbor's property line.
       In one rather infamous instance within the city limits, one individual has decided that his backyard is the perfect place to have a lumber and salvage yard, with materials piled up higher than the surrounding houses. This condition has festered for several years and the city's attempts to get him to correct this situation have been thwarted at every turn. The surrounding neighbors are upset at this visual eyesore, have seen their property values drop (in at least one case, a neighbor has been unsuccessful in selling their house, at any price, because of this situation), and are frustrated by the stream of business traffic in and out all day.
       It is not the intent of the city to fine every violator and drag them into court. We recognize that not everyone is familiar with various aspects of the zoning code. Most individuals, when told they are in non-compliance, correct the situation and nothing more needs to be done. However, extreme cases require a different approach. It is the hope that through the use of re- inspection fees and the possibility of criminal prosecution the city can have some degree of success in dealing with these chronic offenders.
       On a related note, this ordinance does not address the issue, recently reported in the local daily, of burned-out, vacant, and boarded up structures. Several of these structures are on the west side of town and have been shown to bring down the property values of surrounding homes. I have asked, and the city staff is working on, additional authority for the city to get these structures either repaired or removed. I will keep you informed as we move forward on this initiative.
       As always, please feel free to contact me any time. I may be reached at 385-5487 or via e-mail at shente@springsgov.com.

Scott Hente is the City Council member for District 1, which includes Pleasant Valley and Westside areas north of Uintah Street. His column appears in the Westside Pioneer about every six weeks. Hente’s phone at City Hall is 385-5467 and his e-mail is shente@springsgov.com.