City not sure what to do with 300 right-of-way violations in Old Colorado City and downtown
Enforcement of revocable permits in Old Colorado City and the downtown is temporarily on hold while Colorado Springs Planning staff brainstorms how to deal with
more than 300 right-of-way violations in those two areas combined.
The thinking effort follows a recent Colorado Springs City Council meeting at which two Westside council members - Scott Hente and Jerry Heimlicher - offered mildly critical comments on the situation. Hente asked staff to “make this as painless as possible to businesses”; Heimlicher observed that staff had waited 20 years to enforce many of the encroachments.
Suzann Matz, who is in charge of the city's revocable permit program, said in an interview after the meeting that she and other staffers expect to hold an “internal meeting” on the subject soon. One of the issues is “how this will be handled because there are a lot of businesses in Old Colorado City that didn't respond” to her initial mailing, she said.
She was referring to a Colorado Avenue sweep she undertook in June, during which she wrote up 64 businesses - most of them in Old Colorado City and chiefly for unpermitted signs, awnings or merchandise encroaching on the sidewalk right of way.
Since then, she has made a sweep through the downtown area and identified similar violations by 230 businesses there. While waiting for the internal staff meeting to take place, she has held off on sending letters to those establishments, as well as follow-up letters to 47 non-responding Old Colorado City businesses, she told the Westside Pioneer.
One of the latter, Pikes Peak National Bank, had been told it needs a permit because of the American flags it displays, which hang out over the sidewalk. Hente also noted the flag issue in his comments, telling city staff “If it's a state or national flag, you shouldn't make it as hard.”
The issue also indicates a possible city communication problem, based on a follow-up interview with Pikes Peak National Bank CEO John Georgeson.
A written report by Matz to City Council, dated Sept. 28, states that “the bank was notified that a Revocable Permit application would be required and that there would be no application fee charged since their flags fall into the zero fee 'public good' category.”
The application-fee part of that statement is untrue, according to Georgeson. The only document the bank has received in writing from the city is a letter that its “flags and banners” (Georgeson doesn't know what is meant by 'banners') were located in the right of way. But the city never provided exact payment information, even when a bank official called to inquire. And, since then, “we've had absolutely no contact,” he said. The only way he learned about the “public good” category was from a TV news reporter, Georgeson added.
Actually, the Pioneer was also unaware of that category until Matz' Sept. 28 report, despite having asked (in an interview with her last July) what businesses would have to pay to obtain permits. At the time, she replied that she wanted to give the businesses “a break” on the price - charging each the continuing fee of $40 a year instead of the normal first-time fee of $115.
The bank has displayed the flags regularly on two outside walls (along Colorado Avenue and 24th Street) and since the late 1970s, when Georgeson's father, Earl Georgeson, became chairman of the board. “The reason we started with the flags is my father is a World War II veteran,” John Georgeson said. “He thinks the flag is pretty important. He's a patriotic guy.”
Other Old Colorado City businesses have also questioned whether they revocable permits should apply to their signs, noting that a city process was required when each sign went up and nothing was said about revocable permits.
Matz' Sept. 28 report also provides a previously unexplained motive for her search for permit violations. She writes that she had been asked by the Old Colorado City Security & Maintenance District to check the various newsboxes for code compliance (in terms of location and design because of concerns about public safety and unsightliness from such boxes, according to district chair Judy Kasten). “I indicated,” Matz' report continues, “that staff would be willing to undertake this effort but that to be fair the enforcement effort should identify all private encroachments into the West Colorado Avenue right of way…”
Westside Pioneer article