Residents on Thursday called on the Colorado Springs Planning Commission to rework the proposed zoning code ahead of an October vote to preserve the rights for more people to appeal city decisions, protect the neighborhood’s character and promote affordable housing.
Residents with the Historic Neighborhoods Partnership called for specific changes to the proposed code known as Retool Colorado Springs that they want to see to protect neighborhoods, such as reinstating a rule that can prevent older homes from being demolished in favor of a larger home. ; add a rule to buffer gas stations from homes, schools, and other gathering places; and implementing parking requirements for developers expanding residential buildings in historic neighborhoods.
Residents commented on a new concept of the zoning plan that could be adopted in the coming months and change the development of the city in the coming decades.
“ReTool is complex, and there’s a new language in this current version that we haven’t seen before. … Frankly, we have serious concerns,” said Dianne Bridges, president of the Historic Neighborhoods Partnership.
At the same time, Colorado Springs Faith Table representatives called for greater flexibility in the proposed zoning code to allow for more variety of homes in single-family neighborhoods to address the housing shortage.
While the two groups can sometimes be at odds, Susan Bolduc, with the Faith Table, said affordable housing options don’t necessarily have to compromise the architecture and character of the existing neighborhood and can include promoting options such as duplexes and triplexes. .
“We need a missing middle house for smaller households,” she said.
She noted that a vast majority of the community is dedicated to single-family homes and that doesn’t account for smaller families that have become more prevalent in recent decades. The lack of affordable housing could also hurt the economy by preventing residents from living close to their employers, she said.
Despite the thousands of apartments that have been built or are in the planning stage in the city, housing costs continue to rise, partly due to high demand. The average apartment rent has increased by more than $300 a month to $1,571 in the past three years, the Gazette previously reported.
Bolduc and others asked the city for more flexible zoning in existing neighborhoods because the current proposal leaves existing residential uses. Those interested in building higher-density homes in an older single-family neighborhood should ask the Colorado Springs City Council for a zoning change. The city offers more flexible zoning options for districts yet to be built.
Members of the Historic Neighborhoods Partnership called for specific changes to the proposed code, including the reinstatement of lot coverage limits, which would allow for much larger homes in single-family neighborhoods. Lifting the limits will allow more people to tear down older homes on smaller lots and build much larger homes, a trend known as scrap and build that has happened in other parts of Colorado, said Mike Anderson, one of several people who spoke. on behalf of the partnership. Such a trend would reduce opportunities for more entry-level homes, he said.
The advocates also argued for new setbacks needed to give neighborhoods, schools, parks, churches and other gathering places a larger buffer of gas stations. The lack of required buffers between homes and gas stations was highlighted by a high-profile battle over a new supermarket planned for South Eighth Street and West Brookside Street. The council approved the gas station in August, which is located 6 meters from residents’ bedroom and bathroom windows.
Residents called for changes to the new rules about who can appeal decisions made by the planning department to allow for greater participation. At this point, anyone can appeal a decision. The proposed rules would require claimants to own or rent real estate within 300 meters of a project. It would also allow those within a 2-mile radius of a project to appeal if they have previously participated in the city process by commenting at a public meeting or submitting written comments.
The advocates asked the city not to require prior participation to appeal a decision.
Conservation advocates were also concerned that the city had no plans to ask developers to add parking when they expand historic buildings. Some older homes do not have a driveway or garage and residents already have to park on the street, which creates a parking shortage in older districts.
“I get more calls about parking than anything else,” said Old North End president Dutch Schulz.
He also advocated that the same parking rules apply to short-term rentals as bed and breakfasts and that the city think twice before reducing parking requirements near bus stops, as bus routes can be moved and an area can have a parking shortage and no bus service, he said.
The committee is expected to vote on the new zoning plan in October, and the council could vote on it in November and December, said Morgan Hester, planning supervisor.