According to the June issue of The New Falcon Herald, the Friends of the Black Forest Preservation Plan filed an appeal at the end of April on the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners’ March 27 decision to approve a planned unit development rezoning for the Retreat at TimberRidge subdivision by a 3-2 vote (Darryl Glenn and Longinos Gonzales opposed the request). Earlier in March, the El Paso County Planning Commission had denied the rezoning proposal in a 7-0 vote.
Planning commission and county commissioners
Are they in sync
By Lindsey Harrison
The 262.92-acre property is located north of the proposed Stapleton Road/Briargate Boulevard extension and is bisected by Vollmer Road. There is no update at this time on the status of the appeal.
In light of the different conclusions from the planning commission and the BOCC on the TimberRidge rezoning issue, what is the role of the planning commission? And does the BOCC listen when the planning commission speaks?
In El Paso County, major land use requests must be heard by two commissions before they can be approved: the EPC planning commission and the EPC Board of County Commissioners. According to the planning commission’s bylaws, the BOCC can appoint citizens to serve on the planning commission, which then makes recommendations about each land-use request to the BOCC.
In an email to The New Falcon Herald, Dave Rose, EPC public information officer, wrote: “The Board of County Commissioners is elected by the people and has by Colorado law the final responsibility for major land use determinations. Whereas, the Planning Commission is an appointed board that may not necessarily have the broad level of accountability as duly elected representatives serving on the Board of County Commissioners.”
Lori Seago, attorney for EPC, said having a planning commission, while not required by state statute, provides a different perspective for the BOCC to consider. She said the additional input is valuable to the BOCC, as they consider each application before them.
Although the planning commission and the BOCC must base their decision on whether a proposal complies with state laws and meets criteria designated by the EPC land use code, the two entities might not always agree, Seago said.
“It may simply be that the Board of County Commissioners weighs the evidence a little differently,” she said.“Sometimes, a concern is raised at the planning commission meeting, and the developer works with county staff to tweak the application or go back to the residents for additional input.
“I do not doubt that the individual commissioners take into account the views of the planning commission, but obviously to what extent is individual to the commissioner and to each project.”
According to the minutes from the planning commission and BOCC meetings since January 2018, the county commissioners have voted in opposition to the planning commission’s recommendation on two proposals: The Retreat at TimberRidge planned unit development and the Winding Walk at Meridian PUD. The commissions voted in agreement on the remaining 27 proposals.
Rose wrote that he considers the planning commission as doing the “heavy lifting” regarding land use requests, because they review the raw data gathered by county staff about proposed developments. During the review, staff and the planning commission often spend hours delving deeply into various details of the proposal, he wrote.
“With Public Hearings along the way the Planning Commission is able to develop a recommendation for the Board of County Commissioners,” Rose wrote. “More often than not, a recommendation to approve will come with a number of stipulations and requirements that must be met.”
Rose wrote that citizens can challenge a decision made by the BOCC through the court system; however, merely disagreeing with the determination of the commissioners is not a legitimate cause for legal action.
“It is their (BOCC) job to make tough decisions based on established laws, guidelines and codes; even if those decisions are sometimes unpopular,” he wrote.
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In March, The New Falcon Herald began a series on problem intersections in the Falcon area. The first in the series focused on the intersection of Meridian Road and Londonderry Drive; the second focused on the intersection of Flower Road and Meridian Road and the intersection of Bent Grass Meadows Drive and Meridian Road; the third one focused on the intersection of Highway 24 and Garrett Road; and the last focused on the intersection of McLaughlin Road and Old Meridian Road.|
According to those articles, failure to yield right-of-way and inattentive driving were the leading causes of accidents at each intersection.
This month, the NFH focused on the intersection of Rex Road and Meridian Road. According to the Colorado State Patrol’s statistics team, failing to yield right-of-way was the cause of 40 percent of the accidents at this intersection since 2013. Exceeding safe speed and improper turns accounted for 20 percent of the total crashes each, and accidents caused by animals or alcohol each accounted for 10 percent.
Trooper Josh Lewis said, “Crashes at this intersection have held steady over the last several years, although there was a slight peak in 2017. Three of these crashes resulted in an injury, while the remaining seven crashes resulted in property damage only.”
Jim Reid, executive director of the El Paso County department of public works, said with 10 accidents reported since 2013, the intersection is on the priority list, but it is not at the top. “The intersection is compliant, but we still want to improve it,” he said. The relatively low number of accidents indicates that people traveling through that area know it is a difficult intersection and are generally acting accordingly.
Jennifer Irvine, county engineer for EPC, said the county did a corridor study in 2007 for Meridian Road and looked for improvements the county needs to make through 2027, including the Rex and Meridian intersection. She said the county identified the dip in Meridian Road, north of the intersection, as an area for potential improvements. The dip is caused by drainage in the area, and Irvine said the county will likely put in a box culvert to divert drainage and flatten out the dip.
“The intersection meets sight standards, but people are just driving too fast right there,” Irvine said.
Reid said safety has always been the county’s top priority, and urged anyone with concerns about a certain road or intersection to access the county’s Citizen Connect website, where they can remotely make service requests for both roads and parks within the EPC public works and community services jurisdiction.
The Citizen Connect website is https://myepc.kahunasystems.com/#/homepage