Since 1942, El Paso County has relied on zoning to determine development in the urban areas outside the limits of the city of Colorado Springs. The document used to explain the zoning provisions is the Land Development Code.
This article is the first in a series on growth and development in Falcon and nearby areas
By Lindsey Harrison
Zoning is used to place like land uses together and to keep incompatible land uses separate from one another, said Mark Gebhart, deputy director of the EPC Development Services Department. This process ensures that the types of zones adjacent to each other are compatible and protect property values, he said. Additionally, the zones determine density and provide transitions from high-impact land uses to low-impact land uses, Gebhart said.
“The county has a statutory requirement to establish and maintain a zoning map,” he said. “That map is a depiction of the zoning plan for a certain area and sets out the requirements for each zone.”
Each zone, or zoning district, has specific types of uses that are automatically allowed, but some zoning districts have uses that can be permitted through either a special use or temporary use permit, Gebhart said. The zoning map is available on the EPC website.
According to the LDC (Land Development Code), the following are the standard zoning districts: agricultural, residential, commercial and industrial. Each zoning district is broken up into zones based on certain criteria, the LDC states. While commercial, industrial and agricultural/forestry zones all fall under their corresponding zoning district, the residential zoning district is further broken down into subcategories.
The residential zoning district includes the following subcategories: residential rural districts, residential urban districts and residential multi-dwelling districts, the LDC states. Within each of those subcategories is a specific zone that determines the type of residential dwelling units allowed and the number of units that can be built on that parcel of land, according to the LDC.
The residential rural district allows
- RR-5 –- one residential dwelling unit per 5 acres
- RR-2.5 –- one residential dwelling unit per 2.5 acres
- RR-0.5 –- one residential dwelling unit per one-half acre
The LDC states that the residential suburban district allows
- RS-20000 –- one residential dwelling unit per 20,000 square feet
- RS-6000 –- one residential dwelling unit per 6,000 square feet
- RS-5000 –- one residential dwelling unit per 5,000 square feet
Gebhart said RS-5000 is typically used as the zoning designation for duplex units, and RS-6000 and above are typically used for single-family residential units.
The residential multi-dwelling district allows
- RM-12 –- 12 residential multi-dwelling units per acre
- RM-30 –- 30 residential multi-dwelling units per acre
The LDC defines commercial districts as
- CC –- commercial community
- CR –- commercial regional
- CS –- commercial service
Gebhart said uses allowed in CS zones are usually a combination between commercial and light industrial operations, while uses in CC are often convenience stores. The LDC states that CR zones are meant for regional center use that enhance the aesthetic of the community and aid in pedestrian and/or vehicular circulation.
Per the LDC, industrial districts allow
- I-2 –- limited industrial
- I-3 –- heavy industrial
In areas zoned as I-3, there is the potential for lighting and noise concerns, while the uses in I-2 zones do not pose those potential issues, Gebhart said.
The LDC defines the agricultural/forestry districts as
- F-5 –- forestry and recreation on 5-acre plots
- A-35 -– agricultural use on 35 acres
- A-5 –- agricultural use on 5 acres
Another type of zoning district, which falls under the category of special purpose districts, is the planned unit development, which is frequently used in subdivisions, Gebhart said. “A PUD is a general concept plan where the developer does not have to follow the straight zoning standards, and sometimes (it) allows for higher density if something is provided in exchange that benefits the community, like more open space,” he said.
A PUD generally requires a higher conformity with the master plan in which the property is included, and is more expensive to zone, in part because it requires a higher level of detail during the planning phase, Gebhart said.
According to the LDC, a PUD district “is a versatile zoning mechanism to encourage innovative and creative design and to facilitate a mix of uses, including residential, business, commercial and industrial, recreation, open space and other selected secondary uses.”
EPC is made up of numerous small area plans, including the Falcon/Peyton Small Area Plan, and those plans are considered policy-based comprehensive plans, Gebhart said. “There is no plan that says one area must be residential rural and another is commercial community forever,” he said. “Doing that picks winners and losers by dictating what people are allowed to do on their property.”
However, rezoning requests are considered based on whether they are consistent with the small area plan in which it is included, Gebhart said. The request needs to be in general conformance and compatibility with those plans, he said.
“Zoning changes used to be easier to obtain, which resulted in patchwork rezoning,” Gebhart said. “Before 1972, those changes generally went through the BOCC for approval but since 1972, they all have. Compatibility, to a certain extent, is in the eye of the beholder.”
In EPC’s case, the beholder is the BOCC, he said.
Matt Steiner, public information officer with EPC, said people who wish to have their voices heard about a development as to whether they feel it is compatible with the surrounding area have the opportunity to speak at the BOCC meetings, which are held every Tuesday and Thursday, except for certain holidays or special occasions.
“The public comment portion of the meeting is your chance to convince the commissioners that the zoning is incompatible,” Steiner said.
The county’s electronic development application review program allows the public to digitally view active and archived development applications, the EPC website states. Additionally, applicants can access their application review projects, initiate a major or minor development application, submit land use applications and submit permit applications.
The electronic development application review program system is available online at http://planningdevelopment.elpasoco.com.
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As development in eastern El Paso County continues, the El Paso County Department of Public Works has been working on the configuration of how the future Briargate Parkway extension will connect to Stapleton Road. Jennifer Irvine, EPC engineering manager, said the connection of the two roadways has been planned since 1987.|
The corridor plan, a document adopted by the EPC Board of County Commissioners, shows the long term plans for the area, she said. The plans include the connection but not the alignment of that connection, Irvine said.
“In the city, development is occurring that will allow Briargate Parkway to meet Black Forest Road,” Irvine said. “The missing link is from Black Forest Road all the way out to Meridian Road. Development from Meridian to the east has built some of the Stapleton Road extension. And the county has done some projects with Stapleton east of Meridian by extending where development left off — and continuing Stapleton to Highway 24, then from Highway 24 to Curtis Road.”
Irvine said a portion of the “missing link” will be filled in by development in the area, in particular the Sterling Ranch development. Part of the connection will be dictated by development, which is still in the planning phase; and the rest of it will be planned by the county through a corridor study, funded by the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, she said.
“We have somebody under contract for later this year to do the study,” Irvine said. “The study will take a closer look to say what the road will look like, what the impacts of the right of ways are, what the wetland impacts are, if intersections will be needed and what the access to the road will look like.” The study will address other issues, and the plan is to project out 20 years so the road is adequate for the next two decades, she said.
Another part of the study’s goal is to determine how much the extension will cost and the funding sources, Irvine said. The PPRTA will only fund the study and some of the roadway designs for now.
The corridor study will be a public process so citizens can stay informed of the progress, Irvine said. Additionally, other improvements to roadways and infrastructure in the area by the developers will also be a public process, she said.
Currently, the portion of Briargate Parkway east of Black Forest Road will keep its name but the county will have to determine where the name change from Briargate to Stapleton will occur, Irvine said.
Since the county does not currently have many east-west roads to serve the community, she said the Brairgate to Stapleton connection is a much-needed improvement. “It will be a really good east-west connection in the county,” Irvine said.