EL PASO COUNTY POLICY PLAN


 CHAPTER 1-B

 SECTION 12.0 OTHER SERVICES AND UTILITIES

BACKGROUND
 
In addition to those which are addressed in their discrete policy section (refer to Sections 8.0 Parks and Open Space and 10.0 Water and Wastewater Facilities and Services) there are several other types of public and quasi-public facilities and services which may have significant land use implications. These are displayed in Table 12.1.
 
Table 12.1
Other Services and Utilities Available in El Paso County

Public Safety Education Energy Communications
-law enforcement and detention -pubic school districts -electricity -library services
-fire protection -colleges and universities -natural gas -cable TV and electronic networking
-emergency medical services -private institutions -pipelines -telephone and fiber optic
-disaster response     -transmission/receiving facilities
-weed and pest management      
-utility safety and design      

 
12.1 Public Safety
Within unincorporated areas, a complete range of law enforcement services is provided through the County Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff is responsible for incarceration of inmates on a county-wide basis. The Sheriff is also legally obligated to provide non-structural (wildland) fire protection in certain unincorporated areas.
 
Structural fire protection is ordinarily provided through fire protection districts set up under Title 32 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. These districts may or may not have the capability to provide emergency medical response. In any case, the County also licenses one or more emergency medical providers who essentially have the franchise to administer emergency care and transport those in need of ambulance services.
 
The County also maintains a small emergency management office which has the authority to coordinate response to disasters.
 
ISSUE 12.1 Promote Public Safety
Although the County Sheriff provides highly professional service to all applicable unincorporated areas, limited staff and a growing population spread over a large territory combine to make response times a major concern especially in the more remote areas of the County. Legal restrictions make it difficult for specific unincorporated areas to provide for enhanced policing and security services at their own expense.
 
Law enforcement in the unincorporated County must respond to a unique blend of urban and rural needs. Therefore, each individual area needs to be considered by how well a law enforcement protection plan serves their needs and not how well that community fits into the overall plan. One manner of providing improved protection in the more remote areas of the County is through staffed substations along major transportation routes. Another approach would be to have a staffing plan that reflects law enforcement calls for service, rather than covering areas.
 
Many factors go into promoting public safety. Most crime prevention measures are implemented after a crime has taken place. While often overlooked, prevention is equally important to a rapid response or the thorough investigation of a crime, fire or medical emergency. One of the biggest determinative factors for crime is one of the things we covet most, privacy. For example, burglary, while not usually a violent crime, is a crime of opportunity where the less likelihood of being noticed increases the chance of the burglar choosing a specific location.
 
Often more desirable homes are located in secluded areas or in private gated communities away from the public’s view. The physical design of a community can play an important role in deterring certain types of crime. For instance, neighborhood watch groups have proven to be a very effective deterrent to opportunistic crimes including residential burglary. Homes located on cul-de-sacs are generally assured greater privacy and traffic control. However these residences may be at greater risk for certain crimes due to the opportunity their seclusion provides to criminals.
In addition to community considerations, the actual design of individual structures can be an issue. Many codes address fire and other hazards and could easily be altered to include crime preventative measures such as multi-lock windows and doors, secure garage doors and landscape designs that do not block sight-lines of doors and windows.
The County recognizes the wildland urban interface as an area particularly at risk to wildland fires or wildfires. While structural fire protection is legally available to most unincorporated County residents through fire protection districts and/or volunteer fire departments, there are some developed enclaves and remote less-developed areas without such protection. Although there is flexibility inherent in a system of multiple fire protection districts, there also are inefficiencies associated with it. Opportunities for service coordination are often available through the use of mutual aid agreements or contracts. Rapid response fire fighting capability is often reduced in rural and rural residential areas due to the lack of fire hydrants or alternative on-site water supplies; long distances from the nearest station may result in lengthy response times.
 
Goal 12.1 Ensure that public safety services are available at a level which is commensurate with local needs and circumstances.
 
Policy 12.1.1
Comprehensively consider all applicable public safety aspects in the preparation and review of land development proposals.
 
Policy 12.1.2
Encourage the implementation of area-specific enhancements of police protection in coordination with the County Sheriffs office.
 
Policy 12.1.3
Approve new urban and rural residential development only if structural fire protection is available.
 
Policy 12.1.4
Encourage effective provision of on-site water supplies (ponds, cisterns or hydrants as applicable) for fire suppression in rural residential areas.
 
Policy 12.1.5
Encourage effective alternative on-site water supplies, such as ponds and cisterns, for fire protection in developments without fire hydrants.
 
Policy 12.1.6
Support efforts to provide structural fire protection for those areas where such protection currently does not exist.
 
Policy 12.1.7
Promote mutual aid agreements and other cooperative efforts among fire protection districts, municipalities and other affected entities directed toward providing improved and more cost-effective fire protection service.
 
Policy 12.1.8
Develop a system for GIS data based mapping, such as Wildfire Hazard Identification and Mitigation System (WHIMS), to identify geological hazards which can be used to determine the potential for site development.
 
Policy 12.1.9
Develop and implement area-wide and parcel-specific Wildfire Mitigation Plans in zones identified as having high wildfire potential.
 
Policy12.1.10
Request that all known geological hazards, including mine shafts and tunnels, be noted on all titles and plats.
 
Policy12.1.11
Promote safety and fire prevention through on-going public education and awareness efforts.
 
Policy12.1.12
Ensure safe land development practices through enforcement of applicable regulation and refinement of regulations as appropriate.
 
Policy12.1.13
Encourage improvements to substandard roads, road signage, private lane access and address locators to aid the Sheriff’s Department, local fire districts and emergency response teams to locate and respond to emergencies.
 
Policy12.1.14
Request that all existing buildings, access roads, and addresses be noted on a plot plan and provided to the appropriate fire district for all buildings and development occurring on lots of 35 acres or larger.
 
12.2 Weed and Pest Management
State statutes (Article 5.5 of Title 35, C.R.S. 1973, and as amended by House Bill 96-1008) require counties to develop and enforce weed and pest management plans on all unincorporated lands under county jurisdiction.
 
The noxious weed problem that exist in the County is largely due to stresses placed on the land by such practices as overgrazing, or by importation of tainted soils to construction sites. The County does not specify the allowable number of horses or require soil certification (testing) for foreign fill soils brought onto construction sites. Often residents reside on rural properties of 2.5- to 5-acres so that they can own horses. Because there is no limit on the number of horses allowed, in some cases the soils have been compacted and disturbed beyond the land’s carrying capacity, setting up a situation where noxious weeds become established, and if uncontrolled, will then rapidly spreads to surrounding properties.
 
While Section 12.0 is considered the most appropriate portion of the Comprehensive Plan in which to codify the following policies, they apply across this Plan.
 
Goal 12.2 Ensure that weed and pest management are available at a level which is commensurate with local needs and circumstances.
 
Policy 12.2.1
Support state and federal legislation which encourages management of noxious weeds.
 
Policy 12.2.2
Actively participate in state, federal and local programs directed toward Integrated Pest Management programs for noxious weeds, and vertebrate and insect pests.
 
Policy 12.2.3
Encourage all land owners to use, Best Management Practices, which may include chemical, fire, mechanical, biological, cultural control for weeds; chemical, physical, and cultural control for vertebrate pests; and chemical, biological and cultural control for insects.
 
Policy 12.2.4
Encourage the use of certified weed free products such as top soil, fill soil, hay, mulch, gravel, bedding material and general construction material.
 
Policy 12.2.5
Support the availability of informational materials and assistance in developing and implementing management plans to control noxious weeds and pests to all landowners .
 
12.3 Public Education
Within El Paso County, 17 different public school districts provide educational services to approximately 90,000 grade K-12 students. These districts vary along a continuum from the highly urbanized Colorado Springs District #11, through rapidly growing suburban districts such as Lewis-Palmer #38, to very rural districts such as the Edison School District which serves less than 100 students in the County.
 
There are potential advantages associated with the fact that El Paso County is served by 17 different school districts. These include opportunities for local control, customized services and the impacts of indirect competition. However, there are also disadvantages associated with multiple school districts, including a higher per student costs in some districts and the possibility of greater disparity occurring between wealthy and economically disadvantaged school districts. When disparity occurs between individual school districts it can have a significant impact on land values and development decisions within districts.
 
Although the County does require dedication of school sites (or fees in lieu) at the subdivision stage, school districts are otherwise largely autonomous from the remainder of County government. However, since population growth translates almost directly into the need for additional school capacity, school districts often have a profound interest in land use issues.
 
The four major post-secondary institutions in El Paso County are the United States Air Force Academy, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, the Colorado College, and Pikes Peak Community College. Together, these institutions serve approximately 18,700 students on an annual basis. Several small colleges and university programs and a number of private K-12 institutions also provide services to the County, although many of these are located within municipalities.
Note: day care centers are addressed in Section 7.0 Special and Unique Land Uses.
 
ISSUE 12.3 Plan for Education
Most financial support for operation and maintenance of public schools flows through the State and is equalized on per-student basis for given categories of school districts. However, much of the financing for capital facilities must be locally generated through property taxes. Each additional student generates an immediate need for facilities which is primarily financed through bond issues to be paid off through future revenues. Maximum levels of bonded indebtedness are established by State Statute, and these bonds are subject to voter approval. Therefore, the rate of enrollment growth has profound financial impact on school districts. Although developers are technically required to dedicate an amount of land necessary to accommodate the number of new students they will generate, this only works directly in the case of large developments. Smaller developments normally pay fees in lieu of land, necessitating the districts to acquire building sites independently.
 
Goal 12. 3 Recognize the importance of educational infrastructure in the land use planning process.
 
Policy 12.3.1
Support innovative planning approaches which allow school sites and educational facilities to be provided in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
 
Policy 12.3.2
Designate school sites early in the planning process and promote adjoining uses and access patterns which are complementary.
 
Policy 12.3.3
Periodically review the school land dedication and fee requirements to ensure that they remain adequate.
 
Policy 12.3.4
Encourage planning and locating park and recreational facilities in association with schools.
 
12.4 Energy
The City of Colorado Springs Utilities service area for gas and electricity extends beyond municipal boundaries and into a number of unincorporated areas. The other major electric provider in the County is the Mountain View Electric Association which serves much of the northern and eastern County including Tri-Lakes and Black Forest. Peoples Natural Gas operates in a similar capacity in some unincorporated areas. However, much of the rural part of the County does not have natural gas service available. These areas rely on a combination of electricity and propane for heat.
 
Gas and electric service providers are public utilities which generally have the authority to condemn property needed for their facilities, and have the use of easements which follow many subdivision property lines. Street lighting is not ordinarily provided as a County service and is not presently required through subdivision regulations. Some unincorporated areas have arranged for street lighting through special districts or developer participation.
 
ISSUE 12.4 Promote Energy Planning
Since the County is not directly involved in the business of providing electricity or gas, its most significant concern is with the impacts of facilities including generating plants, transmission lines and distribution systems. The County is also concerned with energy use because of the potential for pollution and use of non-renewable resources. Major electric generation facilities and transmission lines can have substantial visual impacts. These are very expensive to place underground. By comparison, it is now common practice to bury local electric distribution lines. Gas lines are almost always buried. Their major planning implications include safety concerns associated with main lines and the complications associated with easements and rights-of-way. The financial impacts of gas and electric line extension can be substantial in more remote areas. Energy efficiency may be a community goal, but it can be difficult to address directly through the planning process.
 
Goal 12.4 Reduce the adverse impacts and maximize the efficiency of energy generation, transmission and distribution systems.
 
Policy 12.4.1
Ensure that electric, natural gas, petroleum and other facilities (generation, distribution, pipelines and storage) are located in a manner which is safe, environmentally sensitive and which does not unreasonably burden particular property owners with adverse impacts.
 
Policy 12.4.2
Encourage burial of electric transmission and distribution lines where the cost of this activity will provide the maximum visual benefit to the most people.
 
Policy 12.4.3
Promote energy efficiency through careful siting, design and landscaping, especially the use of passive solar.
 
Policy12.4.4
Coordinate the location of gas and electric lines with El Paso County and State Departments of Transportation to ensure their proper location with respect to existing and future rights-of-way.
 
Policy 12.4.5
Encourage the use of existing easements for utility installation in order to reduce negative impacts in other areas.
 
Policy 12.4.6
Support the reasonable expansion of natural gas service areas to accommodate developing rural residential areas.
 
Policy 12.4.7
Allow for the effective use of renewable energy resources especially where it minimizes the local impacts on neighboring properties and non-renewable energy use.
 
Policy 12.4.8
Encourage fair and legal compensation to private property owners when there is conclusive proof that a taking has occurred or that their property is devalued due to locations of facilities and services.
 
ISSUE 12.5 addressing changing Communications technology
The level of competition and rapidly changing technology in many fields of communications makes it difficult to fully anticipate planning issues. For example, a communications tower design which is necessary today may be obsolete within a few years.
 
In addition, some elements of local regulations have been preempted by the Telecommunication Act of 1996. As mentioned in Section 12.0 Special and Unique Land Uses, the County is legally preempted from exercising complete land use authority over some types of communications facilities.
 
In response to the rapidly evolving telecommunications industry, other related issues pertaining to employment and life style choices have evolved, including an increase of home-based businesses and cellular phone use in vehicles.
 
In the area of communications, library services are provided from several facilities operated by the Pikes Peak Library District, which is a separate governmental entity with the power to impose property taxes.
 
In most cases, electronic communcations are provided by regulated private companies which do not have the power to condemn property for the purpose of installing their facilities.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 contains important new provisions for local governments and private citizens. Technology in this area is evolving rapidly, resulting in changing facilities requirements.
 
Goal 12.5 Accommodate new communications technologies which best serve the needs of County residents.
 
Policy 12.5.1
Accommodate communications infrastructure, developed in a manner to reasonably minimize any adverse impacts to individual property owners.
 
Policy 12.5.2
Regularly evaluate land development regulations to ensure that they address changing communications technology.
 
Policy 12.5.3
Allow for the location of library facilities which effectively serve all areas of the County.
 
Policy 12.5.4
Encourage wireless transmission and receiving facilities when economically feasible.
 
Policy 12.5.5
Require removal of communication towers when no longer needed.
 


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