The primary purpose of this document is to function as the overall policy element of the county master plan. It should be relied on by the Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners for guidance, direction and expectations concerning broader land use planning issues including growth management, compatibility, land use equity, property rights, and service standards. A secondary purpose of this Plan is to provide a framework to tie together the more detailed sub-area and topical elements of the Master Plan. These specific elements are identified in Appendix II.
This Policy Plan is also meant to address topics which can be best approached from a regional perspective. To a degree, this Policy Plan provides a balance to the Small Area Plans which may not fully address issues either through oversight or because they are locally controversial.
This Plan will apply primarily to those unincorporated areas where the County has land use authority. However, it should also serve to enhance cooperative planning processes and decision-making throughout El Paso County, its municipalities, federal installations, and neighboring counties.
Upon adoption by the El Paso County Planning Commission, the effect of this document is to supersede the Pikes Peak Regional Land Use Plan-1990 (which was adopted in 1970) as the core element of the El Paso County Master Plan. All other duly adopted elements of the Master Plan will remain in force until action is taken to specifically delete or update them.
Introduction to El Paso County
El Paso County's nearly 2,200 square miles cover an area larger than the State of Delaware. Encompassed within it is a wide diversity of natural environments, ranging from the alpine ecosystems on the summit of 14,110 foot Pikes Peak to near-desert conditions at its point of lowest elevation (5,060 feet) in the south-central part of the County. Most of this territory is unincorporated.
The corresponding development patterns which characterize these unincorporated areas are diverse. They include extensive suburban communities such as Security and Widefield in Fountain Valley and larger lot urban density developments such as Woodmoor in the Tri-Lakes area. Also included are rural residential subdivisions like those which predominate in the Black Forest and areas such as the south central part of the County which remain profoundly rural or agricultural in character. Large public holdings, including military installations, U.S. Forest Service properties, and utility-owned lands complete this unincorporated mosaic.
Growth and Change
All unincorporated areas have experienced the impacts of both growth and change over the past several decades, some more than others. Growth, as defined in Section 6.0, is the addition of population, employment and the corresponding housing, nonresidential development and facilities needed to support them. Change is defined as the land use activities which occur in response to the dynamics of the land development market even when there is no net growth. Over the past 15 years, the unincorporated population has grown by 50% from about 80,000 persons to a total of 120,000. When land use changes and annexations are factored along with population increases, the impacts of growth are more pronounced.
Prior County-wide Plan
The operative core element of the Master Plan has been the Pikes Peak Regional Land Use Plan- 1990 which was adopted in 1970. It was prepared in conjunction with the County's first federally-mandated regional transportation plan. The 1990 Plan utilized a fairly detailed map approach from which traffic projections were generated. Over the past 25 years, this map has become progressively outdated. Reasons for this include intervening annexation and land use approval which have deviated from the map, as well as the subsequent adoption of more site-specific master plan elements for many parts of the County. In 1993, the Planning Division proposed a plan to update and replace the 1990 Plan with a policy element. This recommendation was endorsed by the Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners.
Legal Authority
Pursuant to state statute (C.R.S. 30-28-101 et. seq.), it is the duty of the County Planning Commission to make and adopt a master plan for the unincorporated County. While the statutes clearly recognize the essential role of the master plan, it is considered advisory and not legally binding upon the land use decisions of the County.
Process and Approach
Committee and Subcommittee
The process and approach used to develop this plan were comprehensive and participatory. They are summarized in Figure I-1 below. The Board of County Commissioners began this process in 1994 by advertising for and appointing a broadly representative 22-member Oversight Committee ("Committee") to actively assist in the preparation of this Plan. One of the Committee's first actions was to appoint a subcommittee to do much of the initial policy drafting in collaboration with staff. The Subcommittee comprised selected Committee members along with two additional appointees, representing the staffs of the Housing and Building Association (HBA) and the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG), respectively. Throughout the planning process, the Board of County Commissioners was provided with quarterly reports concerning progress and key issues. Their basic direction was to take as much time as needed to do a thorough job, including addressing potentially controversial subjects.
Meeting and Internal Review Process
The Committee met once or twice each month throughout the three-year period, culminating in the approval of a final draft in mid-1997. An overall mission statement was adopted and a list of topical areas was identified. This topical organization was further refined as the process moved forward. The Committee realized early in the process the necessity of a working Subcommittee to examine in more detail some of the more complex and controversial issues. The Subcommittee met weekly to consider issues and work on developing policy sections. Draft policy sections were then provided to the Committee for its comments. While some meetings focused on Committee education and establishment of a working schedule and format with which to address pertinent issues, the majority of meetings was devoted to developing the Policy Plan. Staff provided background and preliminary issue identification for each topic. Often outside specialists were brought in to share their expertise and perspectives. Staff then prepared an initial draft of each policy section for the committees to review. Meetings were devoted to considering the issues, formulating policies, and developing consensus. Each section included components addressing background, issues, goals, and policies. More complete policy sections were brought forward from the Subcommittee to the Committee for discussion and eventually given interim approval. Often, the sections went back and forth between the Committee and Subcommittee several times as input was received. In many cases, draft sections were also provided to outside individuals, agencies, and Planning Division staff for their review and comment which were then considered by the Committee for incorporation into the Policy Plan.
Source Materials
In many instances, staff and the Committees made use of existing documents as sources for draft policies. The two plans most often used were the City of Colorado Springs Comprehensive Plan and the City of Austin, Texas Plan. The Colorado Springs Plan was used because of its relevance and to promote consistency. The Austin Plan was identified by the Committee as being a particularly good source of policy ideas. Staff also attempted to integrate as much previously written and unwritten County policy as possible into these initial policy sections.
Public Participation
The Committee itself was structured to be broadly representative. Public input and participation was identified early as being critical to the process. There were a number of attempts at general public outreach during the Plan formulation phase. These included mailings and periodic releases to the media. All committee meetings were open to the general public. A more concerted public outreach effort was undertaken once a complete draft of the Plan was completed. As part of this effort the Committee conducted a general public meeting and posted a copy of the document for review on the County's Internet Web Page.
Approval Process
In the end, almost all of the draft language was agreed to by consensus. There were a limited number of votes taken. Final editing of the interim draft was accomplished by a special subcommittee established for this purpose.
On November 11, 1997, the Committee voted to approve a complete draft of the Plan to be submitted to the Planning Commission for final action.
Plan Organization and Structure
Mission Statement
The operative part of this Plan begins with a Mission Statement. The operating principles are intended to represent the basic underpinnings of the Plan. The Committee periodically referred back to these essential points for guidance and to verify their continuing viability.
In recognition of the fact that policy interpretation will present a difficult challenge in future situations, a great deal of emphasis was placed upon defining terms for use in this document. These terms are all included in the Glossary of Terms and highlighted as they appear in this Plan.
Policy Sections
The fifteen policy sections are organized under five categories to help identify their interrelationship within the overall land use planning process. Each of the sections begins with a brief background summary followed by issue statements and corresponding goals and policies. It should be recognized that some overlap is unavoidable when this kind of organizational approach is applied; many land use issues do not neatly fall within one discrete category.
Every effort has been made to keep this document short and to the point. Therefore, the primary appendices are limited to the population and employment projections used for this plan, a list of master Plan Elements, a more detailed summary of the Small Area Plans, and an index of other relevant planning documents.
A much more extensive separate Technical Appendix has been assembled to complement this primary document. It includes complete documentation of the planning process, informational memoranda, key handouts, and related materials.
How the Plan Should be Used
Market-Oriented Approach
This Plan was developed with the expectation that it will be used actively and continuously. However, it is important to understand that many of the actual applications of this Plan will be tied to actions initiated through the private market. It will be largely up to developers and property owners to come up with the land use ideas and proposals which can then be evaluated against this document. However, there will be many instances where the County may more proactively go about implementing this Plan. For example, this Plan will be relied upon for guidance in decisions concerning County land uses and infrastructure as well as the development of new and amended regulations.
Relationship to Other Plan Elements
As articulated in Section 1.0, this document is meant to be used in conjunction with the County's Small Area Plans and topical elements. They should be relied upon for specific land use guidance or detailed direction within the context of the subjects they address. This Policy Plan should be used for broader guidance, to ensure equity and consistency across the County and as a source of direction in those cases where it is not found in other Plan elements. In some cases, there will be a challenge involved in reconciling the community-wide planning expectations included in this document with the more locally focused but equally important perspectives contained in the Small Area Plans.
Holistic Application
The applicable policies in this document should be considered and applied comprehensively rather than singularly. Most development proposals will naturally be consistent with some policies while inconsistent with others. The appropriate approach is to evaluate all of the relevant policies and then make a land use decision with respect to overall consistency based upon a preponderance of the policies within this Policy Plan. It is not the intent of this plan to prescribe a hierarchy of policy statements. Rather, the significance of particular goals and policies derives from their utilization as part of the land use decision-making process and their application to specific land use proposals and issues.
This Plan cannot address all possible land use eventualities. As areas of oversight or confusion are identified, or parts of the Plan become dated, it should be amended. However, amendments should not be taken lightly. The amendment process should be careful, inclusive, and comprehensive enough so that the basic integrity of this product and process is preserved. The implementation section of this document contains the recommendation that this Plan be comprehensively reviewed and updated every five years. The expectation is that this process of comprehensive updating will be both intensive and extensive. However, the hope is that this Plan will have served well enough to make updates a limited effort when compared with the scope of preparing this original effort.

To Next Page

To Previous Page

To Index Page