OK for 1 No Man’s Land streetlight
City denies request to reactivate 12 others, despite plea on crime prevention

       It's short of the big project everyone's been waiting for, but the city does plan to turn a streetlight back on in No Man's Land.

LEFT: A streetlight (foreground) is seen at the bus stop at the west end of the Amanda’s Fonda parking lot in the 3600 block of Colorado Avenue. Note the orange band around it and two poles farther down, signifying streetlights the city had deactivated in 2010. RIGHT: The same streetlight, not yet turned back on, the night of Jan. 25.
Westside Pioneer photos

       The light is above a bus stop on the south side of Colorado Avenue's 3600 block, near the west end of the Amanda's Fonda parking lot, just east of the Adams Crossing bridge.
       Mike Crepeau, a motel owner and chief spokesperson of late for the West Colorado Avenue Merchants Association, was not pleased at the news. Citing continuing crime issues and a total of 13 avenue streetlights (deactivated by the city for budget reasons in 2010) along the roughly half-mile stretch between Columbia Drive and just east of 31st Street, he had asked the city to turn them all back on.
       The decision to activate just the one light was made by the city's Transportation/ Traffic Engineering Division. Dave Krauth, head of Traffic Engineering, said this week that the decision is based on the city position that the purpose of a streetlight “isn't to light up private property. It's to light up the road and pedestrian areas.” If at the same time a streetlight illuminates some private property, that can be a “secondary benefit,” but it's also outside the city purpose and is known as “light trespass,” Krauth said.
       The Amanda's light qualifies, he said, because it's over the bus stop; plus it has some beneficial “light trespass” by shining into the restaurant parking lot.
       But as for the other 12 darkened lights - most of them on the south side of the road - a staff report shows that there's still sufficient light to provide “roadway safety,” Krauth said.
       Asked about Crepeau's concern that two of the dark streetlights are in front of motels that may house criminal types, Krauth reiterated the streetlight roadway-lighting intent.
       Crepeau charged the city with presenting conflicting positions. “The police are telling people to light their properties [to prevent crime], and the City Council is turning off lights on the street,” he said. “It's a little bit ridiculous at this point.”
       He noted recent criminal activity, including an incident Jan. 23 behind the KFC restaurant (at 31st and Colorado), in which a man was hit in the face with a baseball bat, then robbed. “This is another crime in a string of serious crimes that have hit the district in the last few months,” Crepeau said in an e-mail. “The car wash [in the 3300 block] has been broken into three times, causing some $4,000 to $5,000 dollars in property damage. Our rooftop A/C units were vandalized as well. Dominos was robbed and we still have a known drug dealer moving up and down the street here as well as the four prostitution charges.”
       Aware of Crepeau's concerns, Krauth said he has forwarded his staff report to City Police to get their feedback.
       In the meantime, his office has begun a separate, city-wide streetlight study, including the hiring of a consultant who is considered an “expert on streetlights,” he said. The early findings seem to indicate that “we overlight our streets,” he continued, but added that there will be “extensive public involvement” (including outdoor meetings where people can see streetlighting effects) before the city takes a final position.
       There are other aspects to the subject, Krauth added. One is that streetlighting is not really required at all; there are just standards, dating back to 1932, which state what level should be used if lighting is provided. Another is that street lighting used to be inexpensive, because years ago electricity was used less at night. It was once called “garbage time,” he said. But modern uses, such as TV and computers, have changed that.
       Krauth did not know when the Amanda's streetlight will come on, but said he gave the direction to Colorado Springs Utilities Jan. 20, and it should not take more than 10 days.
       Lisa Czelatdko, whose District 3 is near that area (Scott Hente's District 1 actually covers west of 31st), has been following the streetlight matter in particular as well as the No Man's Land issue in general. This includes meeting with Crepeau twice.
       On the Amanda's streetlight reactivation, she said, “I have sent an email to CSU to request it be done as soon as possible.” She also said she has “mentioned to staff that research has shown that reductions in crime can be achieved by improvements in street lighting, and so I think it is an absolute necessity for our city to make sure there is adequate lighting in higher-crime neighborhoods.”
       Her understanding, after meeting with city staff, is “that many lights are out by strategic choice or are a result of copper theft.”
       City Council had deactivated close to 10,000 residential and arterial streetlights in the 2010 tight-budget year, saving an estimated $1.2 million, but decided the budget could afford turning many of the residential lights back on in 2011. Colorado Avenue is considered an arterial road.
       On the overall No Man's Land issue, Czelatdko noted that joint El Paso County/ Colorado Springs/ Manitou Springs efforts to obtain a No Man's Land planning grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) are moving forward, with the County Commissioners due to vote on it Jan. 31.
       Past analyses by local officials have shown public infrastructure needs of $10 million or more in the area of the avenue between about 31st and Columbia, including a new Adams Crossing bridge, stormwater, utilities and sidewalks.
       “I know that the No Man's Land area has been problematic for years, and I'm not sure why it has taken so long for the various municipalities and county to do something about it,” Czelatdko said. “It is between two historic districts and can definitely be a great route to get people downtown as well so I definitely have an interest in seeing this area rejuvenated and thriving.”

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