PPACG extends time for comments on 2035 forecast time

       The comment period on the 2035 Draft Small Area Forecast has been extended to Friday, March 23.
       The board of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG), which had been asked by PPACG staff to approve the forecast, voted unanimously for the delay at its meeting March 14 in response to citizen requests for more time to offer input.
       Such forecasts, intended to help the region's planners develop road creation/expansion strategies based on where people are likely to live and work in the future, are updated every five years so as to always have a roughly 30-year advance time frame. A near-at-hand example is the Westside Highway 24 planning study, which will use the information in determining the ultimate size of a proposed highway expansion.
       The 2035 draft projections, worked up by PPACG staff using reportedly more sophisticated software than had been available for the 2030 version, became available for public review in mid-February. However, meeting speakers March 14 raised issues with the extent of the data and the lack of a public announcement from PPACG when the review period started.
       Welling Clark, president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), was the main citizen speaker. He pointed to what he termed data “anomalies” with the locations and numbers of jobs and residences in parts of the city. An example was the already-developed Midland area showing a surprising increase in residences while an area encompassing Gold Hill Mesa and Crown Hill Mesa (which should number a total of at least 1,300 households, based on existing/planned construction) showed less than half that.
       Clark said that Gold Hill developer Bob Willard had told him he had not been contacted by PPACG staff. However, PPACG planner Aaron Klibaner insisted that all the region's major developers had been contacted.
       Kyle Fisk of the PPACG's Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) said the group is concerned about the school numbers. PPACG staff projected increases of 66 percent for each of the District 11 schools, including those on the Westside, but current numbers show the district losing students.
       Long-time city civic leader Jan Doran added that several people on the CAC were concerned about such issues.
       PPACG Transportation Director Craig Casper said that it was hard to pinpointthe future, but in the end the region “will have one of the top 5 or 10 models in the country.” Responses to certain of Clark's points are already underway, he added.
       The main point, Clark said, was to be sure the PPACG “methodology” was correct so the projections prove to be as accurate as possible. Supported by Doran, he suggested that PPACG seek comments from the region's neighborhood organizations, which would have the sharpest insights into the socio-economic forces in their specific areas.
       Concerned about the perception of government “ramming things through,” El Paso County Commissioner/Westsider Sallie Clark proposed a one-month delay in approving the forecast to let such comments be gathered.
       PPACG staff put up some resistance, pointing to the urgency of applying the 2035 data to future transportation projects - the expected lead time is about eight months from whenever the forecast is approved - and noting that the more citizen comments come in (already they number in the hundreds), the more staff time is needed to review them, incorporate the information and run new data models.
       After discussion, the board decided on the March 23 citizen-input deadline. This would allow time for inputs to be reviewed by CAC and PPACG staff before the PPACG board's next monthly meeting April 11, it was agreed.
       The public can provide comments by mail to Klibaner at 15 S. 7th Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80905; or by e-mail to aklibaner@ppacg.org.
       The PPACG board consists of elected officials from government entities in the three-county region that includes El Paso.

Westside Pioneer article