Residents notice lack of notice in street closure
Heimlicher says staff actions follow recent city pattern of ‘arrogance’ toward Westsiders

       A recent in-house decision by Colorado Springs Traffic Engineering to close off a small but time-honored access between 18th and St. Vrain streets has angered several people on the block - as well as District 3 City Council member Jerry Heimlicher. Fred Bishop (left) and Steve Webb stand in front of the
barricade that City Traffic Engineering recently bolted into
the pavement to block a narrow, long-time access to their 1700 block of St. Vrain Street.
Westside Pioneer photo
       He pledged to bring the matter up during the informal council meeting Monday, April 9. He described the closure as part of a recent Westside “pattern” in which city staff members in different departments have been “making public decisions without talking to the public, and it's got to be stopped.”
       Looking into the St. Vrain issue this week, Heimlicher talked to Traffic Engineering, the City Manager's Office and some of the residents. Dick Carlson of Traffic Engineering agreed to send out an apology to the residents of that area, stating that “it is our intent to schedule a public meeting after we've completed our research and received your input.” He asked people to call him at 385-5547 or e-mail him at dcarlson@springsgov.com.
       According to Heimlicher, the situation came about after Traffic Engineering staff received a complaint that the access was unsafe; after looking at it themselves, staff agreed and blocked it off.
       Fred Bishop, who lives in the 1700 block of St. Vrain, is one of several residents who were irked by the closure and let the city know about it. The street was that way when he moved there in 1954, the 86-year-old told the Westside Pioneer. The streets were just dirt in those days, he said, and the city later paved them without changing the street alignment.
       He questioned city reports that the little access - just wide enough for a single vehicle - has caused accidents. “I don't know of any wrecks there,” he said.
       What Bishop does know is that the access gets used. “I don't drive anymore, my daughter does. When she comes here now, she has to backtrack 2½ extra blocks,” he said. “That's an inconvenience.”
       Steve Webb, a neighbor, said he was surprised at the closure because he thought the city had “protocols” for such matters. “All of a sudden a barricade was there,” he said. “I thought the least they could do is talk to the neighbors. They said one person called to complain, but I don't know who.”
       Traffic Engineering has marked the closure by bolting a large barricade into the pavement across the access end and by erecting a “no outlet” sign on St. Vrain near 17th Street.
       The access is small because - for historical reasons that may never be known - the curb on the north side of St. Vrain ends about 50 feet from the intersection with 18th, at which point the north-side private property line veers southwest.
       Carlson's letter also notes that the city is “exploring this possibility” of acquiring property at 18th and St. Vrain to allow construction of a wider access meeting city standards.
       According to Heimlicher, Traffic Engineering received about a dozen calls after taking its actions. Before the apology letter was composed, the council member commented, “They (the staff) are forgetting who the boss is,” he said, meaning citizens.
       He pointed to other incidents in the last couple of years which indicate an apparently “arrogant” city attitude, specifically toward the Westside. One example he gave was the parking meter issue (when the City Parking administration would have designated all the money from the rate hike for downtown im-provements if Heimlicher hadn't pointed out that Old Colorado City has meters too). Another was the West Kiowa Street infill project - even though the envisioned work included scraping a red rock formation, City Planning decided not to hold a pre-construction neighborhood meeting. Heimlicher also noted City Parks' in-house banning of horses in Promontory Point Park and allowing frequent craft fairs in Bancroft Park despite Old Colorado City merchant concerns about unfair competition (both actions were eventually overturned by council).
       The segment of the informal meeting in which Heimlicher expects to speak is called “City Council Open Discussion.” Members of the public are only allowed to speak in that segment if invited to do so by council.

Westside Pioneer article