Expansion unpopular with neighborhood
Objections to Parenthood proposal at meeting
Strong opposition arose Wednesday night, June 2 against Planned Parenthood's proposed expansion of its facilities at 1330 W.
Colorado Ave. |
At a public meeting attended by about 65 people in the Colorado Springs City Administration Building, a total of 26 citizens made cases in opposition to the private reproductive health agency's preliminary plan, while just 2 spoke in favor.
Many of the speakers said they have lived in that neighborhood or on the Westside for many years and fear that the project would diminish the unique charm that has kept or brought them there. Anticipated detriments included historic and residential losses - three turn-of-the-19th-century homes would be removed to make room for Planned Parenthood's roughly doubled-in- size building and parking lot - and an increase in scope of the current Saturday morning anti-abortion protests.
“If they want a bigger building, they should move someplace else,” suggested neighborhood resident Stephanie Porter, expressing a sentiment that was voiced by numerous attendees.
Dave Hughes, speaking for the Old Colorado City Historical Society, referred to the project as part of a “creeping commercialization” on West Colorado Avenue.
Several people, including a few Westside ministers, opposed the expansion because of their pro-life positions, despite the admonition of Colorado Springs Planner (and meeting facilitator) Larry Larsen that discussion should be limited to land use concerns.
Planned Parenthood's four representatives at the meeting brought in a site plan slightly revised from that initially presented in May, saying the chief goals are to expand from the current 12 parking spaces to 30 (which would they think would relieve traffic congestion) and to replace the 37-year-old, 2,812 square-foot existing building with a 5,000 square-foot new structure. They said this would provide a larger waiting room for clients and reduce maintenance (such as a leaky roof) on the present facility. The chief reason given for staying at the Colorado Avenue location was that the zoning allows it there.
Agency representatives chose not to respond to opposition remarks, except when asked at one point if they would find another site if their proposal were rejected. Robbie Ruhaak, a Denver-based senior vice president of internal/external affairs for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, responded, “We don't know.”
Responding to a supporter's question about possibly moving the three homes instead of demolishing them, Ruhaak said, “We will consider that.”
Jeff Eichengreen, one of the project supporters, said the three buildings are “nothing special” and that other medical buildings erected on the avenue in recent years are “more out of character” than what Planned Parenthood is proposing. As for the traffic congestion neighbors are bothered about, he said a main source of congestion is the “protesters on Saturdays.”
One issue that had come up at an Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) meeting on the issue May 13 had been whether the 1980 Westside Plan - emphasizing residential uses over any other types - had been superseded by the city's newer Comprehensive Plan. In her comments, OWN officer and former Westside City Councilwoman Sallie Clark pointed to various passages from the Comp Plan that speak to preserving historic legacy and neighborhood character.
Tim Scanlon, a city planner who is assigned part-time to historic preservation issues, noted in preliminary remarks that the houses (1322 W. Colorado and 15 and 17 S. 14th St.) are not in an historic overlay zone, although “it's fair to say those residences contribute to the historic character of the Westside.”
Kristine Van Wert of OWN presented the findings of an OWN survey that 94 percent of the respondents valued historic preservation.
Other points in opposition included general concern about its overall size and scope, negative impact on property values, possible criminal influence, incompatibility with neighborhood architecture and values, negative impacts on business (chiefly from protesters), and an increase in traffic and parking problems.
In an informal conversation after the meeting, Hughes suggested that because of the moral complications inherent in the project, perhaps a special zone should be defined where a Planned Parenthood facility would be allowed - as was done when the old First Amendment bookstore (in-cluding pornography) was relocated from West Colorado Avenue several years ago.
Larsen said that he will review the comments, as will Planned Parenthood, and another meeting will be set. Also asked to provide review comments will be the city Historical Preservation Board, OWN and OCCHS. Eventually, the matter will go before the City Planning Commission.
Westside Pioneer Article