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During an exchange at the PlanCOS open house July 18 in the Westside Community Center, Holly Wright (right), a mental health nurse, argues that many homeless people are being forced to live on the streets, at local expense, as a result of government cutbacks on mental institutions. Listening on the stage are (from left) Colorado Springs City Councilmember Tom Strand, Conrad Olmedo of City Planning and Ted Skroback of City Communications.
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Conflicts with homeless ignored in comp plan draft, city told at open house

July 16, 2018
       A brief but heated exchange broke out at the PlanCOS open house July 18 as several people told Colorado Springs City Councilmember Tom Strand and city staff that the plan gives insufficient attention to homeless impacts.
       "I feel like the city's ready to explode," said one woman, who later declined to give her name but summarized that she lives on the Westside and has been
City Planning Director Peter Wysocki (facing out) talks with attendees at the PlanCOS open house in the Westside Community Center July 18.
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assaulted and burglarized by vagrants. “If the homeless issue isn't taken care of properly, it will take away from the city's growth.”
       Another woman, Holly Wright, who later identified herself as a mental-health nurse, asserted that the proliferation of homeless people is largely a result of past government decisions to cut back on beds and drug/alcohol treatment in mental hospitals. “These people are on the streets now, and we're paying for it,” she said during the exchange.
       Another attendee brought up the lack of safety people feel when using parks and trails, because of so many illegal campers (which the city permits when not enough shelter beds are available). This problem is not addressed in PlanCOS.
       The exchange started a few minutes after Strand took the stage in the gym/auditorium at the Westside Community Center. He had been asked by Colorado Springs public relations staff to make introductory comments about PlanCOS, the city's first comprehensive plan revision since 2001.
       The roughly 100 in attendance were mostly standing because, as a drop-in event - with poster boards set up to represent the draft plan's major categories - city
Attendees at the PlanCOS open house were encouraged to place stickies with comments on the poster boards for the draft comprehensive plan's different categories. This was how the "Vibrant Neighborhoods" poster looked near the end of the session - however, as Conrad Olmedo of City Planning pointed out, some of the stickies were carryovers from previous open houses. Photos of the boards are also taken after each open house, in case a sticky falls off, he added.
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staff had provided few chairs.
       As the questions persisted from below the stage, a city employee suggested that those concerned could talk to Strand off to one side, but the response came back that it would be better if everybody in the hall could hear the councilmember's responses.
       From the stage, Strand said he understood the concern and has a meeting scheduled with the mayor and plans to bring up those kinds of issues.
       Most recently, he was the lead councilmember on the new ordinance disallowing public camping within 100 feet of a waterway.
       A Westside resident, he is an at-large councilmember. Richard Skorman, who represents District 3 (in which the Community Center is located), had been the designated elected official for the city at the open house, but he had to attend an event elsewhere, Strand explained.
       As for homelessness and the PlanCOS document, Conrad Olmedo of City Planning told the audience that the matter is addressed in the “Vibrant Neighborhoods” category, in a goal that's titled “Housing for All.”
       Here is the full text of that goal: “Strive for a diversity of housing types, styles, and price points distributed throughout our city through a combination of supportive development standards, community partnerships, and appropriate zoning and density that is adaptable to market demands and housing needs.”
       However, as some citizens pointed out later, the goal leaves unstated how it would be implemented - for example, whether the city might use the “for all” heading to justify a public tax, or how much say-so a neighborhood would have in the housing “diversity.”
       Such questions have been given more urgency recently on the Westside after a public statement by City Homelessness Prevention Coordinator Andrew Phelps that he supports the idea - though it's not being currently acted upon - of someday using the Community Center for an overnight rescue shelter. (See article at this link.)
       The bulk of the two-hour open house consisted of people coming and going, asking questions of staff and writing comments on stickies (which were provided by the city) and placing them on the posters.
       In all, the PlanCOS draft consists of eight chapters: Executive Summary, Vibrant Neighborhoods, Unique Places, Thriving Economy, Strong Connections, Renowned Culture, Majestic Landscapes and Adaptable Plan.
       PlanCOS, which Colorado Springs officials have described as a "vision" for the city's future, has been a work in progress since 2016. There were public meetings along the way, but July 18 was the first held on the Westside. It was one of seven scheduled this month around the city - one in each of the six council districts and one for the three at-large councilmembers - to gather additional public comments in finalizing the plan.
       Comments are also being taken online through Aug. 5. The draft plan can be found on the city website at coloradosprings.gov/plancos. The PlanCOS phone number is 385-7526.

Westside Pioneer article
(Community: Ongoing Issues)

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