Revocable permits: City goes back to drawing board

       Colorado Springs Planning has given up trying to enforce the current city code that requires annual revocable permits/ fees from business owners for right-of-way encroachments such as awnings, signs and sidewalk displays.
       It will instead begin an effort, involving any citizens who want to get involved, to write a new and better law.
       The city announced these plans in letters this month to 240 would-be violators citywide - including 84 on Colorado Avenue between I-25 and Manitou Springs.
       The August letters, which also pledged to refund payment to any who had already complied, followed squawks of discontent from downtown merchants after many of them received letters in July from Planning identifying right of way encroachments and informing them (in a typical case) that they would owe the city $40 a year and it would be subject to annual review.
       The Colorado Avenue merchants had also received the July letters; however, the complaints from downtown merchants - already grumpy about business losses from the Bijou bridge closure - led to the change in city policy, based on an interview with Dick Anderwald, Planning's land use review manager, and a letter from City Planning Director Bill Healy to area media. Healy's letter states that “the code requirement for annual renewal of encroachmnent permits is cumbersome and perhaps even counter-productive to the objective of creating and maintaining an exciting, viable downtown.”
       The letter includes an invitation to the “Old Colorado City Association” (actually Associates - OCCA) to join the Downtown Partnership “and other interested parties” in rewriting the law.
       One possibility, as suggested by Anderwald, would be to have less frequent (instead of annual) reviews for fixed uses, such as awnings, that have already passed architectural reviews.
       Another idea is having different types of reviews for encroachments on the sidewalk (such as tables), as opposed to those above it (such as awnings or attached signs). This idea was voiced separately by John Georgeson, CEO of Pikes Peak National Bank; and Jim Heikes, OCCA president and owner of Thunder Mountain Trading Company in Old Colorado City.
       Georgeson also questioned the sporadic nature of the enforcement. Until last year, the code had not been enforced for years. “If laws are only enforced once in a while, are they any good?” he asked at a Security & Maintenance District meeting this month.
       The original code was written in 1909.
       Anderwald said that the city hopes to have a group of code-rewrite participants in place by the end of August, to hold the first meeting in late September, to report to City Council by December and to be set with a new code for enforcement by January.
       The July letters were the first that went to downtown merchants, the second to those on Colorado Avenue. The OCCA as a group did not complain to the city last summer when the first round of letters went out to Colorado Avenue businesses. Nevertheless, the compliance from these individuals was not very high at that time, nor was it in response to the July letters, according to Sue Matz, the city planner who has been assigned to the revocable permits program.
       Her summer 2006 sweep found 64 businesses with violations, she reported at the time. Her most recent brought in 84. She had no explanation for the increase, but noted that 15 of them were “A-frame” signs on sidewalks in front of businesses.
       Those interested in participating can contact Matz at 385-5355 or smatz@springsgov.com.

Westside Pioneer article