Proposal in front of City Council could decrease park land, increase funding

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.– An ordinance the Colorado Springs City Council will consider a proposal reducing the amount of park land developers that are required to set aside while increasing the fee if they forgo dedicating that land.

Currently, developers are required to set aside 7.5 acres per 1,000 people of land for community and neighborhood parks and the proposal would reduce that to 5.5 acres per 1,000 people—updating an ordinance originally passed in the 1970’s.

“When you have a new development, you have new residents, you want to make sure there’s a proper amount of park land for them.” said Karen Palus, the city’s director of parks, recreation and cultural services.

Palus says, there wouldn’t be much of a change as the average neighborhood and community parks is around 5.5 now and reflects the amount of dedicated land to those kinds of parks as laid out in the city’s master plan.

This proposal applies to parks in neighborhoods and community parks, not the larger park areas like at Cheyenne Canon or Palmer Park. Incorporating those larger areas brings the city’s average to over 37 acres of land per 1,000 residents.

“We are a community of super users. We love out parks and outdoor life,” said Colorado Springs City Council President Richard Skorman. “Especially now, with COVID, it’s much more important,” Skorman said.

Skorman hasn’t made up his mind on the issue, as it still needs to work through the city’s Parks Advisory Board as well as the Planning Commission before it comes to City Council for a workshop and a vote. The measure has already gone through 24 months of public input, Palus says.

Palus says the update is needed because, based on Census data, the number of people living in one residence has decreased since the ordinance first passed, meaning less people using the parks.

The ordinance would increase the fee from around $76,000 to $98,000 for community parks and $133,000 for neighborhood parks, Skorman said.

Palus says that money is dedicated to the city’s efforts to buy more park land.

“It certainly gives us more opportunities. Building parks is the big issue, and then once their built, to maintain them.” he said, “People are looking to this as an easy answer to our park backlog and infrastructure, but it’s not going to be the purpose of this,” said Palus.

Park maintenance needs a dedicated funding source, Skorman says.

An aspect of the ordinance that appeals to Skorman would require fees in lieu of park land to be spent on acquiring parks closer to the neighborhood or development where the fee was paid, rather than wherever in the city planners felt best fit.

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