Area Profile & Trend Analysis
This Chapter is meant to provide a logical context for the applied planning elements which follow in Chapter III of this document. Its purposes are several-fold. One is to acquaint the user of this Plan with a summary of the area's natural and institutional conditions. Another is to identify changes in these conditions which have taken place since the original Plan was adopted in 1974. To facilitate this comparison, data from the original Plan have been adjusted where possible to account for changes in planning area boundaries. An additional purpose of this Chapter is to describe and evaluate a variety of potential mechanisms which might be used to influence growth and development in the planning area. A final objective of this Chapter is to distill out the issues for which a policy response will be most critical. These issues provide the point of beginning for Chapter III.
Included in this Chapter are sections on:
This Profile is not meant to completely supercede the original study area inventory. That document, entitled Black Forest Preservation Plan - Report 1: Inventory, was published under separate cover in 1973. Much of the information included in it remains pertinent. Of particular value is the "Natural History of the Black Forest," a chapter which was written and copyrighted by Judy von Ahlefeldt. It should also be emphasized that this Profile represents only a summary of the large body of information which was collected in conjunction with the preparation of this Update. This extensive material has been documented as a part of the record of the planning process. Much of it is available for reference if additional or more detailed information is necessary.
The history of the Black Forest Planning Area is closely paralleled by that of a larger area traditionally known as the "Pineries". The area originally extended from Divide, Colorado (in Teller County), through the present planning area and east along the Platte-Arkansas Divide to a point where the Ponderosa Pines thinned out. Altogether the Pineries encompassed a 1,000 square mile area. Although the origin of the name is not clear, that portion of the Pineries north of Colorado Springs became known as the "Black Forest" by around the turn of the century.
Arrowheads and charcoal pits provide evidence that the planning area was occupied by Native Americans at least 800 years ago. The first known inhabitants were the Ute and Commanche Indians. The dense Ponderosa Pines provided them with protection, fuel, and timber for lodgepoles. These tribes were displaced by the Kiowas around 1800. Almost 40 years later the Arapahoe and Cheyenne tribes joined forces to drive out the Kiowas and become the last Native Americans to inhabit the area.
When white men began to settle the region in the late 1850's the Black Forest became an important center of activity, primarily as a source of scarce timber. The first of what would be several dozen sawmills was constructed in 1860. Lumber and mine props were supplied to build Colorado Springs and Denver. Logging in the Pineries reached its height in the summer of 1870 when over 700 teamsters and 1,000 lumberjacks and tie hacks were employed, mostly for railway work. More than one billion board feet of lumber were removed to provide ties for the Kansas Pacific, Denver and Rio Grande and New Orleans Railroads.
Although lumbering continued sporadically through the 1950's, farming and ranching had become the dominant activities by the 1880's. A wide variety of crops were raised including, cattle, sheep, alfalfa, wheat, corn, hay and beans. Potatoes, however, were the agricultural product for which the Black Forest area became most renown. Agricultural productivity was subject to boom and bust cycles with crops often ruined by drought, floods, hail, blizzards, or grasshoppers. The drought of the 1920's and the Depression of the 1930's combined to eliminate most types of agriculture in the planning area. By the 1920's the area was mostly consolidated into large ranches. Some of these remain today.
Several towns and settlements dotted the planning area at one time or another during its history. The largest and most long-lived of these was the Town of Eastonville. Eastonville (actually located just to the east of the planning area) was begun in the early 1880's as a stop on the C & S Railroad. Its population peaked at about 400 in 1910 and was already in decline when the railroad ceased operations in 1935. Today only a few remnants of the once thriving townsite remain.
In the forest itself, modern subdivision had a fitful start in the 1920's when Dreamland and Brentwood Country Clubs were organized. Although these ventures were not particularly successful, they did represent the beginning of what would become a significant summer home market in the planning area. A boom in year-round subdivisions took place in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Most of the planning area was zoned for five acre minimum lot sizes in 1965.
Primarily in response to plans for a major transportation corridor through the eastern portion of the planning area, residents and County staff initiated work on a comprehensive land use plan in the early 1970's. The result of this effort was adoption of the Black Forest Preservation Plan in 1974. While this plan recommended rural-residential uses for most of the planning area, it also delineated several large areas for mixed urban uses. The largest of these was in the southeast where the new "city" of Latigo would later be proposed.
While Latigo has not materialized as envisioned, the Colorado Springs metropolitan area itself has expanded rapidly in the direction of the planning area. During the same period numerous large lot residential subdivisions have been platted and developed in the planning area, allowing it to retain much of its rural character and a good bit of its historic legacy.
Some of this legacy is in the form of remaining historic sites and structures. Map 2 identifies many of these as well as some additional historic information. Those who wish to study the history of the planning area in greater depth are advised to read Thunder, Sun and Snow written by Judy von Ahlefeldt in 1979.
Table 1 has been prepared to present a socioeconomic profile of the Black Forest Planning Area. Data for the year 1980 are the most extensive and accurate since they are based on U. S. Census information adjusted to reflect the geography of the planning area. Where boundaries are not consistent with Census geography housing units were counted off of air photos and weighted averages were derived to modify the figures. The 1970 numbers were obtained either by modifying data from the original Black Forest Preservation Plan Inventory (published in 1973) or directly from the 1970 Census. Because of differences or limitations in methodology, all of these numbers should be considered approximate.
What Table 1 indicates is that the population of the current planning area has increased steadily from about 3,500 in 1970 to over 5,000 in 1980. Estimates based on 1985-86 Assessor's records put the current population at 6,500 or more. Over the past 15 years this equates to an annual growth rate of approximately 4 percent. For the comparable period the overall County growth rate has been about 2.8%.
Ethnically the vast majority of planning area residents are Caucasian. While the median age of 31.1 is considerably higher than the County average, there are very few Senior Citizens. Educational attainment and income levels significantly exceed the County average.
Because of a reduction in average household size the number of housing units in the planning area has increased at a faster pace than population. It is estimated that the number of units in the current planning area has more than doubled between 1972 and the present. The current total is probably about 2,300 units. In a typical year on the order of 100 new units have been added.
Although the data are not definitive, it is apparent that the number of mobile homes in the planning area has declined from possibly 200 in 1970 to about 125 today. Since the number of conventional homes has more than doubled, the ratio of mobile homes to total housing stock has clearly been greatly reduced. The likely reasons for this are a general escalation in the price of lots combined with the now common practice of restricting mobile homes from new subdivisions through the use of covenants.
The housing stock of the planning area is made up almost exclusively of single family detached units. In 1980, 89% of these were owner-occupied, compared to a County-wide owner occupancy rate of 61%. The median value of owner-occupied housing has consistently been much higher than the County average.
A careful analysis of the natural environment is a fundamental component of any viable land use plan. In the Black Forest Planning Area, however, consideration of natural systems is an especially critical imperative. First, the rural residential lifestyle in the planning area is predicated upon the protection and enhancement of its unique natural amenities. Secondly, the planning area's position astride a major topographic divide results in an influence over substantial "down-stream" portions of the County.
The intent of this section is to provide a general system description of the area's natural environment and to highlight those environmental opportunities and constraints which relate most to land use policy. Those interested in a detailed study of the region's natural history should consult "The Natural History of the Black Forest" which was written and copyrighted by Judy von Ahlefeldt as part of the inventory for the original Black Forest Plan.
The subject areas discussed below include geology, topography and drainage, mineral resources, soils, climate, vegetation, wildlife and environmental constraints. Because of its complexity and special importance in the planning area the subject of groundwater is considered in a separate section which follows.
The Black Forest is situated near the southern edge of a geologic feature known as the Denver Basin. The Basin extends north from Colorado Springs to the City of Greeley and up to 80 miles east from the Front Range. It is com- posed of up to 4 stratigraphic bedrock units which were laid down approximately 50 to 100 million years ago as a result of the erosion of rock units which had been uplifted to the west along the Rampart Range Fault. The up-lifted granite which forms the present Rampart Range is a much older rock from deep below the surface. The Dawson sediments and Castle Rock Conglomerates are much more geologically recent than the Pikes Peak Granite. The granite exposed on Pikes Peak for instance is on the order of one billion years old. Directly under the planning area these rocks are buried many thousands of feet deep. Even the vertically tilted sedimentary rocks which outcrop in Garden of the Gods and at the Air Force Academy are several thousand feet underground at points near the center of the planning area.
From a more local perspective the planning area might be characterized as an overturned bowl or dome containing progressively older and more extensive bedrock layers. As can be seen from the generalized cross-section in Figure 2, the uppermost layer, Castle Rock Conglomerate, occurs only in the far northern portion of the planning area. This unit forms characteristic flat-topped and steep-walled mesas including Table Rock. Below the Castle Rock Conglomerate is the Dawson Formation which outcrops in the majority of the planning area. It is composed of various types of sandstones interspersed with clay. Locally, it exceeds 2000 feet in thickness. Three of the County's major bed-rock aquifers are found in association with this unit. Beneath the Dawson Formation are the Laramie Formation and a layer of Fox Hills Sandstone. These strata are thinner (150-300 feet thick) and are primarily comprised of sandstones and shales. They do not outcrop in any portion of the planning area, but they do constitute an important source of non-tributary ground water. Underlying the whole of the Denver Basin is a very thick shale deposit (Pierre Shale) which does not readily transmit ground water.
In some parts of the planning area, particularly along water-courses south of the timbered area edge, the bedrock is covered by up to 100 feet of unconsolidated alluvial materials. These have been deposited over the last one million years by wind and water and are particularly susceptible to erosion in some cases. Because these deposits a frequently well sorted, they may have value as sources of commercial aggregates.
In addition to being called the Black Forest, the land in and around the planning area has historically been referred to as the "divide country". It has been so named because it occupies the summit of a major drainage divide. This divide extends east from the Front Range in a line roughly parallel to the northern boundary of the County. In the planning area it dips down to form the shape of a crescent. To the north of this divide water flows into Kiowa and Cherry Creeks and ultimately into the South Platte River. To the south water flows via Monument and Upper Black Squirrel Creeks into the Arkansas River drainage. In total, nine major tributary streams radially drain the planning area. Their locations are shown on the Natural Systems Map (Map 3) which can be found in this Chapter. Within the planning area, all of these streams are ephemeral, meaning that they flow only seasonally or during major precipitation events.
Positioned as it is astride a major divide, the planning area is significantly higher in elevation than the areas to the north and south. All but the Northgate area and a narrow strip along Woodmen Road are above 7000 feet. Maximum elevations occur near the center of the planning area around the intersection of Vollmer and Swan Roads. Here on "Vollmer Hill" the high point is 7,684 feet or roughly 1,600 feet higher than downtown Colorado Springs.
The local topography of the planning area could aptly be described as undulating. Frequent changes in slope and aspect result in a familiar "roller coaster" effect experienced along many roadways. Overall, slopes of 3 to 12 percent predominate. Steeper slopes are associated with rock outcrops (such as Table Rock) and with stream banks including the the Kettle and Black Squirrel Creek ravines. The planning area is dissected by numerous floodplains, but they are fairly narrow when compared to those in other parts of the County.
Mineral Resources --
Over most of the planning area the potential for commercially viable mineral resource extraction is limited. Extraction within the Timbered Area itself has been confined to the removal of materials for use in constructing local roads. Deposits of well-sorted aggregates which occur in the southern portion of the planning area represent a significant exception. These are heavily utilized for the production of asphalt and concrete in the "batch plant area" which has grown up around the intersection of Vollmer and Woodmen Roads. Commercially recoverable deposits are identified on the Natural Systems Map (Map 3). The County's Master Plan for the Extraction of Commercial Mineral Deposits (1975) describes these deposits in more detail and specifies the circumstances under which development may take place in areas where these deposits exist.
Soil characteristics often have a significant impact on land use suitability. In the planning area soil conditions are particularly important because of the predominance of individual well and septic systems.
The soils of the Black Forest Planning Area are the result of a complex interaction of climate, vegetation and slope with the underlying parent material (bedrock or alluvium). Most soils in the planning area are therefore composed of sandy loams or loamy sands associated with decomposition of the coarse, gravelly sandstone of the Dawson Formation. Soils overlying the alluvial deposits to the south and west tend to be sandy loams, often with an high gravel content.
Soils in the planning area have been categorized into different types (known as series) by the United States Soil Conservation Series (SCS). Within a series soils have the same general vertical profile. Series are further broken down into phases or units which correspond to variations in slope. The characteristics of these units such as permeability, depth, swelling potential and load-bearing capacity can be used to infer land use compatibility. Of particular importance in a rural residential area such as the planning area is septic system suitability. Map 4 delineates areas defined by the SCS as having limitations for septic systems. The rating system employed by the SCS is described below:
It should be emphasized that in low density residential subdivisions even severe limitations may be overcome with proper siting and engineering techniques.
In order for the leach fields of individual septic systems to function properly, they must be located on fairly level terrain and in soils which allow the effluent to disperse at a moderate rate. Excessive permeability may result in the introduction of organics into the ground water system before they can be oxidized by soil bacteria. If permeability is insufficient, the system may overflow. As shown in Map 4, severe septic system constraints in the planning area are associated with a combination of flood plains (wetness), steep slopes and highly permeable soil. Additional and more detailed soils information may be obtained by consulting the Soil Survey of El Paso County which was published by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service in 1981.
The climate in the planning area is locally variable, but on the average the area is cooler, wetter and subject
to more severe storm events than the Colorado Springs metropolitan area. All of these differences are attributable
to the areals position astride the Platte-Arkansas divide. Due primarily to the higher elevations, the growing
season in the planning area is as short as 100 days. This is up to two months shorter than in Colorado Springs.
The average precipitation of about 17 to 18 inches is approximately 3 inches more than that of the City. Much of
this additional moisture falls in the form of snow. The area receives an average of about 60 inches of annual snowfall
as compared to 40 inches for Colo rado Springs. Lower average temperatures and tree cover combine to inhibit snowmelt
and further accentuate this difference. In the open portions of the planning area even small snowfalls combined
with high winds can create ground blizzards which completely obscure visibility. Fog is particularly prevalent
in November, February and March. The worst fog conditions occur south and east of the
Severe summer and winter storms are often spawned and sometimes stall in the turbulent air near the ridge line. Twenty-four hour rainfalls in excess of half the annual precipitation average have been recorded throughout the planning area. Along the ridge the incidence of electrical storms is among the highest in the nation. On the edges of the timbered area 15 foot snowdrifts are not uncommon. It is this severity of weather phenomena which has the most significant impact on land use decisions. Roads must be designed to minimize drifting, and drainage facilities must be engineered to accommodate very high peak flows.
- Ponderosa Pine
An almost pure stand of Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) is what gives the planning area its special and unique character. Because the stand is almost pure (an exception in the Front Range area) and because it is out on the edge of its ecological niche, it is especially susceptible to negative environmental impacts including fire, air pollution and disease.
The Ponderosa pine is characteristic of the eastern foothills zone of the Rockies because of its high tolerance of drought, temperature extremes and gravelly soils. It is this tolerance which allows the trees to extend as far out onto the divide as they do. Viewed from above the trees would appear as a crescent-shaped "shadow" offset a few miles to the south and west of the highest points on the ridge. In the southwest corner of the planning area the trees begin as low as 6,900 feet in elevation while in the northeast there are treeless areas as high up as 7,400 feet. The disparity is probably due to a combination of prevailing southerly winds (the ones with the moisture) and soil conditions.
Having been logged over an average of 3 times since 1860, the timbered area is now dominated by trees of less than 100 years in age. These are interspersed with dense clumps of young trees which have seeded themselves in diseased or recently cleared areas.
The two most common afflictions of the pines are Dwarf-mistletoe and the Pine Beetle Disease. Dwarf mistletoes are small, leafless and parasitic flowering plants which sink their roots into the bark of the trees to obtain nutrients. Infestation, which is fairly common in the planning area, results in the distortion of trees, reduced vigor and sometimes premature death. Control techniques consist of combinations of pruning and thinning.
The Mountain Pine Beetle is a small black insect which invades healthy trees in late summer, lays eggs and dies. The small white larvae which hatch from the eggs feed on the soft inner bark of the trees. A fungus carried by the larvae can also cause mortality. Unhealthy dense stands are most susceptible to infestation. Localized application of insecticides has been shown to be successful in combatting the beetle. Treatment programs and a downturn in the natural cycle of the insect have combined to hold the problem in check in recent years. While mistletoe and the Pine Beetle are endemic problems in the planning area the potential for catastrophic wildfire is arguably the greatest risk to the Forest and its residents. Although it appears that the planning area has not experienced a full scale crown fire since 1850 the threat is significant during drought periods in late summer and fall when the tree tops may become tinder dry. Methods of minimizing wildfire hazard include proper siting of structures, thinning to eliminate "ladder fuels" and the construction of fuel breaks. Assistance with these and other methods of forest management, including beetle and mistletoe control is available through the Colorado State Forest Service.
A long term and less perceptible threat to the health of the Forest is the toxic effect of air pollutants. Very little hard data are available, but it is clear that the Ponderosa pines are particularly susceptible to photochemical oxidants, especially ozone. Exposure to ozone generally inhibits the metabolism of the trees. Noticeable damage has been reported in areas of California. Forested areas which are weakened by other diseases or afflictions are especially susceptible to damage by these pollutants.
- Other Plant Communities
In addition to the Ponderosa pines there are several other plant communities which are important components of the planning area ecosystem. These include the oakbrush, ravine, meadow and high plains grassland communities. The sometimes marshy meadows are especially intolerant of human activities. These meadows are often associated with the headwaters of drainages. They contain many relict plant species which were common to the area more than 10,000 years ago. Excellent descriptions of all these Communities are included in Judy von Ahlefeldt's "Natural History of the Black Forest".
Although there is evidence of some reduction in diversity and numbers, the Black Forest Planning Area continues to support a wide variety of wildlife. Many of these species are monitored by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The Division identifies ranges for white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope and sharptail grouse in the planning area. Black bear and elk have also been sighted on occasion. The planning area's most distinctive residents, however, would probably be the Abert's Squirrels which exclusively inhabit the Ponderosa pines. Additional species noted by the Colorado Division of Wildlife as present in the planning area include the following:
|red fox||raccoon||prairie falcon|
|grey fox||striped skunk||great-horned owl|
|swift fox (occasional)||red-tailed hawk||barn owl|
|cottontail and jack rabbits||American kestrel||green-winged teal|
|ground squirrel||sharpshinned hawk||blue-winged teal|
|pine squirrel||marsh hawk||cinnamon teal|
|porcupine||golden eagle||Wilson's phalarope|
|and many others|
The Division of Wildlife also noted that the grasslands adjacent to Douglas County were historic habitat for the Plains Sharp-tailed Grouse. Preservation of this important ecosystem may foster the return of this unique specie. Judy von Ahlefeldt's "Natural History of the Black Forest" comprehensively inventoried the area's fauna in 1973. This work remains a valuable resource which should be used in analyzing the impact of land use proposals on area wildlife. There are a variety of things that can be done to greatly enhance the wildlife potential of an individual property at a minimal cost. The Division of Wildlife is available to provide technical assistance in developing these alternatives.
Map 5 presents an aggregate of several of the environmental hazards which might be encountered in the planning area. Constraints are delineated in order of potential hazard with flood plains being most critical and expansive soils being potentially least hazardous. This information was derived from a larger study completed by Charles Robinson and Associates for the County in 1977. What the map shows is that the planning area is relatively free from extensive environmental hazards with the exception of potential for wildfire. The Colorado State Forest Service is available to assist property owners with fire hazard mitigation techniques.
This map should be used as an initial frame of reference in the analysis of land use suitability. Detailed back-up materials and suggested mitigation measures are included in the Charles Robinson study and should be consulted if there appears to be a potential hazard. The Colorado Geological Survey may also be consulted although there may be a fee involved.
The floodplains on this map are physiographic 100-year flood plains, meaning that they were derived through an analysis of natural land forms. The County also has regulatory 100-year flood plains which have been derived by the Federal Emergency Management Administration using engineering models and equations. It is these regulatory flood plains for which land use restrictions and limitations have been developed. These regulations are administered by the County Regional Building and Land Use Departments.
Underlying the Black Forest Planning Area is the most extensive groundwater resource in the County. Both the nature of this system and the institutional arrangements which define its use are complex subjects. This section attempts to briefly describe this system with the understanding that the analysis can by no means be complete.
The groundwater resource in the planning area consists primarily of the four bedrock aquifers which occur in the Denver Basin. The basin is described in the Natural Systems section of this Chapter. Listed from top to bottom, these aquifers are the Dawson, the Denver, the Arapahoe and the Laramie-Fox Hills. They are described in general cross-section in Figure 3. As can be seen from the cross section, the whole formation may be imagined as an overturned bowl in which each successively deeper aquifer extends further to the south and east. Therefore, although all four aquifers occur in all portions of the planning area, the total combined thickness is reduced toward all but the northern periphery. In the north central portion of the planning area total aquifer thickness exceeds 2,000 feet.
It has been estimated by the U. S. Geological Survey that in El Paso County the uppermost 500 feet of the Dawson Formation (the Dawson, Denver and Arapahoe Aquifers combined) contains about 38,000,000 acre feet of water in storage. The majority of this water is beneath the planning area. By comparison the City of Colorado Springs presently uses approximately 60,000 acre feet to meet all of its needs. It should be emphasized, however, that much of this water is considered legally tributary to downstream surface rights and an additional percentage is not economically recoverable.
Natural recharge rates (infiltration) to aquifers in the planning area average possibly 1.5 inches per year. While this rate is well in excess of that for the County as a whole it is fairly negligible compared to the amount of water in storage. This means that the aquifers represent a relatively non-renewable resource which can be significantly impacted by major prolonged withdrawals.
Well Inventory --
With only a few exceptions, all residences and businesses in the planning area are dependent on individual wells for their water supplies. Responsibility for the monitoring and permitting of these wells rests with the Colorado Division of Water Resources.
From 1973 to 1985 the number of permitted wells in the planning area grew from 518 to 1441; an increase of of 278%. The overwhelming majority of these wells penetrate the Dawson Aquifer, and most are domestic wells serving single family homes. Most of the deeper commercial, industrial and municipal wells are concentrated in a band along the southern perimeter of the planning area. Many of these draw from an aquifer other than the Dawson. Table 2 summarizes the number and type of permitted wells in the planning area.
Approximate Groundwater Use --
The Land Use Department is not aware of any groundwater currently being exported out of the planning area. Internal consumptive and non-consumptive use is roughly estimated at 700 acre feet per year. This compares with an estimated annual recharge (through natural infiltration) of about 10,400 acre feet. It can therefore be concluded that the planning area can theoretically absorb significant additional rural residential development before creating a situation where groundwater was depleted at a rate faster than it was being replaced. However, it is not necessarily appropriate to conclude that there is presently no adverse impact on downgradient surface rights.
An estimated "water budget" for the planning area (summarized in Table 3) was derived by approximating current withdrawals from permitted wells, adjusting this number for non-consumptive use and then comparing this adjusted number with estimated natural recharge. The estimated withdrawal from individual residential wells was calculated by multiplying the total number of domestic well permits by the area's estimated population per household and then by a per capita assumed use of 0.13 acre feet per year (120 gallons per day). This total of 522 acre feet was reduced by 60% to account for septic system recharge. Additional water use in the planning area could not be directly accounted for so it was roughly estimated by applying the same ratio of estimated actual to maximum permitted pumping rates experienced with residential domestic use. All non-domestic water was considered to be consumptively used.
Based on these calculations the total well water withdrawals in the planning area were estimated to be 678.2 acre feet in 1985. When an estimated septic recharge rate of, 60% is factored in this number is reduced to 365 acre feet.
These figures indicate that per capita water use in the planning area appears to average only about 50% of the rate for a metropolitan area such as Colorado Springs. Likely explanations for this difference include the limited use of landscape irrigation in the area and the fact that many of the non-residential uses which "support" local residents are located elsewhere in the County.
According to a United States Geological Survey (USGS) digital model run in 1975, the annual rate of recharge to the Dawson Aquifer in the Black Forest Planning Area varies between less than 0.05 and 2.2 inches per year, with an apparent average of about 1.5 inches. Based on this average the groundwater system in the planning area would recharge at the rate of approximately 10,000 acre feet per year (refer to Table 3).
It can therefore be estimated that groundwater withdrawals are now taking place at a rate on the general order of 6.5% of annual recharge. If per capita use were assumed to remain constant and the population of the planning area was assumed to increase by a factor of 500% (in line with maximum potential build-out under current zoning) then use would approach 30% of annual recharge. These estimates assume no reuse and no substantial export from the planning area. A USGS model done in 1975 predicted a reduction of groundwater flow to Monument Creek of approximately 20% by the year 2000 based on an increase in projected domestic use and a few deep withdrawals. Significant declines in the water table were predicted for only the zones adjacent to major wells.
Groundwater Quality --
Groundwater quality in the Dawson aquifer is generally acceptable for most domestic purposes. There are localized areas of high iron and fluoride concentrations in the western portion of the planning area. The primary potential hazard to groundwater quality however will come from contamination of wells by improperly designed or located septic systems. Contaminated wells exhibit elevated levels of nitrates, chloride and disease causing bacteria which may result in a nonpotable water supply.
Well Permitting Process --
All wells in the State of Colorado require a written permit form the Colorado Division of Water Resources. The permits specify the amount of water which may be withdrawn and the purpose(s) for which it may be used. A water right may or may not be needed to obtain a permit, but a permit does not constitute a right. Rules and regulations governing well permitting procedures are complex and subject to change so the following discussion is for the purpose of general description only.
For individual residential purposes the State will issue either a domestic, or more likely an in-house use only permit. Both restrict the user to a maximum of 15 gallons per minute, but only the domestic permit allows for outside uses such as lawn irrigation. When outside use is allowed, the area of lawn which can be irrigated is often limited. All of these limitations are put in effect for the purpose of preventing injury to another well or to downgradient surface water users. The standards and procedures are codified as the Denver Basin Rules which were written to implement Senate Bill 5 which was enacted in 1985.
Under the Denver Basin Rules certain deeper bedrock groundwater has been determined to be "non-tributary". This means that it has been calculated that this will not move through the bedrock to a point where it makes contact with a surface stream system within 100 years. In the Black Forest Planning Area, none of the Dawson formation is considered to be non-tributary. Tributary limits of the three other bedrock aquifers are shown on Map 6. A property owner is normally entitled to a full domestic permit if he or she drills down to a non-tributary aquifer. The trade-off is that these non-tributary aquifers are ordinarily several hundred feet below the surface, and the cost of drilling may be prohibitive. Also shown on Map 6 are the limits of the Upper Black Squirrel and Kiowa Bijou Designated Groundwater Basins. These Basins were created in the mid-1960's and are presently exempt from the Denver Basin Rules.
In those cases where it is determined by the State that withdrawals will adversely impact downstream surface rights, permits will only be granted if an "augmentation plan" is developed and approved. Under an augmentation plan, consumptively used water must be reintroduced into the aquifer by one of a number of methods. The cost and time frame involved in preparing these plans normally precludes their use by individual homeowners.
With any type of well permit the maximum amount of water which may be extracted in any given year is limited by State law to one percent of the available supply. No allowance is made for recharge in this computation. Maximum annual withdrawal in acre feet is computed using the following formula:
Surface Acreage x Saturated Thickness x Specific Yield
Saturated Thickness = depth of sand or bedrock saturated with water
Specific Yield = the volume of available water as a percent of the saturated volume (e.g. 20% in the Dawson Aquifer)
In most parts of the planning area saturated thickness is great enough that this one percent limitation itself does not present an impediment to rural residential subdivisions. The problem may be with how deep the individual property owner has to go to secure this supply.
Subdivision Approval --
Under Senate Bill 35 which was passed in 1972, the State uses its one hundred year rule and other criteria to review proposed subdivisions for adequacy of water supply. If the State deems the supply to be inadequate based on their criteria, they will recommend denial of the subdivision.
In November of 1986, the El Paso County Board of Commissioners adopted a water policy tying land use approvals to demonstration of an adequate 300-year water supply. This policy does not effect the right to withdraw water at a one percent annual rate, but it does potentially impact subdivision approvals. With the extensive bedrock aquifers underlying the planning area it is unlikely that even the 300-year rule will have much of an impact on rural residential subdivisions. Proposed urban density developments in the southern portion of the planning area are likely to be influenced by the policy however.
A recurring sentiment among many Black Forest residents is that they have deliberately chosen a rural living environment and for this they have traded away a number of urban efficiencies. They further point out that the provision of certain urban level services might actually jeopardize their rural residential lifestyle in the future. The purpose of this section is to assess the current status of public facilities and services available to Black Forest residents with this caveat. Transportation considerations and many aspects of ground water supply are treated in separate sections. Additional and more detailed information is on file at the Land Use Department.
Community Institutions --
The Black Forest area clearly has one of the more highly developed senses of local community in El Paso County. The full reason for this is somewhat complex and abstract, but community facilities and institutions play a large part. A representative sample of these is identified on the Public Facilities and Community Services (Map 7).
The "institutional focus" of the Black Forest would probably be at the intersection of Black Forest and Shoup Roads. Located there is the Black Forest Community Center which has been cooperatively operated since it was constructed in 1929.
Several of the churches in the Black Forest are clustered near this intersection. Also at Black Forest and Shoup are the fire station, the post office, a newspaper office and several businesses.
Because the nearest permanent library facilities are located in Monument and in Briargate, a Pikes Peak Library District bookmobile makes a Thursday afternoon stop at the Community Church (Black Forest and Shoup Roads). Residents with home computers also have electronic access to much of the Library's material.
The following list of public and community facilities corresponds to those indicated on Map 7:
|Microwave Transmitting Tower||
|Church of the Nazarene|
|Black Forest Chapel||
|Peoples Natural Gas Facility|
|Wolford Elementary School||
|Mountain View Electric Substation|
|Black Forest Community Center||
|Mountain Bell Facility|
|Black Forest Fire Station||
|Black Forest Assembly of God|
|Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints||
|Our Lady of the Pines (Catholic)|
|First Baptist Church|
|Black Forest Community Church||
|Peoples Natural Gas Purchase Point|
|Black Forest Lutheran Church||
|Falcon High School|
|Black Forest Post Office & Newspaper||
|Woodlake Park Site|
|El Paso Cty Public Works North Service Office||
|Forest Green Park Site|
Several additional institutional components of the Black Forest are singled out for discussion in the following sections.
The planning area encompasses portions of four different school districts. These are: Air Academy (#20), Peyton (#23J), Lewis Palmer (#38), and Falcon (#49). Their boundaries are shown on Map 7. Each district has experienced substantial relative enrollment increases during the past two decades (refer to Table 4). Taken in aggregate the school age population in the four districts has tripled in 20 years. Although population within the planning area has grown significantly, much of this rapid change in enrollment is attributable to areas closer to Colorado Springs. Examples include Briargate, Rockrimmon and Cimarron Hills. The result of this rapid enrollment growth has been a continuous need to finance the upgrading and addition of facilities.
Air Academy - District #20
The Air Academy School District serves the majority of the population of the Black Forest Planning Area. With a current enrollment of over 9,000 students it is now the third largest district in the County behind Harrison (#2) and Colorado Springs (#11). Edith Wolford Elementary School on Black Forest Road is the only Air Academy facility located within the planning area. Enrollment at Wolford has been fairly steady over the years but is in excess of stated capacity. As the Black Forest community grows an additional elementary school will have to be built or else the additional students will have to be bussed several miles to the west and south. Older Black Forest students attend Air Academy Junior and Senior High Schools which are located outside of the planning area. No facilities are anticipated to be built in the planning area in the near future.
Peyton - District #23J
Only a few square miles of the Peyton School District fall within the Black Forest Planning Area (see Map 7). The District is presently served by a single K-12 building located well to the east of the planning area. Enrollment has been undergoing a steady increase, but most of this can be attributed to the areas around the community of Peyton. Development within the planning area should have minimal impact on District #23J.
Lewis Palmer - District #38
The Lewis Palmer School District serves the northwest portion of the planning area. This area is characterized by agricultural and large lot residential land uses and it therefore contributes a small share of the District enrollment. The three Lewis Palmer facilities utilized by Black Forest residents are located near the intersection of Interstate 25 and Walker Road. Current facilities are near capacity and a new elementary school is scheduled for construction near the Walden III Subdivision.
Falcon - District #49
The Falcon School District functioned as a small rural district until the mid-1970's when its student population began to grow explosively as a result of residential development in the Cimarron Hills/Constitution Hills area. District #49 serves most of the eastern sector of the planning area including the Woodlake and Forest Green Subdivisions as well as the yet undeveloped Trails and Paint Brush Hills Master Planned developments. The potential for enrollment growth within the planning area is substantial, but less significant than in areas to the south. Falcon Senior High School is located in the Paint Brush Hills development while the elementary and junior high schools are situated near Falcon. A 26-acre combined elementary/junior high school site is included in the Woodmen Hills Sketch Plan.
School Land Dedication Standards
The El Paso County Land Development Code specifies the following minimum acreage standards for schools:
It is up to the discretion of the individual district to require dedication of land or to accept fees in lieu of land. As of May 1987 the fee is $152 per detached single family dwelling unit. For the same dwelling unit the land requirement (1/86) would be 943 square feet. Using those numbers it would require a 448 lot (almost four square miles) subdivision to provide enough land area (and students) to support a ten-acre elementary site. It, therefore, appears likely that School Districts #20 and #49 will have to purchase any property required for school sites within the rural residential portions of the planning area.
Parks and Recreation --
A comprehensive view of the park and recreation system in the planning area would need to account for private and quasi public resources along with public facilities. The reason for this is that many area residents utilize their own lots for recreation and open space uses and also benefit from the aggregate sense of open space derived from a combination of large undeveloped or rural residential parcels. A considerable percentage of residents keep horses in private stables on their property and ride them along public easements and rights-of-way.
There are several commercial riding stables in the planning area. Among these is a major equestrian center located in the Trails development. There are also a number of major land holdings operated by religious institutions and sportsmen's associations. The La Foret Camp on Shoup Road is an example. The State of Colorado also owns large undeveloped parcels which are available for limited recreational use. Some subdivisions have dedicated common open space areas and several have set aside equestrian easements for public use. However, these easements have not been integrated into an overall system and in most cases they are not maintained by the County Parks Department.
With the development of the 240 acre Black Forest Regional Park at the corner of Shoup and Milam Roads, the planning area now has a publicly available site for active recreation. Fox Run Regional Park which is currently under development west of the planning area will provide additional easily accessible recreation facilities. In recent years the County Parks Department has limited its role to the provision of regional park and recreation facilities. Smaller Parks Department properties in and around the planning area have not been developed and in some cases have been leased to homeowners' associations. The County will ordinarily seek fees in lieu of small dedicated parcels.
Park Dedication Standards
When land dedication is required by the County a minimum of 5% of the total area must be set aside. With the large lot subdivisions which characterize the Black Forest Planning Area the total area dedicated may end up being quite extensive. For example, the same hypothetical 448 lot subdivision which would be required to provide only one ten-acre school site would need to dedicate over 100 acres for park purposes, if the lots averaged five acres. The current fee of $175 per dwelling unit would generate only $78,400 in revenue.
Water Service --
The overwhelming majority of users in the Black Forest Planning Area obtain their water supplies from individual on-site wells. Most of these are shallow wells drilled into the Dawson Aquifer. Currently the only centralized systems are those operated by the Park Forest Water District and the Walden Corporation (see Map 7 and Table 5). Park Forest presently supplies approximately 175 of the estimated 2,100 homes in the planning area. The Walden Corporation is a private company which serves approximately 75 homes in the Walden III Subdivsion. The proposed Paint Brush Hills Metropolitan District would also have a centralized system.
The remainder of the planning area residents are served by individual wells. The permitting process for these wells is discussed in the Groundwater section of this chapter.
Almost all of the businesses and residences of the Black Forest Planning Area rely on individual septic systems to treat their wastewater.
Proper operation of a typical septic system is dependent upon a number of factors including fairly level terrain, a water table below the leach field and soil which is not too permeable or impermeable. Map 4 in the Natural Systems section of this Profile indicates soils which are generally suitable for septic systems.
A permit from the County Health Department is required prior to construction of any septic system. Individual systems are normally allowed on lots of 5 acres or more and are allowed on lots between 2.5 and 5 acres contingent upon additional studies and regulations.
Currently the only operating centralized sewage treatment facility in the planning area is one operated to serve the Walden III Subdivision. Effluent from the lagoon system flows noth into Cherry Creek and eventually into the Platte River Drainage. Paint Brush Hills is proposing a treatment plant to be operated jointly with the Woodmen Hills development to the south.
Other Utilities and Services --
Gas, electric and telephone service is potentially available to all residents in the planning area. The service areas and extension policies are summarized in Map 7 and Table 5. Refuse disposal is handled individually through private contractors. The closest landfill is located west of Templeton Gap Road just to the south of the planning area. However, the Templeton Gap facility will be filled to capacity in the near future. The closest facility will then be the Highway 94 Landfill located approximately 10 miles south of the planning area and north of State Highway 94 and Blaney Road.
Law Enforcement --
Within the Black Forest Planning Area law enforcement responsibilities are shared by the Colorado State Patrol and the El Paso County Sheriff's Department. The State routinely patrols only State Highway 83 but responds to and keeps records on all accidents in the planning area. The Sheriff's Department normally assigns one patrol officer each shift to a patrol district generally encompassing the planning area. An unmanned substation is maintained by the Department on the grounds of the County Department of Transportation's North Service Yard (Shoup and Milam Roads). The substation has complete facilities to do interviews and bookings.
The major reported law enforcement problems in the Black Forest area are traffic accidents and vandalism. The State recorded 81 total accidents for the area in the 1984-85 fiscal year. This compares to less than a quarter of that number in the early 1970's. Directed patrols have been used to address vandalism problems at Black Forest Regional Park.
Fire Protection --
Fire protection for the majority of the populated portion of the planning area is provided by the Black Forest Fire Protection District (see Map 7 for boundaries). The eastern and western portions are served by the Falcon and Donald Wescott Districts respectively while much of the sparsely populated northern area is given some protection through the County Sheriff's Department. All three of the fire protection districts are able to collect a mill levy since they are legally organized under State statutes. Table 6 summarizes the fire protection capability of the Black Forest and Falcon Districts.
The Black Forest Volunteer Fire Protection District maintains its primary facilities near the intersection of Black Forest and Shoup Roads. The district currently has one paid and about 25 volunteer staff members. Future needs include a substation to serve the northern portion of the district along with more water storage capacity at remote sites.
The Falcon Fire Protection District operates out of a station located at the intersection of Highway 24 and Meridian Road to the south of the planning area. Falcon has recently extended its district boundaries to the north to include the Woodlake and Forest Green Subdivisions. The district will serve these areas from a substation to be located just north of Murphy Road on the west side of Meridian. In 1984 the district responded to 103 calls for service. In 1985 this number more than doubled to 209 and runs are now averaging about one a day. With this increase in activity the district now feels a full-time staff member is essential.
By federal statute the County Sheriff's Department is obliged to respond to and suppress natural fires (grassland and timber) in unincorporated areas of the County not served by legally organized fire protection districts. The northwestern portion of the planning area falls under this category. By "gentlemen's agreement" the districts to the south normally respond to natural and structural fires in the northern planning area. However, they are not formally obligated to do so. As portions of this area become more developed they will need to be included into an existing or newly created district to guarantee adequate protection.
Even as the rural residential portions of the planning area continue to build out, fire protection will be limited due to the lack of centralized water systems to ensure adequate fire flow. A system of strategically located cisterns or accessible wells with sufficient flow rates could be utilized to upgrade protection.
Another fire protection issue fairly specific to the Black Forest Planning Area is the potential for wildfire. This is described in the Natural Systems section of this chapter. These hazards may be substantially mitigated through employment of proper forest management practices.
The residents of the planning area rely overwhelmingly on the single passenger private automobile as their mode of transportation. This is due primarily to a combination of low population density and distance from employment and shopping centers. The emphasis in this section is, therefore, on the automotive transportation system in the Black Forest Planning Area. The analysis begins with existing conditions and emphasizes changes which have occurred since the 1974 Plan was adopted. A discussion of future considerations follows. More detailed transportation inventory information is available at the Land Use Department.
Existing Conditions --
All major roadways in the Black Forest Planning Area are maintained by El Paso County with the exception of State Highway 83. This two-lane primary State highway forms most of the western border of the planning area. El Paso County maintains approximately 68 miles of paved roads in or adjacent to the planning area. According to the County Highway Map (1986) this mileage is almost evenly divided between high-grade asphalt paved roads and low-grade paved or "chip and seal" roads. Low-grade paved roads consist of gravel impregnated with emulsified asphalt. All remaining roads are classified as gravel, graded and drained, unimproved or primitive. No roads in the planning area have more than two driving lanes. Map 8 depicts the existing primary roadway network in the planning area.
Most roads in the planning area are publicly dedicated and maintained. Exceptions to this include 10 miles of public roads not maintained by the County and 15.5 miles of private roads. Most of these private or non-County maintained roads are concentrated in older subdivisions.
Transportation engineers and planners have established hierarchies to discriminate between the function of various types of roads. On the lower end there are local subdivision streets which are designed to maximize access and minimize speed and through traffic movement. On the upper end are freeways and expressways which are engineered to preclude local access and encourage the unobstructed movement of traffic between distant points. Collectors and various arterials provide some of both functions.
The problem in the planning area is that many roads function as both a means of local access and as corridors
for through traffic movement. Careful consideration will have to be given to these competing functions.
With few exceptions present traffic volumes in the planning area are low or moderate, but roadway use has increased substantially since the original Black Forest Plan was prepared in 1974. The latest available average weekday counts for selected road segments are summarized in Table 7 to show trends over time. An average weekday count includes all vehicles travelling in both directions over a 24-hour period.
From this table it is apparent that roads near the south and west perimeters of the planning area are the busiest and have experienced the most rapid growth in traffic volume. Much of this increase is attributable to development outside of the planning area.
Criteria for the Construction and Financing of Roadways --
The form and function of the Black Forest road system is influenced by a number of policies, criteria and processes stipulated by the County. The purpose of this subsection is to explain some of the more pertinent regulations as they relate to the specific situation in the Black Forest. The two-lane gravel rural residential road is emphasized in the following examples because of its importance to the Black Forest system. This brief overview is not meant to substitute for the El Paso County Land Development Code or the County Subdivision Criteria Manual which in combination contain most of the applicable standards.
|Some older subdivisions in the Black Forest rely on private roads or easements across adjoining properties for access. There are cases where this system has been adequate, but often there have been problems with lack of maintenance, poor emergency vehicle access or the denial of access to back lots. To address this problem the County now mandates that new lots in most cases have a minimum of 30 feet of frontage on a County dedicated and maintained road.|
|A system of arterial roads and expressways is needed to allow Black Forest residents to travel quickly and safely over the substantial distances between homes, work places and shopping. On the roads designated for this purpose individual access points must be kept to a minimum. The County recommends one mile spacing of access points on major arterials and 1/4 mile spacing on minor arterials. Major roadways in the Black Forest are difficult to classify. They tend to function both as local streets and as corridors for the conveyance of vehicles between the Black Forest and various points in the Colorado Springs metropolitan area. It is clear, however, that these roads (Black Forest, Shoup, Meridian, Vollmer, Woodmen, etc.) will require fairly stringent access controls to preserve their arterial functions. Future roadway planning is further discussed in the Future Considerations subsection of this section.|
Right-of-Way and Roadway Surface
|As in most other areas of the County the typical right-of-way (ROW) width in the Black Forest Planning Area is
60 feet. Sixty feet is adequate for most rural two-laned roadways and allows for some improvements such as wider
shoulders or turning lanes. Roadways with more than two lanes generally require more right-of-way (the County,
for instance, normally reserves a minimum of 120 feet for new arterial roads). Since a system of two-lane roads
in the Black Forest is now serviceable it can be assumed that 60-foot rights-of-way are also adequate. A problem
may occur in the future if and when demand creates the need for additional lanes. The condemnation and/or purchase
of right-of-way is very expensive.
The standard accepted width for traffic-carrying lanes is 12 feet. Thus, a two-lane paved road would require a 24-foot surface exclusive of shoulders. Because there is no clear edge (i.e. , curb and gutter) on gravel roads the County recommends a 30-foot wide surface for unpaved roads. This standard presents at least a perceived problem in some low density residential neighborhoods because the roads may at least initially appear to be over-engineered to the detriment of environmental, aesthetic and financial considerations.
|Local, rural residential roads should be designed to handle speeds of 40 miles per hour (mph). This is 10 mph more than local urban streets. The difference is related to lower congestion and greater distance between major roadways. The trade-offs for higher speeds include less flexibility in subdivision design, adverse environmental impacts and increased construction costs in some cases. This recommended design speed is not now part of County Subdivision criteria. It should also be noted that there will be situations where posted speed limits should be reduced below design speeds to allow for an increased margin of safety.|
|The County criteria for the maximum grade (slope) of roads are related to required function and prevailing topography. Most local roads in the Black Forest are situated in rolling terrain for which the standard is 9%.|
|Throughout the County a maximum of 10 housing units are allowed on a closed end road. This avoids congestion and allows for emergency vehicle and bus access.|
|In subdivisions in which lot sizes are less than 2.5 acres all roads must be paved. In addition roads in larger lot subdivisions must be paved if they will carry a traffic volume in excess of that allowed under fugitive dust standards. As the planning area begins to build out, more roads will reach the threshold necessary for paving or other approved means of dust control.|
|It is general County policy that all capital construction costs associated with new development be incurred by those who directly benefit f rom the improvement. In new subdivisions the developer is required to dedicate all necessary right-of-way prior to final platting. At the same time the specific extent of improvements to be made is ordinarily spelled out in a Subdivision Improvements Agreement negotiated between the developer and the County and backed by a Letter of Credit or other financial security arrangement. Normally all improvements are agreed to and arranged up front for each platting. Stated improvements must be made within a period of 12 months unless otherwise stipulated. A limitation of this system is that it does not allow the flexibility to phase improvements (especially paving) within the same filing of a large-lot subdivision which may take many years to build out. Potential alternatives to this system are discussed under Future Considerations later in this section.|
Meterological Conditions --
The Black Forest is characterized by extremes of climate which result in transportation impacts. Principal among these is the tendency for snow to drift especially in areas not protected by tree cover. The largest drifts ordinarily occur in the northern part of the planning area. Here and south of the timber, ground blizzards often completely obscure vision. The problem of "black ice" formation is most severe in the southern part of the planning area. Due to cooler temperatures the rate of snow melt, especially on east-west roads, is not as rapid as at lower elevations. It is imperative that roads in the Forest be designed to minimize drifting and to facilitate snowmelt. Snowmelt can be induced by selectively thinning trees on the southern side of roadways. Reflective posts can be installed to compensate for poor visibility. Drainage structures need to accommodate storm events during which several inches of rain may fall in a few hours.
Alternative Transportation --
Residents of the Black Forest are not served by any fixed-route public transportation systems other than school
buses. A number of fixed route options including subscription bus service were considered for the Black Forest/Colorado
Springs route in the recently adopted Rural Transportation Development Plan, but Black
Forest was given a low priority over other projects due to low projected demand. No paratransit for the elderly and handicapped population is currently available in the planning area.
Evidence suggests that there is substantial ridesharing (car pooling) taking place among Black Forest residents. The only officially sanctioned Park and Ride lot in the area is located at the intersection of Woodmen Road and Interstate 25. However, Black Forest residents informally use several other sites including the Burgess/Black Forest, Shoup/Black Forest, and Shoup/State Highway 83 intersections. In the future one or more of these sites should be formalized.
Future Considerations --
Transportation considerations, many of them external, have had a major impact on the development and planning of the Black Forest area. The focus of this subsection is first on external transportation influences, then on the potential impact of adopted plans, and finally on the continuing local issue of gravel versus paved roads.
The Black Forest Planning Area occupies a position adjacent to the transportation routes serving the Front Range urban corridor. For the past two decades the Forest has been considered as a logical location for future north-south transportation corridors. The decision to initiate the 1974 Plan was primarily a response to plans for a major freeway corridor along the alignment of Vollmer Road. This alignment was eventually moved east to Meridian Road. This represented a compromise since the original Committee wanted the alignment shifted totally out of the trees. Although these plans have never been carried forward the transportation map in the 1974 Plan designates a 350 foot right-of-way along Meridian. Preliminary plans for some eastern alternative to Interstate 25 have recently been revived. If constructed it is now likely that this parallel expressway will be located farther east than Meridian.
Subsequent to approval of the 1974 Plan the alignment of Powers Boulevard has been more precisely determined, but none of the northern section has been constructed. The approved alignment bisects the "cooperative" portion of the planning area east of the Northgate property and abuts other portions of the planning area proper at three points in the Briargate development. Although this alignment may change in the future its implications will be considerable. There will be pressure for higher density development in the southern portion of the planning area as a response to both market considerations and the need to finance the construction.
The final northern alignment of Marksheffel Road has not been determined. Whatever the decision it will have a significant impact on development patterns in the south-central portion of the planning area for the same reasons as stated above. The most recent alignment under consideration would have Marksheffel shift eastward one to one and one-half miles from its present location and then swing west through the planning area on an alignment approximately two miles north of Woodmen Road.
Several major projects are planned for that portion of Douglas County north of El Paso County, but most of these are located west of State Highway 83 and are large lot residential in nature. It therefore seems likely that direct northerly development pressure will not be felt for some time.
Within the planning area the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) shows few scheduled transportation improvements through 1990. Included in the PPACG Transportation Improvement Program are the upgrading of portions of Old Ranch Road and State Highway 83.
Gravel versus Paved Roads
The local road system within the Black Forest Planning Area consists primarily of gravel roads. Very little additional paving has taken place since 1974. The 1974 Plan highlighted in detail the pros and cons of gravel versus paved roads and advocated an individualized approach to each situation.
While many of these trade-offs remain the situation has been changed by statutory approaches to the particulate air quality problem. Under the current State Implementation Plan (SIP) subdivision roads must be paved if they will generate more than 200 vehicles trips per day in order to limit fugitive dust. Two hundred vehicle trips equate to about 20 dwelling units. It quickly becomes apparent that many new subdivision roads will require paving. A complicating factor is the fact that many rural residential subdivisions take several years to build out. In some cases it could take a decade or more for a subdivision road to reach the 200 vehicle threshold. If paving is required County Subdivision Improvements Agreements normally stipulate that improvements be done up front to ensure that the County does not end up having to correct the situation at a later date. The Letters of Credit used to financially guarantee these improvements ordinarily have a maximum term of 12 months. The result is that in some cases expensive and possibly undesired improvements end up being constructed prior to their requirement under statute. Once roads are paved one of the opportunities which becomes limited is horseback riding which is one of the primary amenities of the Black Forest lifestyle.
The existing transportation system within the planning area is made up of a limited network of two-lane paved roads supporting a larger network of County dedicated and maintained gravel roads. For most of the planning area this system is presently adequate.
Proposed regional transportation corridors to be located both inside and outside the planning area will have a profound impact on the southern and western periphery. Urban density uses which may be developed in these areas will require intensive and well-planned transportation systems. In the balance of the planning area additional rural residential development coupled with County fugitive dust standards will result in a need to pave several additional roadways.
The "bread and butter" of this comprehensive plan will be its policies concerning land use. For this reason much of the effort which went into its formulation was directed toward analyzing existing land use and evaluating options for guiding growth in the future.
This section includes a summary of detailed parcel and subdivision analyses conducted by Department staff. Trends in commercial and industrial development are also considered. Where possible the 1973 Black Forest Preservation Plan Inventory is used as a baseline for identifying trends. Together these data are then used to evaluate the performance of the original Plan and to project potential buildout under different scenarios. Various options for maintaining "overall density" in the rural residential and other non-urban portions of the planning area are discussed in a separate section.
Complete documentation of analyses which summarized in this section is available on file at the Land Use Department.
Parcel Analysis --
In order to obtain information pertaining to parcel size, improvements and ultimate residential build out in the planning area, a detailed analysis of the El Paso County Assessor's maps and records was undertaken in 1985. The analysis area included the approximately 2,500 acres which have subsequently been annexed to the City of Colorado Springs as part of the Northgate development. This subsection includes a summary of findings and a comparison of these findings with land use and housing data found in the original Black Forest Preservation Plan.
As of 1985 the Black Forest Planning Area was divided into approximately 5,040 individual tax parcels. Almost exactly one-half (2,583) of these lots fell into the category between 5.00 and 9.99 acres (refer to Table 8). Thirty-six percent are less than 5.00 acres and 5.1% are 40 acres or greater in area. Table 9 shows the approximate distribution of lots less than 5.00 acres by category. Of the 1,800 lots less than 5.00 acres, approximately 797 or 44% are developed.
"Section line lots" refer to lots between 4.75 and 4.99 acres which are adjacent to a county dedicated and maintained section line road in zones which would otherwise require 5.00 acres for each dwelling unit. Section 35.7 of the County Land Development Code allows for this exception to the normal 5.00 acre limit.
Maps 9 and 10 compare the distribution of lots sizes in 1972 and 1985. The more recent map shows a continuation of trends evident in 1972 along with an additional concentration of smaller parcels east of Meridian Road.
A total of 2,116 dwelling units were identified in the analysis area, 119 or more of which were mobile homes. If this number is compared to the 1,670 dwelling units identified in the 1980 U.S. Census (refer to Table 1, Population and Housing Characteristics) than it may be inferred that approximately 446 homes have been constructed during the last five years; an equivalent increase of about 5% per year. Since 1972 approximately 86 units have been constructed annually in the current planning area.
Also identified in the 1985 survey were 184 farm buildings, 17 warehouses, 21 commercial and business buildings and a number of other structures. It is likely that the numbers for structures other than dwelling units are low due to deficiencies in the sampling method.
The Black Forest Planning Area has historically been a major focus of subdivision activity in the County. Land Use Department staff have identified more than 150 separate filings which together have created over 4,000 individual lots. Most of these are intended for low density residential purposes. Lots which have been created or consolidated through the process of replotting were not identified in this survey.
Since the passage of H.B. 35 in 1972, a subdivision has been generally defined as an action which contains one or more lots consisting of 35 acres or less. Prior to 1972 subdivisions were defined as the creation of 5 or more lots.
The first significant subdivision in the planning area apparently was the Brentwood Country Club and Cabin Sites. This 160 acre, 584 lot development was created in 1926 before the County adopted subdivision regulations. It was originally intended as a summer recreation area, but the plans never fully materialized. Over the past few decades approximately 60 permanent units have been built on Brentwood lots, some of which have been consolidated. As one of two major nonconforming subdivisions in the planning area (Park Forest Estates being the other), Brentwood has been the subject of considerable study and attention.
Trends 1985 - Present
Other than Brentwood and a few other isolated cases, there are few indications of subdivision activity in the planning area prior to the late 1950's. Since 1958 at least 3,483 lots have been legally created by subdivision in the planning area (see Table 10). Almost exactly half of these (1,789) were created during the 16 year period prior to the adoption of the original Preservation Plan. During the 12 years (1974-1985) since the Plan was adopted 1,694 additional lots have been created. the overall rate of subdivision has been approximately 125 new lots per year. The average size of a newly created lot increased slightly for the period from 1974 to the present. The average of all subdivision lots is now 5.27 acres.
If the total of 18,354 subdivided acres shown in Table 10 were adjusted upward to account for roads, drainageways and public parcels it is reasonable to assume that slightly more than one fourth of the planning area is now subdivided for rural residential uses.
Small Lot Subdivision
Table 11 lists the 16 major filings in the current Black Forest Planning Area which have average lot sizes significantly below 5.0 acres.
Of the 16 filings listed , 10 were platted before the original Plan took effect. Of the 6 remaining, 4 are located in medium to high density areas as designated in the 1974 Plan and 2 (Walden #4 and Walden #5) are part of a Sketch Plan (MP-74-004) which was approved at approximately the same time as the original Plan. It would therefore appear that no new residential subdivisions have been approved which are wholly inconsistent with the 1974 plan. While lot area variances have been approved for a number of existing lots, additional smaller lots have generally not been created in areas where they were not recommended.
Ultimate Residential Buildout Analysis --
The parcel sizes and subdivision activity information summarized above was used to analyze the potential residential holding capacity (ultimate buildout) under a number of different scenarios.
Table 12 indicates that the planning area could be considered almost 50% built out if the number of existing units were compared to the number of unimproved residential lots which are developable under current zoning. However, this proportion drops to 44% if it is assumed that the owners of lots which do not conform to current zoning are allowed variances to develop their properties. If it is further assumed that all parcels were subdivided and then developed to the maximum extent allowed under current zoning than the area's holding capacity would be in excess of 15,000 units. Under this scenario the Black Forest Planning area would only be 14% developed at the present time. None of these scenarios account for the likely rezoning of certain parcels such as those in the Cooperative Planning Area. Even fairly limited areas or urban density development would greatly increase the buildout calculations. For example if one were to assume that five percent of the current planning area were developed to a gross residential density of five dwelling units per acre almost 20,000 additional units could be accommodated, bringing the total buildout to nearly 35,000.
Commercial Land Use --
Existing and Proposed Uses
Since the 1974 Preservation Plan was adopted, only limited commercial development has taken place in the planning area. Area residents continue to rely primarily on commercial centers located outside of the planning area.
Two commercial nodes which are presently operating within the planning area were well established prior to 1974. These are the "community center" located at the intersection of Black Forest and Shoup Roads and "Glover's Corner" which is situated one mile south of the community center. Each has undergone some expansion, but they have managed to maintain much of their rural residential character. The 1974 Plan stipulated that new commercial uses in this portion of the planning area only be located in proximity to these two intersections.
The third operating commercial area is the Trails Equestrian Center located on Latigo Boulevard about a mile east of Meridian Road. This cluster of shops was developed in conjunction with the equestrian complex in the early 1980's. There has been a recent proposal to expand this area to include office uses.
Two additional presently undeveloped commercial centers are depicted on the Paint Brush Hills Sketch Plan. Both would be consistent with the 1974 Plan if they are built out.
A few other commercial uses are scattered throughout the planning area. Most of these existed prior to zoning of the area and are therefore legal nonconforming uses.
In addition to the five centers discussed above, the original Preservation Plan designated almost two dozen additional potential commercial areas. The majority of these, however, are now located outside of the current planning area boundaries or were associated with the now redefined Latigo Master Plan. One significant exception was a potential commercial node shown at the intersection of Black Forest Road with Hodgen Road. No commercial development has taken place at this site. It was the only commercially designated area depicted much to the north of Shoup Road in the original Plan. No commercial centers were designated for any points directly adjacent to State Highway 83. Significant demand for commercial uses along this corridor is likely to be generated from outside the planning area.
Presently the planning area contains only about 105 acres of commercially zoned property (refer to Table 13). This equates to a little more than one tenth of one percent of the total are. The master planned, but as yet undeveloped Paint Brush Hills commercial centers account for about one half of this acreage. The Trails development, prior to any expansion accounts for about 10 additional acres. The remaining 44 acres (approximate) is fairly evenly distributed between Glover's Corner and the Community Center.
Estimated Commercial Demand
Based on an interpolation County-wide figures generated by the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, the current population of the planning area would "demand" approximately 192,000 square feet of enclosed commercial space if all commercial needs were satisfied internally. Using an assumed floor area ratio (FAR) of 0.20 this would equate to a requirement for about 22 acres of commercial land. This figure does not include land which might be necessary for office, industrial, or outdoor commercial uses. However, it bears noting that many residents of the planning area have repeatedly voiced a preference for travelling outside the rural residential sections of their area to obtain most major purchases and services. This sentiment, when combined with the demand calculations provided above, indicates that the supply of commercially zoned or designated property in the planning area is sufficient to meet the needs of the future rural residential population. The only areas of significant potential future demand will be those which may develop at urban densities, or those which develop in response to external influences.
The approximately 25 acres of commercial zoning associated with Glover's Corner is fairly contiguous and all focused on the actual intersection. Commercial zoning in the vicinity of the Community Center tends to be more linear and discontiguous. All commercially zoned property associated with either center is located within one quarter mile of the respective intersections.
Outside Commercial Influences
Several existing or proposed commercial centers are located outside of the planning area boundaries, but close enough to have a significant influence. These include the shopping center situated adjacent to the planning area at the intersection of Black Forest and Woodmen Roads. Properties further north on Black Forest Road have been proposed for commercial uses in the Briargate Development Group's pending master plan update. In addition, the Woodmen Hills Sketch Plan identifies a large commercial area in the vicinity of the unincorporated Town of Falcon.
In summary, the residents of the planning area rely primarily on outside centers to meet their retail and service needs. The limited commercial development which has taken place in the planning are since 1974 has been predominantly consistent with the original Preservation Plan. In the Timbered Area there is sufficient vacant land available within less than one quarter mile of the two existing commercial intersections to satisfy anticipated locally generated demand. If portions of the planning area (mainly those designated as the Cooperative Planning Area or Southeastern Mixed Use Area) do build out at urban densities they will create significant additional commercial demand. External influences will likely result in substantial pressure to approve commercial uses along State Highway 83. Further development in the northern half of the planning area will create a limited but important demand for some "neighborhood" commercial facilities in this area.
Office Uses --
While employment centers were treated in some detail in the 1974 Plan, offices as a use were not given specific consideration. During the past decade some very limited office development has occurred in association with the three commercial centers described above. In the future it is likely that there will be added pressure to develop various types of office uses in many portions of the planning area. Some of this pressure will be due to advances in telecommunications which place less of a premium on relative location and more on site amenities. Nonetheless, within the context of this plan, office uses other than limited home occupations are considered along with either industrial or commercial uses unless specifically noted otherwise.
Industrial and Extractive Uses --
Existing Uses and Trends
Industrial and Extractive uses in the current planning area are generally confined to the Vollmer and Woodmen Road Corridors in a zone within two miles of the southern planning area boundary. A portion of this area (southeast of Vollmer Road) was designated for industrial purposes in the 1974 Plan with the recommendation that the area not be expanded. Additional industrial areas were depicted along the southeastern periphery of the original planning area. Only one of these is substantially within the current planning area. It is located along Eastonville Road about three miles north of the Falcon townsite and is undeveloped at this time. A limited "light industrial" area was approved as part of the Paint Brush Hills Sketch Plan. This area was not shown as industrial on the original Preservation Plan and has yet to be developed.
Significant expansion of the Vollmer "industrial node" has occurred since 1974. At that time one approximately 40 acre site (south of Vollmer near the Colorado Interstate Gas pipeline) was being used for industrial purposes. This property was included in the approximately 50 acres which were zoned for industrial uses within the planning area. About a mile south on Vollmer, near the present Pioneer Sand operation, there was a mining area of possible 200 acres.
At this time there are several active operations in this vicinity including mining, concrete production and an asphalt plant. In excess of 200 acres are now zoned for industrial purposes and additional acreage is approved for mineral extraction as a special use.
Extraction is a fairly difficult use to categorize since its impacts may be comparable to industrial uses while it may be somewhat distinct in terms of its legal and functional definitions. While the "removal" of mineral deposits may be considered a non-industrial use, extensive "processing" of these materials in the vicinity often becomes clearly industrial in nature.
The 1974 Plan did not specifically address appropriate sites for extractive uses. The County's Master Plan for the Extraction of Commercial Mineral Deposits was subsequently adopted in 1975 and amended in 1978. This document identified much of the Vollmer Road corridor as a potential source of commercial mineral deposits. This means that if the Board of County Commissioners determines that commercial deposits do exist in an area, no land uses may be approved which would preclude their future removal. Such a finding does not mean that a mining operation should automatically be approved for the same site.
The potential for blowing dust and dirt associated with extraction operations is particularly great in the southern portion of the planning area. This may result in the loss of the extremely thin topsoil layers. An additional factor which merits attention related to potential location of industrial or extractive uses in the planning area is the possibility of groundwater contamination. Since the entire planning area is underlain by bedrock aquifers it would be logical to expect that any requests for industrial or extractive uses be evaluated to determine any adverse impact on groundwater.
In the current planning area, the only area of significant industrial development is in the vicinity of Vollmer Road. Although the 1974 Plan advocated no expansion of this industrial node, several new operations have subsequently been approved. Mining operations have also been expanded. These were not clearly addressed in the original document. Continued demand for construction materials will result in pressure to further expand these uses in the future. Additionally, the construction of parkway or expressway through the southern portion of the planning area will likely act as an inducement for the location of industrial uses in the corridor.
Agricultural Land Uses --
Although much of the nonforested portion of the planning area has been cultivated in the past, grazing is now the predominant agricultural land use in the planning area. Some dryland farming does take place in the Cherry Creek basin in the north central portion of the planning area. The Cherry Creek watershed also contains the only lands in the planning area identified as agriculturally significant by the Soil Conservation Service in a 1979 survey. The 1985 survey of County Assessor's records showed approximately 2,300 acres or three percent of the planning area assessed as non-irrigated farmland. Nearly 60% of the area was assessed as grazing land. Land Use Department staff are not aware of any significant timber harvesting having taken place since the 1950's. There has been some clear-cutting associated with forest management projects. As the current timber stand matures, a demand may arise for cutting of lumber and firewood.
Other Land Uses --
There are certain land uses which may technically fall under the five categories described above, but which may not do so conveniently. These include recreation camps, churches, indoor and outdoor education facilities, utilities, utility corridors, wholesale nurseries and others. Most of these uses are treated as either principally permitted or special uses in the current zoning regulations. Some are clearly necessary in the area and others are more discretionary. Since it is impossible to fully consider the full array of land use situations in a document of this nature it will be necessary to evaluate some requests in terms of their consistency to the intent rather than the letter of the Plan.
The approximate mix of existing zoning in the planning area is provided in Table 14. Over 98% of the planning area is either unzoned or zoned for rural or rural residential uses. In the future it is anticipated that there will be a shift toward various planned or "overall density" zones even in areas where density remains very low.
Included in the planning area are a number of subdivisions which contain legally nonconforming lots. They include the Brentwood and Park Forest Estates subdivisions which are zoned A-4 (Agricultural) with a five acre minimum lot size. Lot areas in these subdivisions are predominately 10,000 square feet or 2.5 acres respectively. Historically, Board of Adjustment lot area variances have been granted for these subdivisions on a fairly routine basis, but residents have been encouraged to consolidate lots, especially if they are under the same ownership.
For the past two decades the predominant model for rural residential development in the planning area has been the conventional subdivision with 5 acre lots. While this model has worked fairly well in portions of the planning area, it has certain disadvantages. These may include high road and utilities costs, potential environmental degradation, a lack of large or communally owned open spaces and visual obtrusiveness.
Alternatives to conventional subdivision include several which incorporate the concept of "overall density".
With overall density, average parcel size or density is kept at or above a determined threshold, but
the developer is allowed to "cluster" lots or structures on only a portion of the property. A potential disadvantage of these approaches relates to a concern that it may indirectly establish a precedent for additional higher density conventional development. There is a related concern as to whether it can be reasonably assured that communally-held open space will remain open in perpetuity.
This section begins with a discussion of the various categories of overall density development. Several advantages and disadvantages of the approach are then considered. Specific overall density alternatives are described and a comparative analysis of various implementation techniques follows.
Definitions and Categories of Overall Density Development --
Conventional residential subdivisions are characterized by a predominance of individually owned parcels of the same general size, shape and relative orientation. Only rights-of-way, school sites and park sites are publicly maintained. Typically there is no communally owned open space. The entire site is ordinarily interspersed with roads in order to provide access to all parcels.
In an overall density subdivision, by comparison, the units (and sometimes the lots) are grouped to allow for communal open space, hazard mitigation and development economies. Typically, the units are concentrated on the most buildable or least sensitive parts of the site.
State and local water and sanitation rules and regulations have the effect of dividing overall density options into two distinct categories. The first is "large lot cluster" where each individual parcel is large enough to accommodate an individual well and septic system. Large lot cluster developments will ordinarily have minimum lot sizes of at least 2.5 acres. This results from the minimum 2.5 acre standard used by the County Health Department in the issuance of permits for individual sewage disposal systems on new subdivision lots. Subject to the demonstration of an adequate water supply, the Office of the State Engineer may issue a domestic well permit for lots as small as 2.5 acres if a detailed augmentation plan is prepared.
Any option incorporating lots of less than 2.5 acres would therefore require some form of centralized water
and sewer service. Much smaller lot sizes or even multifamily units could potentially be incorporated into these
"small lot cluster" subdivisions.
Comparative Advantages --
Advantages of the Conventional Approach:
In summary, the conventional option has the least amount of uncertaintly.
Advantages of Overall Density:
In summary, the overall density approach has potential long term economic, visual and environmental advantages which must be balanced against the administrative complexity and uncertainty associated with the option.
Specific Overall Density Options --
Several specific overall density options are listed below and described in the following subsection:
Variations in Lot Layout
Some of the benefits of overall density can be achieved merely by modifying the layout of conventional subdivisions. For example, large lots may be oriented around short access roads or cul-de-sacs and building pads can be restricted to specific portions of the site through plat notes, a development plan (PUD approach), covenants or preservation easements. In this way more "perceived" open space can be made available without having to administer common parcels. This approach may be useful to either add character to an otherwise monotonous development or to accent and protect the natural and visual surroundings of an area.
Assuming that roads are built to County standards and 30 feet of road frontage is available for each lot, changes to the Land Development Code would probably not be needed to utilize this approach. A planned unit development regulation which allowed for the specification of building pads would aid in the administration of this option.
Conventional Subdivisions in Combination with Separately Dedicated Open Space
Another modification which would be short of full clustering would involve the combination of a smaller lot residential subdivision with a separately dedicated open space for the purpose of achieving higher net densities without lowering the overall density. The open parcels could either be dedicated as public parklands or deeded to a not-for-profit institution. In effect this transfers the burden of administration and maintenance away from the homeowners and to another entity. In all cases there would have to be a substantial assurance that the open parcel remains undeveloped in perpetuity. It will also be critical to evaluate any subsequent development proposals in terms of same overall densities and not relative to what may first appear to be a newly established higher density pattern. Another potential problem with this option is the possibility that the open space might revert to private ownership and thus be developable under existing zoning.
There are several ways of supporting this combined approach through the regulatory structure. The first would
be to strongly endorse it in elements of the County Master Plan. The existing Land Development Code would probably not need to be altered if it was used to upzone the
subdivided area to allow for the necessary density. The dedicated area could either retain its existing classification
or be downzoned to
an A-35 (Agricultural) or equivalent designation. A new as yet undefined open space zone could also be employed. Use of this option would require revisions to the Code. In addition, new regulations would be needed to legally tie together the land use plans of separate parcels. A number of these implementation options are considered later in this section.
Common Interest Subdivisions
A "common interest" subdivision is a generic term for any subdivision in which land or facilities are held in, or maintained through, common ownership rather than conveyed to an outside entity. Examples would include private roads, trails, open spaces and club houses. Most of the options discussed in this section could include such an interest and therefore qualify under this definition. The common interest is ordinarily recorded with the deed to the property, and provisions for administration and maintenance may be made through covenants. Enforcement and administration of covenants and deed restrictions is ultimately the responsibility of the property owners who are party to the agreement. The County may maintain some indirect control through its ability to initially approve or deny development plans which incorporate these mechanisms.
Large Lot Cluster Developments
As defined previously in this section large lot cluster developments are those which may be served by individual well and septic systems. Minimum lot size is ordinarily 2.5 acres as dictated by state and local regulations. Assuming an overall density of one dwelling unit per five acres this option allows for up to 50% of a subdivision to be set aside as open space.
This particular option has at least two potential drawbacks in addition to those generic to any development which might include communally-owned area. One is a probable need to develop a detailed plan to augment consumptively used groundwater since the augmentation plan can be very expensive and time consuming. The other is the possible need to rezone.
This option could be accomplished by using the Land Development Code as currently written, and rezoning the subdivided area to allow for
smaller lot sizes. For the planning area this would ordinarily mean using the A-6 (Agricultural) zoning district
for the developable lots. Treatment of the remaining area might be problematic. If current zoning were retained
for these areas it would be difficult to ensure that they are
not eventually subdivided to some degree. A planned unit development, an overall density zoning overlay or an open space zone could be employed to provide more assurance of perpetual open space.
Small Lot Cluster Developments
Besides the obvious difference in lot sizes small lot clusters differ from their large lot counterparts primarily in that they require some form of shared or centralized water and sewer system. This requirement makes their application in a predominantly rural residential area problematic from both a technical and perceptual standpoint. These constraints notwithstanding rural residential small lot clusters could result in a very significant reduction in infrastructure cost as well as in the preservation of large amounts of open space. In those portions of the planning area which will be designated for higher than rural residential densities, this option could be more easily employed.
A rural residential example of this option would be a cluster of 8 semi-attached units on one or two acres of a 40 acre tract. Depending on the site and on design the internal roadway system could be as short as a few hundred feet. The need for utility corridors would likewise be reduced, and site disturbance would be minimized. With this option additional types of housing could be workable in the planning area. For example, a housing complex for individuals incapable of functioning in highly separated units (e.g. senior citizens) might be workable using this concept.
The El Paso County Land Development Code currently requires a centralized sewer system for subdivisions where individual lot sizes are less than 2.5 acres. The County Health Department does allow up to three units on one septic system when the flow is 2,000 gallons per day or less. If a clustering approach were used it is possible that the County would allow up to three units to be served by an individual disposal field if an acceptable maintenance agreement were developed. All sewage treatment systems of over 2,000 gallons per day are subject to the approval of the State Health Department.
While there may be technical and regulatory difficulties in adapting small lot clusters to the rural residential portions of the planning area, the main constraint is largely economic. For example it would be unlikely that a subdivision could be designed in which the owners of one acre lots could, or would have a desire to financially "carry" an average of 4 acres of undeveloped community property for each buildable lot.
Implementation Techniques --
The concept of overall density can only be successful if there are means available to implement it. Viable implementation mechanisms need to allow for flexibility while at the same time providing assurances that the proposed development will "perform" as it was intended to. Discussed below by category are several different implementation techniques. These categories include:
While many of these mechanisms are applicable to a variety of uses in both small and large lot clustering alternatives, emphasis in this discussion is on how they may relate to rural residential developments.
--Existing Conventional Zoning Districts
The County Land Development Code provides a range of conventional residential and agricultural zoning districts which could be applied to secure some of the benefits of clustering. An example would be a large lot cluster development where the individual parcels would be zoned A-6 (Rural Residential) (allowing minimum 2.5 acre lot sizes) with the common parcel(s) zoned A-4 or A-35 (Agricultural). This approach has been used successfully in the planning area. However, with this option there is a limit to the extent that the common parcel(s) can be legally tied to the remainder of the project. There is some potential that open tracts could eventually be subdivided even if they are noted as undevelopable on the plat. The chances of potential development are increased if the open parcel is given the same zoning as those parcels adjacent to it. This option is further limited by the range of conventional zones presently available. Additionally, County subdivision regulations also mandate several types of urban improvements which must be installed if an individual lots of less than 2.5 acres are proposed. The Code contains no comprehensive provision for relief from these standards based on the gross reduction of impacts which might be obtained through the use of an overall density approach.
-- Park and Open Space Zone
To alleviate the problem of what zoning district to apply to open tracts the County could adopt a specific zone which would principally permit only park and open space uses. Use of this zone would guarantee that a substantial change in use could only take place following a successful attempt at rezoning. This request would have to be given a full public hearing before the Board of County Commissioners. The use of such a zone would still not legally bind the developed and undeveloped portions of the project. It is also possible that a narrowly defined park and open space zone would not be deemed permissive enough to be upheld by the courts.
-- Transfer of Development Rights
The concept of transfer of development rights (TDR) extends from the notion that there are actually a "bundle" of rights associated with any property, and that one of these is the right to develop at any given density. If it is further assumed that these development rights are separable than it is logical that they could be transferred from one project to another. Most TDR plans designate "sending" and "receiving" areas within a larger planning area. Development rights can then be defined (usually in terms of dwelling units) and assigned (usually on a per acre basis) to the property in the sending area. This assignment is ordinarily made relative to the development opportunity which will be relinquished relative to what would have been allowable had the sending area not been designated for special protection.
Once defined and assigned these rights can then be sold on a relatively open market and applied as a density bonus (up to a certain threshold) in the receiving areas. In order for the system to function there has to be a balance between the sending and receiving areas and enough overall limits on land use to create a market for the rights. Even when the system is functional it involves fairly complex administration. Given the required prerequisites it is unlikely that a TDR system could be successfully employed to provide open space in the planning area.
-- Overall Density Option
If adopted by the County an overall density zoning option would provide the advantage of legally tying open space to the remainder of a development without a need to materially deviate from zoning regulations as they are now written. The option could be applied to any conventional agricultural or residential zone to allow greater site specific densities on a portion of a parcel in exchange for reduced densities elsewhere on the site. By requiring a development plan to be filed when the option is exercised, all uses in the project can be legally bound. Once the option was applied additional changes could not be made without a full public hearing. The advantage of this approach is that it would allow internal flexibility in subdivision layout without allowing for any deviation in either the permitted uses or the overall density stipulated in the original zoning.
-- Full Planned Unit Development (PUD)
Overall density projects could also be accommodated as part of a full planned unit development (PUD) approved as a separate and independent zone, if the County adopts appropriate regulations. Since this type of zone is inherently flexible it could be used to accommodate any reasonable overall density alternative as well as additional "low impact" uses not permitted in a conventional zone. Because the adopted development plan would, in effect, become the zoning district there would be no problem legally tying together the whole land use package. Such regulations would also require that a mechanism be created to maintain any common open space.
A potential problem with this approach is that it could provide more land use and density flexibility than is desired for the rural residential portions of this planning area. If not carefully monitored, successive PUD approvals could begin to incrementally deviate from the overall intent of the Master Plan.
Methods of Open Space Treatment
-- Dedication to Parks Authority
The open space created in association with an overall density development could be deeded to the County Parks Department if they would accept it. This approach transfers responsibility for liability and maintenance to the public sector in exchange for public use of the property. Depending on the situation, public dedication can provide a reasonable assurance that the property will perpetually remain as open space. For certain large and unique parcels, this certainly would be the preferred approach. The main problem with park dedication is that park authorities are seldom interested in small rural residential parcels. From the property owners' standpoint, public access might also be viewed as a negative aspect. Finally, the Parks Department is ordinarily free to sell or lease its property. It is possible that an open tract could revert to private ownership by this means.
-- Common Interest Parcel
A common way of handling open space created in association with an overall density project is to simply designate the undeveloped status of the parcel as a note on the plat. The property could either remain in the ownership of the developer, title could be transferred to a homeowner's association or partial ownership could be conveyed to all property owners in the development as an "undivided interest". Since zoning designations ordinarily take precedence over platting when the issue is one of use, the first alternative is not a good means of guaranteeing that a parcel remains open. It is also a poor means of dealing with the issues of maintenance and tax and insurance liability. The second alternative establishes a mechanism for community maintenance and control of the parcel but does not necessarily ensure that the parcel is kept maintained, free from tax liability and open. If the parcel is treated as an undivided interest than the issue of insurance and maintenance may remain, but the problem of property tax liability is distributed to the individual parcels so it is unlikely that the parcel could directly go to tax sale.
-- Not-for-Profit Institution
The undeveloped parcel(s) or their development rights could also be deeded to a not-for-profit institution as a means of ensuring that the land remains undeveloped and providing for its perpetual care. This mechanism can have very favorable tax advantages to the developer in some situations. A variant of this mechanism would be to allow a donation in one area to be applied to a geographically separate project.
This sort of density transfer might be difficult to administer. In all not-for-profit dedications there would be a concern with legally tying the dedicated portion to the remainder of the project.
-- Preservation Easements
Another method of accommodating open space in an overall density development would be to designate large portions of each individual tract as undevelopable open space easements rather than create separate open tracts. The easements could be arranged to create what would be perceived as collectively large open spaces. Within its obvious limitations this mechanism would be a very good means of ensuring that specific naturally or visually sensitive areas would remain undeveloped. Other than enforcement of setbacks there would be no overriding problems with administering this system once it was set up.
Property Tax Options
Several of the overall density alternatives and implementation mechanisms discussed thus far are highly influenced by the property tax structure. A concern with tax liability and potential tax sale can undermine what might otherwise be a sound method of providing open space. Tax assessment practices are to a great extent governed by state law, but there is some latitude available in the treatment of common tracts. A simple understanding of the implications of property tax could be critical in the design of a successful overall density project.
-- Traditional Taxing Methods
The normal procedure for taxing a platted open space parcel which is part of a residential subdivision is to assess it as undeveloped residential property and bill the owner of record. The owner is typically either the developer or a community association. The problem with this approach is that it tends to overvalue the property since it is assessed as potentially developable. Because the parcel in fact has limited development potential it is not uncommon for the owner of record to default on the taxes unless a sound method of payment has been established.
-- Assessment based on residential value when compared to entire project
Under this scenario the open parcels can be somewhat devalued to reflect the added value created by the developable lots. A possible example is provided below:
-- Attributing shares of an "undivided interest" to all buildable lots
The method used above could be modified to attribute an equal interest in the communal parcel to all buildable parcels. With this interest would come a prorated share of the open parcel's tax liability. Assuming the entire project is financially sound it would be difficult for an open parcel to revert to single private ownership under this scenario.
-- Changes to State Law
Another potential assessment mechanism would be an "open space" use category which could be applied in the assessment of common tracts. In 1982 the State Attorney General ruled that the use of such a category constituted preferential treatment. However, it is possible that this position could change in the future if the category were used in strictly defined situations. If available, this option could substantially reduce the problem of common tax liability.
Maintenance and Administration Methods
-- No Formal Structure
It may be possible for a loosely organized community group to administer a low maintenance open area if all that is required is an occasional cleanup and the provision of liability insurance. However, over the long term and in cases where expenditures are substantial there is a strong likelihood that such a system will fail. For this reason most jurisdictions now require that more formal maintenance and administration mechanisms be employed. For El Paso County this requirement is spelled out in Section 38 of the Land Development Code.
-- Homeowners or Community Association
The most common maintenance and administration mechanism for small and moderate scale overall density projects is a community association. These are established early in the development process as a recorded covenant running with the land. Community associations are normally governed by a board of directors in which the developer has a majority vote until a specified number of lots have been sold. The association has the authority to assess property owners for insurance, landscaping and maintenance, and enforcement of regulations. Keys to assuring a successful community association include a realistic estimation of required financing as well as clear and properly executed documents. From the County perspective there is an additional concern with the fact that community associations are governed through the use of covenants. Since the County does not get involved in the enforcement of covenants the associations are left to police themselves.
For some larger projects it may be feasible to tie the maintenance of community open space together with other services which may be provided through a special or metropolitan district. These districts certainly have the financial tools provided for common open space since they may issue bonds and levy taxes. It is also possible the set up a special district solely for the purpose of providing park and recreation facilities. The drawbacks of special districts include the fact that they are somewhat difficult to set up and that because they can issue bonds and levy taxes they clearly represent an additional layer of government.
The Black Forest Planning Area has long been considered to have a unique visual character worthy of protection and enhancement. However, the original Preservation Plan did not attempt to comprehensively address the issue of visual quality. A detailed visual analysis has been prepared as part of this planning effort. Based on field surveys, individual units have been identified and described. Chapter III includes specific design recommendations for each unit. The expectation is that this analysis will represent a point of departure for more site-specific visual analyses which should be conducted for individual projects.
Description of Visual Units --
Eleven distinct visual units have been delineated for the planning area. The approximate boundaries of each unit are shown on Map 11. Also delineated on the map are a few representative community focal points. It should be noted that these boundaries are not the same as those of the planning units, which are used in Chapter III as the basis for the overall land use plan, but many are somewhat comparable. The analysis of each visual unit is predominately graphic in nature and fairly complex. An attempt has been made to textually describe each unit in the following discussion, but users of this document are encouraged to reference the complete visual analysis which is on file at the Land Use Department.
1. Highway 105 Entry/Spruce Hill
Sloping generally to the northwest, this unit is sharply defined by the tree line to the south and on the east in the middle ground by Spruce Hill. The northern boundary is blurred by a cluster of bluffs in the background. Residential uses in the central portion of the unit conform to topography and have low visual impact. The western portion of the unit is generally open and rolling with middle ground down slope views. Highway 83 forms a sharp boundary on the west and gives the entire unit high visual exposure. One is provided with a false sense of entry to the Timbered Area proper when traveling east on Highway 105.
Historic Site - Pettigrew Ranch
Gently sloping in all directions, this largely undeveloped unit has the potential for major visual changes. The unit is sharply defined on the south and east by the tree line. The northern boundary is blurred with views of bluff formations. Prominent visual features in the area include the microwave tower, fences and drainage features. Residential development in the northwest portion of the unit primarily occurs on the crest of hills. Black Forest Road south from Hodgen is both a visual corridor and a perceived visual entry point to the Timbered Area. Topography produces upslope views in all directions. Panoramic views to the Front Range and Pikes Peak occur at several locations.
|Historical Sites:||Table Rock|
|- Indian Burial
|Steppler Potato Cellar|
|Evans Stage Stop|
3. West Kiowa Creek
This unit slopes primarily northeast with bluffs to the north serving as the visual focal point. The treeline and power lines to the south sharply delineate the edge of this unit. In the eastern portion, lot and structure orientation is on an east/west axis, contrasting with the north/south orientation of the topography. The area is largely undeveloped, giving it a rural character. Views are upslope and visual impacts are minimal.
4. Northeast Corner
Sloping to the East, this unit is visually defined by treed bluffs on the north and east side. Traveling east in this area offers panoramic views of a rural "new valley". Residential development to the south contrasts with this unit. Visual impacts are low.
Historic Site - Fagans Grave
5. Timbered Area
This unit slopes in all directions. The effect is that of moving through a rolling wooded corridor and alternately being presented with panoramic views to the Front Range. In most cases attention within this unit focused on the foreground which is the tree canopy or the forest floor. The texture is coarse and the boundary is sharp, broken only by power lines or an occasional meadow. The far western and eastern portions of this unit are subject to potential major visual change. The northern portion of this unit has large mature ponderosas with the tree canopy beginning approximately eight feet from the ground. This forms a "forest floor" effect with semi-penetrable views. In the southern portion of the unit, power lines become more visible and trees are smaller and closer together. The tree canopy is lower to the ground and diffuse. Further south trees thin out and drainages and road cuts become more apparent. Due to road alignments in the area, most structures and lots are oriented either east/west or north/south. The Timbered Area contains several unique cultural features, including the community center and the Burgess/Black Forest commercial node which are shown on Map 11.
|Historical Sites:||Black Forest Church|
|Black Forest School|
|Black Forest Community Hall|
|Black Forest Store|
|La Foret Lodge|
|La Foret Chapel|
Primarily sloping to the northeast this unit is sharply defined on all edges by the Timbered Area. Vegetation is mature with tree canopy beginning six to eight feet creating an open forest floor. Views from the rolling topography are usually downslope, and the character is rural. This unit is distinguished from the West Kiowa Creek unit by the power line. Natural features such as the perched water table provide accent to the unit. The area is developed to the south and undeveloped to the north. It is an area of high visual impact.
Historic Site - Pine Cone Ranch
In this unit slopes to the northeast and bluffs to the east form a blurred boundary. The treeline appears to be semi-penetrable to the west. The northern and southern boundaries are essentially unperceivable. This unit has less relief when compared to visual unit #4. There are panoramic views to eastern El Paso County and at some points to Pikes Peak. Upslope middle ground views to existing residential development produce a broken contrasting texture.
|Historical Sites:||Grandview Ranch|
|Billy Paul Barn|
This unit slopes to the east and is dominated by panoramic views of the Air Force Academy, Front Range and Pikes Peak. Largely undeveloped, the area has potential for major visual change. The northern and eastern boundaries are naturally defined by the forest edge. The Forest acts as a visual backdrop, especially when viewed from I-25. The major drainage features of the unit, Kettle and Black Squirrel Creeks, add relief to the visual landscape.
Historic Site - The Lazy M-D
With foreground and middle ground views oriented by slope to the south, this area is considered the visual entry point of the Timbered Area. The boundary is clearly defined by the Forest edge on the eastern side, but is more diffused to the west where the landscape changes to a mix of scrub oak. For the most part the area is developed with residences penetrating the treeline. The area transitions from industrial uses in the south to open rolling terrain with gentle drainage in the north. This creates downslope views in the area that is still not developed. Black Forest and Vollmer Roads offer visual entry points to the Timbered Area.
This unit slopes to the south and views follow the downslope to foreground and middle ground objects. The area is perceived as more urban in nature. The landscape of the unit is fairly open and level with gentle drainages. As one approaches more developed areas the landscape may be considered as clustered objects contrasting with existing site character. Unlike the other units in the planning area this unit is dominated by deciduous trees, yucca and grasses with a finer texture. Although the western portion of this unit should be considered as a visual entry point, industrial uses, traffic, deteriorating roads, noise, and lack of screening pull the focus away from panoramic views or the Forest edge. This unit has the potential for major visual change, either negative or positive.
Historic Site - Indian Doctor's Place
11. The Plains
Generally sloping east to southeast with downslope foreground views, this unit offers panoramic views to eastern El Paso County. Large power lines form a blurred boundary and impart a broken texture to the development on the west. The central portion of this unit is flat, open and exposed. The eastern portion has pronounced foreground views accented by natural drainages. The focal point of the north-central area is the Trails Equestrian Center and the complementary residential development oriented around it.
Historic Site - Ayer Ranch