February 16, 2017 Vol. 16 No. 13
City will get help from state to implement hazard mitigation plan
Written by Jeanne Davant   


Exorcising demons

021617_MSHS_BBB_Rodholm 021617_MSHS_BBB_Sienknect

Top, Lucas Rodholm looks for a shot as Buena Vista players defend the basket on Saturday, Feb. 11. The Mustangs beat the Demons 55-40, then defeated James Irwin on Tuesday for an 18-1 regular-season record.

Above, Cole Sienknecht muscles his way through Buena Vista defenders on Saturday, Feb. 11.

Manitou Springs is one of two Colorado cities to receive a technical assistance grant to help in identifying hazard risks and addressing them through land-use tools.

Manitou will use technical assistance from the state Department of Local Affairs to implement some of the goals and actions in Plan Manitou, Planning Director Wade Burkholder said.

There is no monetary award connected with the grant. Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds will finance the project, and the city is not required to provide any matching funds.

City Council approved a memorandum of understanding with the state department at its Feb. 7 meeting that will allow the project to begin in late spring.

The department, which also awarded Manitou a planning and resilience grant, has engaged a consultant team that will work directly with the city, Planner II Karen Berchtold said.

She was part of a work group that developed a guide called “Planning for Hazards: Land Use Solutions for Colorado.” Published by DOLA in March 2016, the guide was created to help communities conduct hazards risk assessment and reduce risk through land-use tools, incentives and regulations.

After the guide was completed, “they wanted to select some communities to serve as pilot projects to go through the process of developing some of these tools,” Berchtold said. The department chose Milliken, a small but growing community north of Denver, and Manitou.

“We filled the niche of a historic community that’s fairly built out,” Berchtold said. “This project will help us to start to implement some of the recommended actions in our hazard mitigation plan.”

Berchtold said the project’s agenda hasn’t been firmed up yet, but possible topics are site-level assessment of hazard risk, development of a wildland-urban interface code related to wildfire risk and creation of flood-plain incentives.

Regarding site-level assessments, “when a site development or subdivision plan is submitted, we would want to have tools to identify potential hazards and provide recommendations for how to reduce risk,” Berchtold said.

One of the master plan’s recommendations is development of a community wildfire prevention plan, which would precede a wildland-urban interface code.

The Manitou Springs Volunteer Fire Department is undertaking the prevention plan this spring.

“They’ll start looking at our risk in more detail,” Berchtold said. “We’ll build on that to develop some regulatory tools we can apply to reduce risk in the area where you have development up against open space that could pose high wildfire risk.”

Generally, the regulations would relate to managing vegetation on a site to create defensible space around a building and might also address building materials that are less prone to ignition.

The city’s flood plain program could receive scrutiny from the state consultants and planning team.

“In the long term, we want to improve our flood plain standards,” Berchtold said. “For the interim, we’re going to develop a set of incentives to help guide development away from the flood plain. Those might include permitting increased density or building heights on a site, or flexibility with setbacks in areas not in the flood plain.”

The DOLA consultants will host four to six work sessions with a small advisory group of staff and, perhaps, representatives from other agencies, starting in May or June. Burkholder said the project is expected to take seven to 10 months.

Since the city has already put in a lot of work identifying hazards and strategies for risk reduction, the project likely will focus on creating regulations the city can adopt.

“We’re really excited about this,” Berchtold said. “With the hazard mitigation plan, we’ve stressed the importance of implementing the strategies. It’s nice that we’ll be able to move into that phase so quickly.”

Implementing the rest of Plan Manitou, the Community Master Plan, will be a more complex task.

“Once we get through adoption of the master plan, I’ll be able to focus on the implementation piece,” Berchtold said. “We’re working with Clarion Associates to finalize the draft of Plan Manitou, which should be done next week.”

The final draft will be presented to the Planning Commission on March 8. The commission will provide a recommendation to City Council on whether the city should adopt the plan, and Council is scheduled to consider the recommendation at its March 21 meeting.

Public hearings will be conducted at both meetings, providing opportunities for citizens to provide comments on the plan. Opportunities for public involvement will also be provided during the implementation phase.

The final draft of Plan Manitou will be available Feb. 24. The plan will be posted on the site, and print and CD copies will be available at the Planning Department and the library.