Council postpones Creek Walk Trail construction contract

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It’s time for us to grow as a city and think outside the box. ~ Judith Chandler

By William J. Dagendesh

At the Dec. 20 meeting, Manitou Springs City Council voted 6-1 to postpone the Creek Walk Trail construction contract for 60 days until more can be learned about the surface materials involved.

Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Fortuin opposed.

The contract will build Phase 3 of the Creek Walk Trail — part of the Creek Walk Trail Master Plan — and will connect Schryver Park to the east and Mayfair Avenue to the west. The project includes building a 10-foot wide concrete trail along the existing alignment, and making minor grade and slope improvements to help functionality.

The plan will use a federal grant to construct a multi-use trail that will improve mobility city-wide. Council reviewed the information provided, and voiced concern about concrete pavement construction and removal of trees.

Councilor Judith Chandler spoke about the proposed concrete surface and removing trees she believes are crucial during a climate change.

“My concern is, we’re giving commercial developers an opportunity to develop 90 percent of the lot if they throw in 15 percent permeable surface. … I’m disappointed we didn’t consider this would be a great opportunity to do what other cities are doing, in putting down pervious surfaces. It saddens me we are taking another 15 trees out and that makes it hard for me to sleep at night to vote yes on this,” Chandler said.

“I would like to see the city embrace the fact that we have a climate change crisis and look at these opportunities and how can we best preserve this section of trail, and is 10 feet of concrete and taking out 15 trees the answer? I think it’s time for us to grow as a city and think outside the box,” Chandler said.

Councilor John Shada said he is concerned about the color, rip-rap and embankment construction that will go on.

“I fear it will be some cheap, gray-looking concrete. My other concern is we don’t have an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) picnic table picked out,” Shada said.

City Engineer Dole Grebenik assured council the project is ADA-compliant.

“We have every incentive to make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible,” Grebenik said.

Fortuin said there a number of trade-offs in this plan, but that she would like to see it go forward.

“I think, on balance, the trade-offs are encouraging people to walk and roll. I’m not crazy about a lot of concrete, but that is the standard for how you do this sort of urban trail,” Fortuin said.

Also, council heard the first reading of Ordinance 2322 to adopt the Land Use and Development Code.

The city’s Planning Department worked with Logan Simpson, a firm that specializes in environmental consulting, community planning and landscape architecture design, to reorganize and revise the existing Manitou Springs Title 18 (Zoning Code), Title 16 (Subdivision Code), and Chapter 15.16 (Sign Code) into a unified “LUDC.” The City Planning Commission heard the draft and recommended approval with suggested revisions.

According to City Planner Hannah Van Nimwegen-McGuire, council first heard the LUDC during the Oct. 25 work session when high-level concepts were discussed and a draft was shared for review. The commission heard the draft on Nov. 17.

Since the beginning of the project, the new zoning code needed to be reorganized, streamlined and simplified, but updated to reflect what Manitou Springs wants to see/experience. Through meetings with the Code Committee, public input and input from various city boards, committees, and commissions, the draft LUDC was formed and published.

Once published in September, a public comment period was advertised and residents attended an open house. Staff collected comments, presented them to the Code Committee and incorporated those that the Code Committee felt were appropriate for Manitou.

During the Dec. 20 meeting, Jennifer Gardner with Logan Simpson discussed the project’s growth from inception to the present. She said the project kicked off in 2020, starting with an assessment report by Logan Simpson that outlined strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and issues within the existing zoning code.

“We combined and reorganized all of the existing provisions in all subdivisions and zoning codes, and renamed it the LUDC,” Gardner said.

Preserving Manitou’s character, improving landscape features and simplifying the application procedures were the top priorities discussed.

If adopted, staff is proposing a review at the six-month mark to clean up any missed technical revisions, and at the 12-month mark to assess if any changes are needed. Throughout the year, staff will note any instances when the code was ineffective, confusing or didn’t yield a positive outcome.

However, staff believes the LUDC will be user-friendly, not only improving staff’s ability to locate and consistently apply regulations, but improve the public’s ability to locate information and reasonably understand requirements and processes.

Also, staff believes this updated code better reflects the community’s desires by integrating green-building incentives and other sustainable practices, supporting creating and installing public art, fostering micromobility and preserving Manitou Springs’ unique natural features.

Lastly, council voted 7-0 to approve Stephen Graybill as a regular member of the City Planning Commission. Graybill currently serves on the commission as an alternate member. Commission Chair Alan Delwiche endorsed Graybill as a commission member. He is a 1971 graduate of Littleton High School and 1975 graduate of the University of Denver.

Before retiring a year ago, Graybill served as a system engineer for American Family Insurance for more than 20 years. He was a Microsoft certified system engineer in 2001 and a very small aperture terminal certified operator in 2010.

Also, Graybill served as president of the Youth Advisory Council to the Littleton City Council, president and board member of the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce, member of the Manitou Elementary School Parents Advisory Council and board member of the Business of Art Center, now called the Manitou Art Center.

“He (Graybill) provides constructive contributions to our deliberations. I am confident he will be an effective regular member of the commission,” Delwiche said in a Dec. 9 letter to council.

The next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 3.

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