Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Manitou Springs’ Pay-to-Park Program May Soon Change

A little known fact about Manitou Springs’ controversial pay-to-park enforcement program: its current hours of parking enforcement, 7am-8pm, were not the original hours as agreed upon by city council and the city’s parking authority board (PAB). The city and Standard Parking company, the business hired by the city to install and implement the existing pay-to-park and enforcement program, originally agreed the hours would be 6am-6pm.

In documents released on the city’s website of a PAB meeting held earlier this summer, a company official claimed “informal conversations” led to the change from the original hours of enforcement (6am-6pm) to the current 7am-8pm format. The same person also added that to change parking enforcement hours back to the original hours (6am-6pm) would “not necessarily be based on sound information.”

Despite at least one city councilor expressing disappointment with the unauthorized change in hours of parking enforcement, the on-season hours remained between 7am-8pm, anyway. On-season is between March 1 and November 30.

In recent weeks, business owners have taken to social media to air their concerns and complaints the enforcement program was driving tourists away from the city.

Earlier this week, a parking authority board member responded to a Facebook post that suggested someone start a “movement” to change the hours of parking enforcement. PAB board member Kari Kilroy left a comment her board would address city council and recommend going to an off-season schedule and would include the old 3-hour rule, which allowed people to park in a parking spot for up to 3 hours at a time. 

Off-season runs between December 1 and March 1.

Here are previous options for hours of off-season parking enforcement as discussed by the PAB and city council:

Option A:
  • Leave existing parking enforcement hours unchanged, 7am-8pm
Option B:
  • Downtown Area
    • 9am-6pm Monday – Friday
    • 8am-8pm Saturday - Sunday
  • Ruxton Avenue/Barr Trail Lot
    • 7am-6pm Monday - Friday
    • 7am-8pm Saturday - Sunday
Option C:
  • Downtown Area 
    • 9am-5pm Monday-Friday
  • Ruxton Avenue & Barr Trail Lot
    • 7am-5pm Monday-Friday
  • All Areas
    • 8am-7pm Saturday & Sunday

The next PAB meeting will be Friday, December 13, 2013, at 8am.

City council next meets November 19, 2013, at 7pm.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How To Follow City Council Meetings Online

Are you wanting to go to city council meetings but are afraid you won’t know enough about what’s going on? Or maybe you wish you could go to city council meetings but can’t because you have a family to feed, kids to put to bed, and work in the morning?

Not to worry: this is for you. Following Manitou Springs city council meetings is not hard to do, especially since you’re reading this post online.

First, start at the city council’s information website or portal:

Now click on a blue, highlighted Agenda link (any will do): this is a brief summary (in pdf file format) of what will be discussed by city council during a meeting. Sometimes, additional information is provided, as with this update about next week’s (November 6) city council meeting being held outside City Hall: “The meeting will be held at the Congregational Church, 103 Pawnee Ave.”

Back on the city council’s information website/portal page, you’ll also notice Minutes and Packets, two fields of information specific to city council meetings. Both links contain pdf files loaded with lots of details; the Packet is a highly detailed version of Minutes and also includes Minutes from previous city council meetings.

Let’s do an example:

May 21, 2013 City Council meeting - Section G. New Business

Agenda: G. New Business - 1. Approve First Amendment to Agreement for Professional Services between Ensign Engineering and Land Surveying, Inc. and the City of Manitou Springs

Minutes: “Roger Miller, Project Manager with Ensign Engineering, explained that he spent 22 hours to correct and validate the County Assessor’s address list along Ruxton Avenue, which was outside the scope of the original agreement. This amendment provides $3,300 in additional compensation for this work.
Councilwoman Toll arrived at this time.
Upon a motion by Mayor Pro Tem Carpenter and a second by Councilwoman Toll, the first amendment to the agreement for professional services was approved with the change that Jack Benson will be the one authorized to sign in behalf of the City. Motion carried 6-1 with Councilman Gerbig voting against. Councilman Gerbig stated that he was opposed because the City underpays many city employees.”

Packet: Beginning on page 30, you can read the email correspondence between Manitou Springs city administrator Jack Benson and Roger Miller regarding Miller’s request for payment.

[Note: Miller was laid off as COO of the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce in late October 2012 due to financial difficulties. Source: Colorado Springs Business Journal.]

If you simply can't go to city council meetings but want to, at least you can somewhat keep track of what city council has been doing. And also, there's the possibility of streaming video online of city council meetings, as done in Los Altos, California.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

One Wall, Too Many Bricks?

Between the August and September floods in Manitou Springs, a wall was built. And that's not all: the wall may have saved the city from much worse flooding.

The Lofts and Shops had a brick wall built around a section of Fountain Creek that curves away from the property. Flooding in August caused a concern the creek would flood again, and a higher brick wall was built to “mitigate” the danger and possibility of flooding, according to documents posted on the city’s website.

Turns out the wall was illegal and the city issued a "cease and desist order" according to a person who left public comments at a September 17 city council meeting.

Fountain Creek. 9/13/13
Dan Folke, city Planning Director, stated the reason for the cease and desist order was because “regulations require that a hearing be held before the Historic Preservation Committee before this type of construction is permitted.” Folke is a city staff liaison with the same HPC.

According to the same page, the HPC did not meet in June or August. A website link to a HPC September 4 meeting remains down.

The illegal wall may have prevented further flooding and destruction. In a photo taken September 13, the creek’s water levels are clearly above the height of the old wall. One can clearly see water could have rushed over the walls onto the pavement and rushed down towards Canon Avenue, already hit hard by flooding in August.

Fountain Creek. 10/1/13
Folke is also the city’s Flood Recovery Manager.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Volunteers Are Priceless

[Note: This was originally submitted to the Gazette's Letters to the Editor July 20th and was in response to the first flash flood that hit Manitou Springs. The Gazette did not publish this post.]

Since Nobody Asked ...

Earlier this summer, there was a flash flood in Manitou Springs. I spent most of two days sweeping sidewalks and shoveling dirt & mud into buckets & their piles. The effort gave me blisters & their scabs on both hands. Three weeks later, I still remind myself I could have worn gloves.

On Monday, July 1st, a flash flood raced through Manitou Springs early in the evening and left behind inches of mud & crud. I was in Old Colorado City when a text message told me the news; I raced home and took pictures of Fountain Creek & downtown Manitou. News vans & reporters had already saturated the city; a local business owner flipped the bird at a passing TV van, and for added emphasis, “Fuck you, man!”

I missed a 10:00AM press conference the next morning because I was sweeping. Since most of the city’s resources were being used to clean Canon Avenue (which had the worse of the flooding), I decided I would sweep the rest of the city’s sidewalks. As the mayor smiled for pretty cameras and talked to reporters with manicured teeth & spiked hair, I was clearing the crosswalk at the intersection of Pawnee & Manitou Avenue because it was filled with mud & silt.

Several people thanked me as I swept. Some were locals I knew and recognized. Two reporters asked me where to get coffee (“I don’t drink coffee but Marika’s is right down the street.”) A Denver TV anchorwoman riding her media bus waved as I crossed Manitou Avenue; she sent me a tweet earlier that morning asking me what was to be done for the city and I replied I’d sweep & shovel (& she never replied).

Wednesday morning, as I swept the sidewalk near a bar & tea shop, a young woman walked up to me & asked why I was sweeping. I told her because the city was busy with Canon Avenue. She nodded silently at me. I liked her question. I added that I loved Manitou Springs and she smiled & nodded. We shook hands, and very soon, she was off with a friend to hike the Manitou Incline.

I swept the sidewalks for the same reason I shovel snow off the sidewalks in winter: because I want to help. Or put more plainly: I volunteer because I love Manitou.

You have to understand: Manitou Springs is a community of eclectic people. Artists, hikers, outdoor fanatics, spiritual merchants, atheists, singers, musicians, hippies, businessmen/women; so many different people live here. To be sure, and to be honest, life isn’t always a bowl of peaches & almond juice in Manitou Springs, but the people make the city what it is, and that is why I volunteer.

I volunteer because I know I’m helping my community & that makes me feel good because it is a win-win-win situation. I know I help when I pick trash off the sidewalks. I know I help by sweeping sidewalks & intersections after a flash flood (or shoveling after a snowstorm.) When people at parking kiosks ask for help, I help them as much as I can.

I don’t have a membership or volunteer at any of the community centers in Manitou Springs. I’m not paid to volunteer, either (and the fact I have to state as much is a rather sad indictment of the present times; I apologize for the digression.)

Not too long ago, I participated in on an online survey that asked questions about volunteering and last summer’s Waldo Canyon fire. I was asked if I had volunteered prior, during, and after the fire (yes on all three counts). I was also asked if I was a member of any community or volunteer organization (nope); and finally, I was asked if the fire had inspired me to volunteer, and my reply was “yes and no.”

I know & have seen countless people stop and pick up trash on the sidewalks in Manitou. I have seen people pick up trash from Fountain Creek. A married couple from Manitou Springs helped clear mud & carried sand bags for businesses along Canon Avenue Tuesday morning after the flash flood. Every day, I see residents and businesses helping tourists at parking kiosks. I know other people (online & not) who volunteer in so many different ways (online & not) and many are not part of volunteer organizations or community centers.

You probably won’t see them on social media bragging about the good deeds they’ve done today. You most likely won’t see them receiving any awards for helping their community in their own, if unnoticed, ways. But I do want to say to them, “Thank you. Your efforts are appreciated. And please don’t stop.”

I don’t mind the scabs I have on both my hands. I’m happy I earned them. I am sure I will earn many more blisters & their scabs as a volunteer before my time on earth is finished. And while I’m at it, I’d like to encourage people to get out and volunteer, whether it be with a volunteer organization or simply doing your own thing(s).

And oh, maybe buy yourself a pair of gloves before you start.

Volunteers aren't paid, not because they're worthless, but because they're priceless. ~ Anonymous

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Could Manitou Springs Be Overrun by Pot Shops?

You would be forgiven if you thought Manitou Springs mayor Marc Snyder was being facetious when he told an Independent reporter back in May of his concern the city would be “overrun” by a dozen pot shops if Colorado Springs rejected retail sales of cannabis. Snyder suggested he and the city council would need to set a pot shop limit in Manitou. 

Manitou Springs is a mountainous enclave of 5,000 souls, most of them liberal folks. Last November, voters approved Colorado’s Amendment 64 by more than a 2-to-1 ratio, which suggests the city is already overrun with weed. And if there is weed in Manitou Springs, it most likely didn’t come from the city’s lone medical marijuana dispensary, which sits just east of the arch that bears the city’s name.

As local media outlets broke the news that Colorado Springs had banned retail sales of cannabis, public attention immediately shifted towards Manitou. Many people tweeted and posted on social media sites that Manitou would get right what Colorado Springs got wrong. Even reporters jumped into the fray, suggesting Manitou’s streets would be paved with greenbacks bought from weed. 

Last week, Snyder reiterated his contention the city needed to be wary of being overrun by pot shops. In a story the Gazette published with Snyder’s updated remarks, it noted, “On average, Manitou has a 2 percent retail space vacancy rate.” 

According to Manitou’s medical marijuana dispensary licensing/code enforcement rules, no stores selling cannabis are allowed downtown. Any business that sells cannabis must be located within commercial zones placed around the city, mainly along Colorado Avenue. Additionally, many of the commercial areas are not developed or are in disrepair. 

With low retail space available in the city, where will the pot shops go? And how many pot shops could exist without Snyder pushing for a limit? 

Manitou Springs is probably too small to hold more than a dozen pot shops under existing regulations. Any future pot shops will probably be small operations serving small groups of clients so as not to attract too much attention from federal prosecutors. There’s also the proximity issues: pot shops cannot be located too closely to one another, schools, neighborhoods, and so on. 

Then there’s the last little bit of the puzzle: current medical marijuana dispensary licensing regulations require businesses and individuals apply through the city council. That means Snyder and the city council cast the final approval (or rejection) of any person or business attempting to open a dispensary (or pot shop) in Manitou Springs. 

If Manitou Springs were to be overrun or turned into a “mecca for marijuana,” it would be solely at the discretion of Snyder and the city council. The city, therefore, stands no chance of being overrun by anything, except, well … pay-to-park signs.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Snyder: City "Leaning" Towards Pot Retail Sales; "Considerations" To Be Addressed

Recently, Manitou Springs mayor Marc Snyder went on public record as stating the city council is “leaning towards” legalizing retail sales of cannabis. Snyder also stated there were “considerations” and “some type of licensing” that had to be addressed as the city moves towards the legal, commercial selling of marijuana products.

Some of the considerations Snyder mentioned:

  • How many shops to be allowed
  • Where should pot shops be located
  • How close to schools can pot shops be located
  • How close to one another can pot shops be located

Snyder and the Manitou Springs city council may copy and apply existing city requirements for medical marijuana centers to retail marijuana sales centers (or pot shops).

Current requirements for medical marijuana dispensaries in Manitou Springs

“As measured from the property boundary, no medical  marijuana center shall be located within five hundred (500) feet of the following:
a. Any educational institution or school, either public or private;
b. Any licensed child care facility;
c. Any alcohol or drug rehabilitation facility

"As measured from the property boundary, no medical marijuana center shall be located within 200 feet of any existing medical marijuana business whether such business is located within or outside of the City."

Other requirements:

  • No advertising signs of any kind is allowed on premises; signs cannot use the words “cannabis," “marijuana” and other phrases and words synonymous with marijuana.
  • No shops in downtown area; can only be located in zones designated as commercial
  • Security systems required.
  • Security surveillance systems required.
  • Robbery & burglary alarm systems required.
  • Can be open only between 8:00am-7:00pm.
  • On-site consumption of cannabis/marijuana prohibited.
  • Secure safe to store/lock marijuana required.
  • Background checks on all employees
  • Must report new hires’ & their background checks to city

City council meets to discuss these considerations and more during a work session August 13 at City Hall (606 Manitou Avenue).

Friday, June 28, 2013

Colorado Springs Hears From Public Regarding Retail Sales of Pot

According to The Gazette, roughly 60 people appeared last night at the Colorado Springs City Council Town Hall meeting to discuss whether that city should opt-in or opt-out of retail sales of marijuana. After Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 last November, local municipalities and counties were given the option to decide whether or not retail sales of marijuana would be allowed.

Manitou Springs city officials have gone on record as preferring a wait-and-see approach to how Colorado Springs deals with retail marijuana sales before voting a ban or approval of retail sales of marijuana. Manitou Springs city administrator Jack Benson, according to the Pikes Peak Bulletin, believes a temporary moratorium is the solution. "I think getting pushed into regulating something ahead of time before we know the answers doesn't seem prudent."

Mayor Marc Snyder has complained about the possibility Manitou Springs could be the only city with retail sales of marijuana in El Paso county. Snyder has cited concerns of Manitou being "overrun by a dozen retail centers and become a mecca for marijuana activity."

Colorado's Amendment 64 was touted by supporters and activists as a way to "Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol" and was approved by a majority of Manitou voters. Recent research indicates there are at least 30 liquor licenses operating in Manitou Springs.

No word yet whether Snyder believes the city is a mecca for alcoholic activity.

"There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns; there are things we do not know we don't know." - former US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfield

Colorado Springs city council is expected to vote on the issue of retail marijuana sales within that city's limits on July 23.

- June 28, 2013