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Colorado Municipalities
April 2019

By Karen Berchtold, AICP, Manitou Springs senior planner for long-range planning


Manitou Springs Planning Meeting

A Path to Resilience and Sustainability

By Karen Berchtold, AICP, Manitou Springs senior planner for long-range planning

In April 2017, after considerable coordination and preparation, the City of Manitou Springs adopted “Plan Manitou,” an integrated master/hazard-mitigation plan, and hopes that its experience may be relevant for other Colorado communities.

Manitou Springs has a population of approximately 5,500 people and occupies about three square miles. It developed along the foothills of Pikes Peak adjacent to the City of Colorado Springs. Manitou Springs is characterized by steep topography, open space, scenic vistas, and extensive historic resources. Its economic base is firmly rooted in tourism. The City is nearly built out and encourages redevelopment.

In summer 2013, Manitou Springs experienced major flooding with widespread impacts. With the encouragement of FEMA and other agencies, City leaders concluded they needed a comprehensive master plan that addressed natural hazard risk. The City received Energy Impact and Assistance funding to hire a planner to manage the project and a Department of Local Affairs Resilience Planning grant to engage a consultant, Clarion Associates. The plan needed to be responsive to the community’s high level of public involvement. Key groups that guided the plan were the Citizens Advisory Committee, Hazard Mitigation Working Group, City Planning Commission, and Manitou Springs City Council. 

Sustainability and resiliency are organizing themes integrated throughout Plan Manitou (www.planmanitou.com). 

The City values sustainability, and the Plan defines a comprehensive approach to it, including policies and actions to promote energy efficiency through housing, transportation, and municipal facilities. 

Manitou Springs is vulnerable to a range of natural hazards; flooding, geologic hazards, and wildfire pose the most significant risks. The master plan takes a unique approach to resiliency by including a community-scale hazard risk assessment and a hazard mitigation strategy prepared and vetted with the community. The plan incorporates hazard mitigation goals, policies, and actions.

Educational tools are a core approach to help property owners reduce risk. In spring 2018, staff distributed wildfire mitigation guidance. This spring, the City will promote educational materials on green infrastructure.

Everyone involved agreed the plan needed a feasible implementation strategy. Plan Manitou includes short-term implementation (three to four years) and longer-term actions. Some characteristics of implementation are:

• Public involvement: Citizen boards and volunteers are delegated to implement plan actions. All City departments have an implementation role.

• The Plan Manitou website serves as a portal for communications, surveys, and educational tools.

• Staff provide an annual update on completed and planned actions at a joint planning commission–city council meeting.

Following plan adoption, the City established a permanent long-range planner position to oversee implementation.

Nearly two years into implementation, Manitou Springs is learning that most aspects of the plan are working well, whereas some need to be fine-tuned.

What is working well: The plan is a valuable tool for coordinating other City plans and activities. Staff identified priority actions to consider in last fall’s budget process. Community members continue to help implement actions.

What needs to be fine-tuned: The plan is a large document, and staff look for opportunities to streamline and simplify it. Quarterly updates are planned to keep the community engaged.

As the City of Manitou Springs approaches its third annual progress report, staff will conduct an assessment to evaluate implementation and consider plan updates. 

 

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