Land Use Study Could Build Harmony Between Colorado Bases, Neighbors

Friction between the Pikes Peak region's five military bases and neighbor could be eased by a study aimed at influencing future land use decisions, leaders say.

The Joint Land Use Study conducted by the Pikes Peak Area Council of Government using federal grant money examines issues from noise and traffic to schools and cultural needs. It has started with an online community survey that wraps up May 31.

"What makes it super important right now is the public input," said Angela Essing, who is running the study for the council.

The study was spurred by community concerns over noise from Air Force Academy training planes and has grown into a look at all the bases in the region. The basic problem is what community leaders call growth and the military calls encroachment.

When bases were built in Colorado Springs starting with World War II, the military facilities were separated from neighborhoods by vast tracts of open land. Now, with the Pikes Peak region's population pushing 700,000, the military has a lot more neighbors.

Andy Merritt, who heads military programs for the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance said the council's study could help alleviate neighborhood and Pentagon concerns.

"It's really about that integration of military needs and community needs," he said.

The land use needs of military bases in the Pikes Peak region have been a top topic for years. But in every past instance, leaders examined the needs of individual bases without looking at the military as a whole.

Essing said the timing of the study couldn't be better.

"I think now is a good time because the communities are growing around the bases," she said.

The online survey is one part of a larger effort that involves leadership forums and focus groups to align community and military needs. One group is dedicated to examining noise problems around the Air Force Academy, which has faced criticism since a change in flight patterns have put more cadet training flights above houses due east of the academy's airfield.

Merritt said he's hopeful that the study helps leaders balance military training against community concerns. Eventually, the study could lead to new zoning laws in the region that keep neighborhoods away from military fencelines.

"What we need to do now is protect the ability of our bases to remain relevant into the future," Merritt said.

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