Chapter 1 - The Planning Process
Chapter 2 - Our Changing Society
Chapter 3 - Economic Overview
Chapter 4 - Land Use
Chapter 5 - Mobility and Circulation
Chapter 6 - Purpose and Use of the Plan
Area 1 - The North End
Chapter 7 - Action Plan
Appendix I - Summary of Interviews
Chapter 1 - The Planning Process
A. The Planning ApproachINTRODUCTION
Since the mid-1980's, the Town of Estes Park and the surrounding Estes Valley have experienced rapid and complex changes in their economic base, population mix, growth characteristics, and use of their natural resources. Many of these changes are caused by forces outside the community and are difficult to recognize and influence. In an effort to further understand these influences and develop a preferred future for the Valley, the Town of Estes Park and Larimer County cooperated in preparing a strategic future planning process called the Estes Park Directions.
The purpose of Estes Park Directions process was to produce a Comprehensive Plan which could serve as a practical and long-term guide to the Town of Estes Park Board of Trustees, Town of Estes Park Planning Commission, Larimer County Planning Commission, Estes Park Urban Renewal Authority, Town staff and the Larimer County Board of Commissioners and staff, in addressing issues related to the future development of Estes Valley. The Comprehensive Plan articulates a common vision for the future; it informs citizens, landowners and developers of the goals, guidelines and desired future land use character within the Valley; and it provides a means for communication and coordination between the Town and Larimer County, as well as federal, state, and other governmental agencies.
The Plan is a citizen-based plan, outlining the common vision for the future growth and development of the Valley. The plan consists of five major components:
Many citizens believe that if the community continues on its present course, the future physical, natural, and cultural make-up of the community will be significantly different from their "desired" or "preferred" future. The following list represents some of the issues identified through the public involvement process which the citizens of Estes and the Valley believe are threatening their future quality of life:
To move from the likely future to a "preferred" future will require an active and deliberate change from the present course. In order to achieve the "preferred" future, it will be necessary to be proactive. This process requires citizens to take an aggressive role in planning their community, identifying positive elements that they wish to achieve, and actively pursuing them based on identified strategies. As was made clear early in the public engagement process, planning participants will not necessarily get everything they desire, as their actions will affect long-term community desires and, therefore, not always provide immediate results. The interim period is likely to result in some increased conflict. As the future pattern begins to emerge, however, and residents will begin to see they can affect positive change within the community, the period of conflict will evolve to one of pride, and development of a strong sense of community. Benefits will include:
1. The Valley will continue to be a mountain resort community with an economy driven by a tourism base and an increasing retirement population.
2. Affordable housing issues will need to be addressed over time through regulatory provisions, bonuses, incentives, and linkages rather than through increasing the supply of land approved for high densities.
3. Downtown will remain and develop as the Valley's cultural, retail, and entertainment center.
4. Transportation/parking issues will increasingly focus on transit and the linkage between the Town and Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).
B. The Planning ProcessThe Estes Park Directions process identified the issues and concerns of the community. Over a three-year period, several thousand individuals participated in a series of workshops to determine the "preferred" future or direction for the community. Potential strategies and policies for achieving the future desired by the community were also identified.
From the very beginning, the Town of Estes Park wanted to develop a new and non-traditional planning process which emphasized the following elements:
It should be noted that this planning effort focused on public participation and did not rely entirely on extensive trend analysis inventories or on extensive physical and natural existing conditions. The primary intent was to determine community values and how the community wanted to grow.
During the Spring of 1996, the Town of Estes Park notified each property owner in the Estes Valley Planning area of their current zoning and their proposed Future Land Use category. Results from this notification outreach indicated that 65% of those responding (50% response/return rate) approved the proposed Future Land Use designation for their property. In addition, three (3) workshops were held to meet again with property owners to address specific issues and concerns or answer questions regarding the Future Land Use Plan. Town planning staff re-examined every parcel for which a property owner expressed an objection or requested more information. Based on this re-examination, Town staff made several changes to the Future Land Use changes.
A joint Town and County Review team comprised of elected officials was then established to review future land use revisions which had broader policy implications to future growth and development issues. Changes by Town staff and the Review Committee are reflected on the Final Land Use Plan.
C. PhasingThe importance of the planning process dictated that it be a multi-year, multi-phased process. Below is a brief overview of the three phases.
PHASE ONE: PLANNING THE VALLEY'S FUTURE
Phase One of the Estes Park Directions project provided a series of statements, reflecting the values and visions of the community which then created a framework for long-term planning. Over a period of several months, hundreds of individuals participated in public workshops to define the future of the community. The results of that process identified the range of issues and concerns, as well as the community-suggested "preferred future."
PHASE TWO: DEVELOPING STRATEGIES AND A PLAN OF ACTION
Phase Two resulted in the Estes Park Comprehensive Plan document. Over 40 community and neighborhood workshops were held, attracting several thousand citizens. The Plan emphasizes land use policies and actions which the Estes Park Town Board, Planning Commission, Urban Renewal Authority, and Town staff believe fairly represent the needs and desires of the community. The Comprehensive Plan outlines specific strategies and a plan of action which the Valley can begin to implement during the next several years.
PHASE THREE: PREPARING STANDARDS AND REGULATIONS
Phase Three consists of the implementation components of the Comprehensive Plan which will result in future zoning, subdivision, development review, design guidelines, performance standards, projects, and other public and private sector initiatives. A decision was made in the planning process that the new regulations should contain a number of overlays, or performance standards. These overlays and standard will specify how development on sensitive lands (steep slopes, flood plains, wildlife corridors, highway corridors, access, fire hazard areas, etc.) can be accommodated in both a market/cost effective manner, as well as an environmentally appropriate manner.
D. ContextREGIONAL CONTEXT
Estes Park, Colorado is located 70 miles (110km) northwest of Denver at the eastern entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, and may be reached from the east by U.S. Highways 34, 36, and Colorado Highway 7. All highways are well maintained throughout the year for easy traveling. U.S. 34 from the west crosses the Continental Divide and is open generally from May through October, weather permitting. Located in the center of some of the most spectacular scenery in the Rocky Mountains, Estes Park is a popular choice for family vacations throughout the year. The Estes Valley has been known for years as a "Watchable Wildlife Area."
The Estes Valley is a unique, enclosed mountain valley. The borders
of Rocky Mountain National Park form the western and northern boundary
for the study area. The approximate eastern border is Crocker Ranch/Pole
Hill. The southern border extends from Lily Lake, eastward into Roosevelt
National Forest. Prospect Mountain is located in the center of the Valley.
E. National, State and Local TrendsA trend analysis was prepared to identify major National, state, regional, and local trends that may positively or negatively influence Estes Park. While trend is not necessarily destiny, it is generally important to understand the cultural and economic influences which affect an area. These trends are listed along within their potential implications for the Estes Valley.
F. Community Issues, Concerns and DesiresPHASE ONE WORKSHOPS
During the Phase One planning effort, approximately forty (40) individuals were interviewed to identify issues and trends in Estes Park. This provided a forum for individuals to express their opinions and viewpoints on issues they felt were important in the community.
Following the individual interview process, a series of three workshops were conducted to obtain community-wide viewpoints on the Valley's future.
The three workshops were:
QUALITY OF LIFE COMMENTS
G. Community-Wide SurveyINTRODUCTION
The intent of Phase One - Planning the Valley's Future was to engage the Estes Valley community and better understand their issues, concerns, and hopes for the future. This initial process established the basis for the Planning Consultant (Design Studios West, Inc.) and Planning staff (Estes Park Planning Department) to begin to outline a "preferred future" for the overall planning area. During the summer of 1993, the Town requested that an independent firm (Talmey-Drake Research & Strategy Inc.) conduct a survey of community attitudes to test and validate the findings of the Phase One planning process. The firm surveyed residents within the Estes Valley to test whether the broader community held similar views and values to those identified by individuals who participated in the workshops. The firm asked the community to rank support for identified projects or programs oriented towards achieving the "preferred future."
The survey findings were similar to those identified in Phase One of the process. One significant finding, which merits early discussion, is the relationship between values and concerns held by those individuals who live within Town boundaries and those who live outside, yet within the study area. While Phase One participants generally felt that these two groups held different values and concerns, the survey suggested that both groups feel very much the same about community issues and the potential direction associated with creating a long-term future. In general, the Valley contains a substantially more homogeneous population than expected at the outset of the process. From June 22 to 28th, 1995, Talmey-Drake Research conducted a second in-depth telephone survey among a random sample of 404 adults living in either the Town of Estes Park or the surrounding Estes Valley area. The survey determined the public's attitude about the quality of life in Estes Park, residents' agenda for local government, and their perspective on specific conditions and services. The survey also tested the support for various Estes Park government projects and proposals. Set forth below are the major findings that emerged from the survey.
1. Residents of Estes Park continue to rate the local quality of life in highly favorable terms, although they show less confidence about certain trends in the Estes Park area.
The 1995 Estes Park study indicated that residents of Estes Park, both in the town and in the rest of the valley, are still quite supportive of the direction the town is going. A 62% majority says things are going in the right direction, compared to only 28% who say things are now off on the wrong track. Those residents who rent rather than own in Estes Park are almost twice as likely (42%) to say things are on the wrong track as are homeowners (25%). Despite the generally high positive feelings about the direction the Town is going, the graph in Figure 1.2 illustrates a continuing modest downward trend in residents' confidence about the direction of the town.
FIGURE 1.2 - RIGHT DIRECTION OR OFF ON THE WRONG TRACK
In addition, as shown in Figure 1.3, nearly half (46%) of the residents rank the quality of life in Estes Park as "excellent," while only 3% rank the local quality of life as "poor" or "not so good."
2. Generally, residents display less confidence with trends in Estes
Park in 1995 than they did in 1993. Figures 1.4 and 1.5 show the descending
shift from 1993 to 1995.
When Respondents are asked to look forward to the next few years, they are more apprehensive about the quality of life in Estes Park. Just over a quarter (27%) say things will improve, while 34% say things will get worse.
FIGURE 1.5 - EXPECTED TREND IN ESTES PARK AREA DURING THE NEXT FEW
3. While a strong majority continue to rank the quality of life in Estes as either "excellent" or "good," the public's concern about growth has propelled it to the number one priority, overtaking the 1993 top priority of housing. Many residents are now very concerned about the issue of growth and its management.
When asked to volunteer the most important issue facing Estes Park today, the definitive answer among respondents is "excessive growth". More than six out of ten (63%) say it is one of the most important issues facing the area. This is a significant jump from 1993, when 35% cited it as a critical issue. No other issue even comes close to the current response on growth.
FIGURE 1.6 - VOLUNTEERED MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEMS FACING ESTES PARK
For instance, the 1993 study indicated that the residents were evenly split on whether growth had been excessive or not excessive. In 1995, fully two thirds of residents consider the growth rate in Estes Park to be excessive. In just two years, those saying that growth has been "much too fast" has doubled from 17% to 34%. Over one third (38%) of residents outside of the town say the rate of growth has been "much too fast," compared to 29% of town residents who say the rate of growth has been "much too fast."
There has also been a modest shift in how residents perceive the management of growth in the Estes Park area. In 1993, over half (55%) of the residents said growth was being managed well; that proportion has slipped in 1995 to 48%.
A dramatic turnaround from seven years ago surfaced when respondents were asked to agree or disagree with the statement: "if Estes Park keeps growing like it has, the quality of life will be harmed." As Figure 1.9 (If Estes Park Keeps Growing . . ) illustrates, the proportion concurring with the above statement has grown from 54% in 1993, to over two-thirds (70%) in 1995.
When respondents were asked to volunteer their specific growth concerns or ramifications, three major issues emerge: 24% mentioned housing, 24% cite environmental protection, and 27% volunteer either limit growth or develop a better growth plan.
The public's seriousness about growth is confirmed by majority support of stricter regulations for certain types of activities. For example, almost seven out of ten (69%) agree that the town should set architectural standards on the appearance of new multi-family buildings, while only 25% disagree.
Respondents also clearly favor setting a limit on the number of residential building permits issued each year (64% agree, 32% disagree).
The Estes Park Planning Survey was conducted by Talmey-Drake Research & Strategy, Inc., a public opinion and market research firm in Boulder, Colorado. The results of this survey are based on 404 random telephone interviews with residents of the Estes Valley area who are 18 years old or older. The interviews were conducted from June 22 to June 28, 1995. Quotas were established to obtain proportional representation from men and women, and to allocate half the interviews within the town of Estes Park and half outside the town but still within the valley with 586 telephone prefixes. A random sample of 404 has a 95% confidence interval of plus or minus 4.7% about any one reported percentage.
Next chapter - Chapter 2 - Our Changing Society