Cirque Meadows by Adam Johnson

Estes Valley Plan

Chapter 7 - Action Plan

A. Action Plan


This section includes specific recommended actions for implementing the plan. Some of the actions also include a series of sub-tasks. Many are project related, while others are focused on developing additional information for a specific area of interest. The actions are organized by categories. Government departments and many organizations often have specific needs and wish to have the recommended actions presented together for their specific area. In reality, however, many of the recommendations overlap categories, and it could be argued that some of the recommendations could easily be presented in a different category. It is important to understand that the categories have been utilized only to provide a more convenient access to each of the recommendations.

This portion of the plan is meant to be regularly updated and modified. The actions, funding recommendations, and implementation organizations or agencies were developed over an eighteen-month period leading up to June 1995. Over time, new ideas will be developed, new options presented, and individual recommendations will be refined. New projects will arise and organizational capacity will be modified. It is suggested that this action plan be reviewed and modified on an annual basis.

The intent of preparing the document has not been to draw a map for the next decade that provides detailed directions for each department. Instead, we have chosen to utilize the broader community vision and community values to act as a compass, always pointed toward "true north." Therefore, reviewing the recommended actions on an annual basis will allow the vision and the actions to be regularly aligned.

There are substantially more short-term recommendations than mid- or long-term recommendations. The document was structured in this fashion to insure that it focused on creating enough momentum in the short term to begin the implementation process. Unless this occurs, the plan has little chance of success, and mid- or long-term recommendations become less meaningful. In addition, given current fiscal realities and funding opportunities, it is difficult to provide detailed information related to funding agencies, estimated costs and realistic implementation time frames for many of the long-term action items. Therefore, long-term concepts -- such as creating outlying parking with transit facilities -- have been identified without defining the specifics for each action. The resulting action plan therefore identifies a long-term direction, but also creates the initial momentum necessary to make the plan a reality.

For each of these six categories, there follows a brief discussion of needs and a series of recommendations:

A.1 Land Use - Recommended Actions

This portion of the action plan focuses primarily on creating the structure and tools necessary to create an integrated planning process. It includes recommendations that will create the necessary organizational structure, a common nomenclature and the regulatory structure necessary to implement the document. In addition, it identifies the tools necessary to preserve open lands and natural areas. Finally, this portion identifies an approach for the logical provision of infrastructure and coordination between appropriate agencies.

Specific actions include:

1. Create a combined Planning Commission.

The plan is intended to be adopted by both the Town and the County and implemented in a coordinated fashion by both parties. Ultimately, the land use classification system and unified development code will also be adopted by both parties. It is recommended that a joint Planning Commission be created to implement these regulations. The Planning Commission should include representatives from both Town and County portions of the planning area. State legislation has been adopted which provides for this approach.

2. Jointly adopt uniform (City/County) land use classifications.

The proposed future land use classification system is intended to replace the land use system currently used by the Town and the County within the planning area. The system allows for a common set of land use definitions and decreasing density as one moves from the center of the community toward the outer parts of the Valley.

3. Develop and adopt a unified development code.

A unified development code combining zoning and subdivision regulations should be adopted for the study area and utilized by both the Town and the County for making land use decisions within this area. It should include new zoning classifications, a new zoning map and land development regulations which are consistent with the future land use plan for its implementation. In addition to creating of a standard development code, several special areas should be addressed, including:

  • Sensitive lands overlays and environmentally based performance standards for development within the Valley,
  • Highway corridor standards which define the orientation and configuration of development adjacent to highway corridors, and
  • A new Planned Unit Development (PUD) Ordinance which identifies in more detail the various configurations of land uses desired as well as incentives to promote cluster development.
Once the unified development code has been prepared, the existing zoning map should be revised for this area and adopted by both bodies. The result of this process will be a series of specific tools which can be utilized by the joint Planning Commission.

4. Establish an open space and preservation funding and management program.

There are numerous unique natural and physical resources within the community as well as a community-wide desire to acquire open lands. In order to implement this process, a specific funding and management program must be developed. Identifying both specific funding sources and priority properties will help to insure that this becomes a reality. This may include working with local districts and/or land trusts as land managers.

5. Update utility master plans.

On a long-term basis, it will be necessary for the utilities system to relate to the proposed future land use. By updating utility master plans and defining a specific strategy for providing utilities within the study area, consistency between all utility services can be developed. These updates should not only define the geographic areas to be served, but also discuss the specific timing or threshold associated with providing service.

6. Prepare community gateway plans.
One of most sensitive areas within the built environment are the entryways to the community from the County and RMNP. Gateway plans should be prepared for these areas with a focus on identifying desired land use patterns, access control issues and urban design/landscape features.


A land use action program will be established within the proposed Intergovernmental Agreement. Work on the Agreement shall begin in the immediate future

A.2 Growth Management - Recommended Actions

As with most Colorado communities, the Estes Park area has felt the effects of regional economic cycles. The peaks and valleys associated with these outside influences have affected how the Town has grown, and at times the type of growth that it has experienced. By developing a more understandable growth strategy, which is supported by the community, the area can plan for infrastructure delivery and the other economic impacts associated with growth.
These actions focus on defining an appropriate rate and formula for future growth, and creating the legal and administrative framework necessary to ensure implementation.
As growth management strategies are explored and recommended in the next phase of the Estes Park Planning effort, the Town of Estes ark and Larimer County are encouraged to participate in a regional growth monitoring program that fully examines growth rate alternatives for the region. The pros and cons of all alternatives will be explored. If a growth rate system is determined to be effective, reasonable and suggested in the Estes Valley, then the following specific actions will be included in the program development.

Specific actions include:

1. Prepare a growth rate history.

Develop the detailed history for the Valley which includes growth in population and its relationship to development activity. Building permits are one of many tools which can be utilized to build this historic perspective. Corresponding information should be gathered for the region and the state in order to understand the relationship between these areas and the Valley. This information can then be used as the basis to determine desired future rates of growth.

2. Prepare service capacity and cost analysis.

In order to serve the future land use as described within the plan, it will be necessary to evaluate infrastructure service capacity and the cost of delivery within different areas. This information can be utilized to develop more detailed build-out scenarios as well as a long-term operating strategies for infrastructure provision.

3. Defining acceptable growth rates/formula.

In broad terms, growth can be defined in terms of percentages or total growth in number of units. Once an acceptable rate of growth is determined, a formula can be prepared that correlates the growth to annual measures for tracking and enforcement.

4. Prepare growth management ordinance.

Once an acceptable growth rate and generalized formula have been agreed upon, it will be necessary to prepare an ordinance for adoption by both the Town and the County. Other communities throughout the country have existing growth management systems in place. It is recommended that these be reviewed in a attempt to avoid reinventing the wheel.

5. Jointly adopt growth management system.

Once the system has been created, it will be necessary for both the Town and the County to adopt the growth management system. In addition, it will be necessary to ensure that the management structure is in place to implement the system. This is likely to include the joint Planning Commission as well as the support staff necessary to conduct reviews and administrative tasks.

TBD - Costs to be determined and budgeted annually.

A.3 Mobility and Circulation - Recommended Actions

The intent of the mobility and circulation recommendations is to improve the linkages and connections throughout the community, while moving toward transit and intercept strategies on a long-term basis. The desire is to create a high level of mobility for permanent residents within the Valley, while minimizing impacts associated with visitors.
To accomplish these goals it will be necessary to improve the existing street system and the trail system within the Valley. It will also be necessary to create a more comprehensive program to educate and intercept guests before they enter the community. This will require cooperative efforts between the Town, County, State, and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Funding for these programs will require significant commitments from the Estes Park Urban Renewal Authority, the Town, Larimer County, RMNP and the Colorado Department of Transportation. In addition, it will be necessary to develop a relationship which allows RMNP to participate in developing solutions outside of the Park's boundaries. These issues are discussed in detail in Chapter Five.

Specific actions include:

1. Improve the existing street system.

Specific recommendations have been made to improve the quality of the street system within the community. In general, these improvements focus on resolving conflicts at specific intersections, developing necessary linkages within the existing network, and improving bicycle connections. They include:

  • Intersection improvements at West Elkhorn and at US 34,
  • Intersection improvements at Fish Creek Road and at US 36,
  • A substantial upgrade to Fish Creek Road,
  • A bike loop around the Lake Estes Area,
  • Access control along US 36 and Moraine Avenue,
  • The Moccasin Drive connection with Highway 7, and
  • The Moraine Avenue/Crags Drive intersection improvements.
2. Develop downtown circulation/parking plan.

A detailed downtown circulation and parking plan should be developed to integrate the needs of the community with those of seasonal visitors. The plan should be coordinated with intercept parking strategies in order to insure a comprehensive solution.

3. Develop a Rocky Mountain National Park signage/information system.

For tourists to access the Park in the most efficient manner possible, it will be necessary to develop a more comprehensive signage system and to provide as much additional information for guests as possible prior to their entering or leaving the Park.

4. Build the interceptor parking lot at US 34/36.

A parking lot should be developed close to the intersection of US 34 and US 36. The lot should be coordinated with a radio information service. It should allow for 120 to 300 spaces and provide access to the Chamber Visitor Information Center.

5. Design and implement transit system improvements.

Transit improvements, including a shuttle system for residents and visitor movement, should be developed utilizing a variety of routes and equipment. Ultimately, all transit improvements should be coordinated with Rocky Mountain National Park

6. Implement a traveler information system.

A comprehensive traveler information system should be developed which allows individuals to receive information about travel conditions within the community, prior to reaching the community. This system could range from making sure that the most efficient directions are included by lodges when confirmations are sent out, to the development of an AM radio system that allows people to understand transit and lodging options prior to entering the community.

7. Establish a Town/RMNP transportation funding program.

A joint funding program will ultimately be necessary to adequately address the transit and transportation needs within the Valley. This would require cooperation between the Town and Rocky Mountain National Park in order to evaluate solutions in and outside of the Park, and to insure joint funding.

8. Create the Beaver Point/US 34 connection.

Over time, it will be necessary to develop a transportation connection between the Beaver Point and Fall River neighborhoods. Specific locations should be evaluated and the Town should explore acquisition of right-of-way over the next five years.

9. Create outlying parking with a transit center.

Parking outside of the downtown core should ultimately be combined with a transit center and visitor information system. By linking these two uses, an efficient shuttle system could be developed which is operated throughout the peak season.

10. Develop a Valley-wide trail system.

One of the key elements of the plan is connecting neighborhoods throughout the community. The development of a Valley-wide trail system in accordance with the Estes Valley Trails Plan, which includes a variety of funding sources, is critical in order to achieve this goal.

TBD - Costs to be determined and budgeted annually.

A.4 EPURA - Recommended Actions

Estes Park Urban Renewal Authority (EPURA) has taken a lead role in managing improvements in the downtown core and adjacent areas. Its actions are consistent with, and reinforce, one of the central themes of this plan which is the development of a strong, pedestrian-oriented, community core. In fact, this has been one of the primary missions of EPURA over the past decade.
The downtown core is also intended to be the primary home for cultural activities and the center for tourism-based commercial development. EPURA's actions are ensuring that these desires come to pass.

Specific actions include:

1. Fund downtown parking and traffic improvements.

EPURA will be responsible for funding a significant portion of the parking and traffic improvements in the downtown core.

2. Complete Riverwalk (west).

The Riverwalk currently exists parallel to Elkhorn Avenue along the east entrance to downtown. By extending the Riverwalk to the west, additional opportunities can be created to provide pedestrian access to the riverfront and surrounding commercial uses.

3. Vacate MacGregor Avenue and expand Bond Park.

Bond Park is a significant community open space located in the downtown core. Its expansion will allow it to act as a focal point for the community, anchored by the Municipal Building and the Library.

4. Prepare specific redevelopment plans for areas of high priority.

A number of key areas within the sphere of the Urban Renewal Authority require specific plans in order to define public improvements or private sector development strategies. They include:

  • West Elkhorn (beyond West Park Center),
  • Cleave Street area,
  • Moraine Avenue South, and
  • West Riverside Drive.
5. Create the link from East Elkhorn to the Lake Path.

Providing open space linkages from the downtown core to Lake Estes is critical. This link under Highway 36 would enable easy access with minimal vehicular conflicts.

6. Prepare the Knoll Master Plan.

Combined open space and parking as well as encouraging public access to areas such as the
Knoll are key priorities for EPURA.

7. Implement the Knoll Master Plan.

To implement the Knoll master plan, funding must be provided by EPURA, grants or private funding. Implementing the plan will require an annual funding commitment.

8. Acquire land for Big Thompson open space.

Along the Big Thompson River, south of the downtown core, additional open space should be acquired in order to expand the trail system and improve the quality of the visual environment on either side of the river. This will require working with land owners and making strategic investments over the next decade.

9. Prepare second floor housing strategy.

Within the downtown core, significant opportunities exist to develop residential units on the second floors of existing one-story buildings. In addition, new development could easily accommodate residential units on the second floor at a substantially reduced cost. Incentives should be developed to support this strategy and reduce the costs for developers.

TBD - Costs to be determined and budgeted annually.

A.5 Housing - Recommended Actions

Maintaining the supply of affordable housing within the Estes Valley continues to be a significant issue. Part of the solution will include the identification of land for affordable housing development, which may include utilizing some Town or County owned properties. Other solutions are likely to include a combination of incentives and/or linkages with new commercial or lodging developments.
There may also be opportunities to modify zoning classifications to allow accessory units that serve as affordable housing units. Providing incentives for the development of second floor apartments in the commercial core or in new commercial developments may create additional opportunities. It should be remembered that the overall solution is likely to be the result of a comprehensive set of strategies being implemented together.

While the community as a whole has not been supportive of large-scale subsidies, they would like to address the issue incrementally, using a variety of tools.

Specific actions include:

1. Completing existing Estes Park Housing Authority (EPHA) project.

The Lone Tree Apartments are under construction. This project will assist local residents and employees to access affordable housing options.

2. Define residential infill areas and strategy.

Within the downtown core and a number of neighborhoods immediately adjacent to the core, significant infill opportunities exist. By identifying these areas and creating a special incentive zoning overlay, these opportunities and the associated density incentives would be made apparent. It may also be possible to work with local lending institutions to coordinate the use of Community Reinvestment Funds in these areas.

3. Evaluate accessory structure options.

Within the core and in a number of outlying areas, it may be appropriate to allow accessory structures such as garage apartments or attached units. Specific criteria should be created to define more specifically where such development should be encouraged.

4. Evaluate commercial residential linkages and incentives.

Because a substantial portion of impacts associated with employee housing can be correlated with development of commercial or lodging uses, it may be appropriate to link these uses to the creation of affordable/employee housing. Programs could be incentive-based or tied to a direct requirement based on the number units or square footage developed.

A.6 Intergovernmental Coordination - Recommended Actions

To implement the plan requires the cooperation and commitment of a wide variety of participants, including:
  • The Town of Estes Park,
  • Larimer County,
  • Local districts and authorities,
  • Rocky Mountain National Park,
  • Other federal agencies, and
  • the State of Colorado.
Each of these groups and many others will need to provide financial and staff commitments in order to create the highest chance for successful implementation. A number of written agreements may need to be created over time, with the initial document consisting of an inter-governmental agreement.

Specific items include:

1. Prepare Town of Estes Park/Larimer County Master Agreement (IGA).

While the agreement is likely to address a wide range of items associated
with implementing the plan, it should at a minimum include:

  • a process for establishing joint planning definitions,
  • an approach for creating standard land development regulations,
  • a commitment of staff resources,
  • a specific timeframe for implementation, and
  • creation of joint planning commission.

Next chapter - Appendix 1 - Summery of Interviews

Background Image: Cirque Meadows by Adam Johnson. All rights reserved.