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Carl Schueler, El Paso County assistant director of planning 


El Paso County assistant director of planning

Planner Carl Schueler is a big-picture kind of guy. That means he ends up smack in the middle of major land-use controversies. When it came time to zone eastern El Paso County this year, Schueler was in the heat of the debate. Schueler is now working on another project that will surely be controversial, a plan to map out the future of the Falcon area east of the Springs.

When Schueler was growing up, he never dreamed about becoming a planner. He wanted to be a mailman. When he came to Colorado Springs, it was to train to be a racewalker in the 1984 Olympics. He came in sixth. A closet environmentalist, Schueler ended up getting his masters degree in regional planning, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Why plan? Planning is a very tough thing to get your arms around. The bread and butter of public-land-use planning is overall master planning -- that's the big-picture stuff. There are two operative elements: zoning, which governs how people can and can't use land. The other major thing we do is subdivisions, which is chunking large pieces of land into smaller pieces. You have to set aside the roads and make sure sewer and water drainage and facility requirements are being met.

Do you actually use those terms -- like zoning and subdivision -- at home? Not [the term] chunking. If you become too technical, believe it or not, you get in trouble. You lose people. If I were to use the terms "subdivision" and "tract" too much then I'd probably lose my job tomorrow. That's why I try to oversimplify.

So what's the story with smart growth for the state? [Gov. Roy Romer's] 1994 smart-growth thing was a pretty benign plan. This county didn't get too involved in that. There was a lot of good stuff that came out of it, though. Some states like Oregon and Florida got involved in state-mandated planning. But there wasn't a lot of emphasis on state requirements here. They focused on statewide issues like transportation, but they also acknowledged that one size doesn't fit all. Colorado has very different areas, the Denver Metro area and Front Range, the resorts and eastern plains and far Western Slope. So the plan started and ended with the same thing -- encourage local governments to get involved in land-use plans.

What do you think of Gov. Owens' newest smart-growth plan? It's pretty minimalist. There isn't all that much to it. That's not meant to be pejorative.

Why bother with a "plan" then? I'm not the governor's PR person, but one of the responses may be because it eliminates, or refines the state role [in growth planning].

What are our land-use trends? As we've evolved in our society, we've become more material and affluent, and it has a huge physical land-use impact. We always blame [congestion and sprawl] on the new person. In fact, it's that, plus our increased consumption of land. We can afford to live apart in bigger houses occupied by less people. We have bigger stores, bigger everything.

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