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People are driving stoned, more are taking buses, Ute Valley just got bigger, and more 

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Houses aren't shrinking

You may have heard about the trend toward smaller homes, and even tiny homes ("The big picture of small living," SimpliCity, Oct. 8, 2014). In January, the National Association of Home Builders wrote that panelists at an International Builders' Show press conference were predicting that millennials will prefer smaller homes and that home builders will need to cater to them more in coming years.

So is the trend catching on locally?

Not so much, says County Assessor Steve Schleiker. "It appears business-as-usual here in El Paso County," he wrote in an email to the Independent. "Most of our builders are using the same tract home plans as in previous years."

Kid-related bills sputter

Republican state legislators aren't being overly friendly to child safety in this session.

Take Senate Bill 15-048, whose prime sponsor was Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder. It would have required criminal background checks for employees or volunteers at private youth sports organizations if they worked five days or more per month. Senate Republicans voted it down in the Judiciary Committee. Concerns reportedly included that background checks would miss some offenders and that the cost and intrusion of the law into private businesses were burdensome.

Then there is "Erin's Law," named for a victim of sexual abuse. Sponsored by Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, Senate Bill 15-020 would have allowed schools to provide information and training about child sex abuse and assault. The law has been passed in at least eight states. The Senate Education Committee, which has a Republican majority, postponed consideration of that bill.

And then there's Senate Bill 15-070, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud. The bill, which is in committee, would eliminate licensing and other requirements for child care facilities that have 10 or fewer kids. Currently, licensing is required for facilities with five or more kids. The rationale, apparently, is that lifting such oversight would reduce child care costs. Colorado is the second least-affordable state for center-based infant care, according to Child Care Aware of America.

People are driving stoned

Since the legalization of recreational marijuana, the Colorado State Patrol has been tracking driving offenses tied to marijuana use, and has some interesting numbers to report for 2014.

Last year, the state patrol handed out 5,546 citations for driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Of those, 354 were for incidences where marijuana was the "only indicator" and 674 were for incidences where marijuana was "one of the indicators."

January, April and December were the hottest months to get busted driving stoned. And if you're wondering how so many people got caught, keep this in mind: The State Patrol reports that 75 percent of the 2014 DUI/DUID citations were the result of other motorists notifying the cops.

Ute Valley gets bigger

Ute Valley Park has long offered 300-plus acres of open space on the city's northwest side. In 2013, the Trust for Public Land purchased the neighboring property, which was owned by Hewlett-Packard. Colorado Springs wanted to turn the land into open space to extend Ute Valley Park, and it was able to with help from the Trust; the Trails, Open Space and Parks sales tax; Great Outdoors Colorado; the Palmer Land Trust; and the Friends of Ute Valley Park. Initially, 93 acres were purchased, but the city has completed the second purchase of 110 acres, bringing the total expansion to 203 acres.

The new area, which will be protected in perpetuity by a conservation easement, is being called Ute Valley Gateway Open Space.

More catch a bus

The city's Mountain Metropolitan Transit reports that it provided nearly 3 million one-way trips on its fixed routes in 2014. That's up 10 percent from 2013, when over 2.6 million trips were provided.

MMT is attributing the increase to new programs, hours and routes, as well as better marketing and promotion.

"By providing service 362 days a year, up from 307 in 2013, adding two additional routes including service to the new Veterans Affairs clinic, and adding more evening service, we have been able to give riders more options," Craig Blewitt, MMT director, stated in a press release.

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