Further instances of the city's and developers' passive stance are abundant in city records and in the minutes of many a City Council or Planning Commission meeting.
Particularly instructive here is the response of Colorado Springs to Senate Bill 35 and House Bill 1041, early 1970s legislation designed to regulate hillside development, among other things.
SB-35 (1972) was prompted by an explosion of development in mountains and hillside areas throughout the state. The bill dictated that development proposals for property under county jurisdiction must be accompanied by geologic hazard reports, and these reports must undergo technical review for thoroughness and accuracy by the Colorado Geologic Survey.
SB-35, however, applied only to county jurisdictions. It had no regulatory application to Colorado Springs.
Two years later, the state crafted a piece of follow-up legislation -- HB-1041 (1974) -- that gave municipalities an opportunity to acquire the same regulatory authority as counties.
The bill "encourages" (but does not mandate) municipalities to designate land containing geologic hazards as "areas of state interest." Development of land so designated would require the same procedures as land under county jurisdiction: submission of a geologic hazards survey which would undergo mandatory review by the Colorado Geologic Survey.
Had it adopted 1041, Colorado Springs would have given itself a regulatory tool stronger than the Geologic Hazards Ordinance of 1996 -- but 22 years earlier, well before development of such landslide disasters as Regency Ridge, Holland Park, Cedar Heights and Mountain Shadows began.
The city, however, refused to adopt 1041 for its own governance, and fought passage of the legislation from start to finish.
Regulatory authority "was not considered necessary" by city officials, Colvin claimed in his Gates testimony. In fact, "the 1041 legislation was passed over the objection of Colorado Springs, which viewed it as a threat to its home rule powers."
Asked in a recent interview about how a bill offering voluntary regulation of geologic hazards was threatening, Colvin said that Colorado Springs viewed "anything that said the state or the county was going to dictate what we could do in the city [as] a threat to our power to legislate purely local and municipal matters."
Robin Kidder, the city's senior civil engineer, touched on another problem central to the landslide issue in a May 9, 2000 meeting of City Council. He admitted that "Colorado doesn't have a good handle on the geologist profession. They're not licensed, there's no regulatory board." The city decided, however, that it's not in "the business of policing the competence of the authors of these reports," said Kidder, "so it accepts reports from whomever the developer chooses to use."
The CGS, however scrutinizes the competency of these reports very closely.
-- Bob Campbell
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