COLORADO SPRINGS — Recent debate about proposed additional high-rise buildings for downtown Colorado Springs is raising questions about height restrictions. Some believe the founders of Colorado Springs put in place requirements to preserve view corridors.
Matt Mayberry, Director of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum said the beauty of Colorado Springs is the reason for the city’s founding. "The whole idea of Colorado Springs was built because of the proximity to the mountains and the view that exists here."
The Pioneers Museum was part of a view corridor debate nearly 20 years ago. The courthouse across the street was expanding and one of the early multi-level plans would have blocked the view of Pikes Peak from the steps of the historic old courthouse building housing the museum.
Some community members felt it important to preserve the view. "Specifically with a sculpture that had just gotten placed on the museum grounds,” said Mayberry. The statue is of Katharine Lee Bates gazing up at Pikes Peak, which is the inspiration for her writing the beloved patriotic song America the Beautiful. Out of dispute came compromise on the courthouse building design, and the view was preserved.
It also offered a history lesson. The city's founders did love the view, but there is no official policy on height restrictions for buildings. "Was it written on any legal document, or deed restrictions, or city ordinance? Not to my knowledge,” said Mayberry.
"The history of downtown has always been to have our highest densities and our tallest buildings,” said Colorado Springs City Urban Planning Manager, Ryan Tefertiller. He also pointed out that although there are no mandates, consideration of the city’s iconic views is not ignored. Pike Peak Avenue for example maintains a direct view of its namesake, along with many high-rise buildings lining the downtown stretch of the road.
Official zoning for Colorado Springs does have building height limits outside of downtown, but not in the heart of the city. "On the edges, you're restricted to four stories, going inward you can go up to six stories, ten stories, and then in the central part of the form based zone there is not a maximum building [height],” said Tefertiller.
Early history of Colorado Springs does not include specfice restrictions to preserve views, but the recent history involving the Pioneers Museum shows policy can be influenced.