A Data-Driven Vision, Plan, and Approach for Cañon City
Cañon City is the county seat for Fremont County and is known as the center of Colorado’s Royal Gorge Region. The city owns the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, a nationally known attraction and a significant driver of the local economy. The city is also known for its pleasant year-round climate, beautiful downtown, annual Music and Blossom Festival, Arkansas River activities, and Holy Cross Abbey, listed in the National Register of Historical Places.
However, despite growth pressures and demand for new development, Cañon City had not updated its Comprehensive Plan in 20 years. As the city approached its 150th birthday, the community determined it was the right time for a new vision, a new plan, and a new set of development and land-use regulations.
From Paper Maps to ArcGIS: Planning for City Growth
Due to the long period between updates, the city used a legacy approach, such as a paper wall map to identify priority annexation areas and the city’s growth boundary. As the partner leading the city’s planning and zoning initiatives, Houseal Lavigne used ArcGIS® Pro to accurately remap these important growth boundaries, specifically identifying areas for new development and annexation consistent with data-driven land-use demand. ArcGIS Pro helps give the city a clear way to evaluate development and infrastructure extension over the next several decades.
After revising the priority annexation areas and corresponding growth boundary using ArcGIS Pro and testing them with city staff and officials, Cañon City was firmly in a position to articulate long-term growth and development plans and priorities to Fremont County. The city’s revised growth boundary also helped it meet the State of Colorado’s planning statutes requirement for a critical three-mile planning element. With these revised land-use tools, Cañon City is coordinating with Fremont County on a new intergovernmental agreement, identifying how the city and county will continue to work together to plan for growth over the coming years.
A Story map summary: The city has proudly turned the page on the narrative that its planning documents sit on a shelf. The final Comprehensive Plan includes an ArcGIS StoryMap℠ story that provides interactive maps that can be queried and explored, offering an engaging summary version of the plan that gives anyone looking to invest in the community a clear picture of where the city wants to go in the next few decades.
Nonconformity Analysis: Using ArcGIS to Rightsize Regulations with Existing Neighborhood Character
The Comprehensive Plan is volume 1 of the city’s revised approach to planning and zoning, and the new Unified Development Code (UDC) is volume 2. The two were developed simultaneously, ensuring that the regulations in the UDC further protect the community’s character while accommodating new and distinct types of development through design standards and processes.
Zoning tools provide a community with the regulatory framework to implement sound planning. ArcGIS was used throughout the development of the UDC for district lot area and nonconformity analysis, ensuring the city’s new zoning districts and planned development standards and procedures allow for flexibility and innovation and that all development is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and the overall vision for the community.
Redevelopment at the historic Holy Cross Abbey: By utilizing ArcGIS to help establish a planning vision and the responsive regulations to make it happen, planning and zoning implementations are coming together right in the center of the community. The city is seeing renewed interest from developers at a flagship location, the 187-acre historic Holy Cross Abbey property, which once housed a monastery and Catholic school and is currently a winery and events center. Just five months after the Comprehensive Plan and UDC were adopted, the city council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance for rezoning. Under a new Planned Development District created with the new UDC, the Abbey property will be redeveloped as a mixed-use district that incorporates residential areas, open space and parks, and recreational areas, as well as office, retail, hotel, and events center space. The development plan calls for respecting the history and architecture of the site while providing Cañon City with a new development it can proudly promote as the community looks toward the next 150 years.
What’s the Story? Implementation Is Easier and Things Are Getting Done
Cañon City’s new Comprehensive Plan and UDC are not sitting on a shelf. Thanks to data-driven maps that guide policy and regulatory decisions, the plan is being effectively implemented, and the UDC is actively guiding development in a way the city had not seen in several decades. City staff have noted that developers are praising the new planning and development tools, indicating that they are easy to use, effective, and responsive to and respectful of the unique character of the Cañon City community. “Developers and applicants have been very complimentary about how rapidly we’re getting through the process, thanks to our new UDC—we’ve been told how easy we are to work with, and they’ve been astonished at the ease of the process.”—Patrick Mulready, City Planner for Cañon City
This modern approach to designing Cañon City’s future is an example of how communities, regardless of size, can embrace technology[ to ensure that the short- and long-term needs of their residents are met.