Letter to City Council, 7/21/2022,
Requesting delay of 2nd Vote
Dear President Tom Strand and City Council,
Thank you for allowing Westside Watch the extended time to present to the council last Tuesday, July 12th. Over the course of the 38 or so minutes that we presented, the key point was that the City-proposed fire ordinance only codifies existing practices and does not address citizen concerns which are now city-wide. As CSFD has publicly documented in their Town Hall Meetings, the Prairie Urban Interface (PUI) is now a fire concern as we, unfortunately, saw in the Marshall Fire on December 30th, 2021 which has become the states most costly wildfire, with one death and over 1,000 structures burned. As some think that the evacuation issues only pertain to the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), it impacts the whole city. Not only from Wildfire, but floods and other hazards as noted by the Mayor’s opening comments.
Thank you, Councilmember Henjum, for your kind words about the professionalism of our presentation. We represent thousands of residents who take this issue quite seriously. I hope that council members understand the concern and angst that many feel when all the hard work that went into the preparation of the draft Public Safety Ordinance presented in November 2021 was totally ignored by City Leadership. People are very frustrated and want to see actions that provide them with their clearance evacuation times, evacuation route maps and evacuation development standards amidst the explosive growth voters are seeing in their everyday lives.
Establishing Clearance Evacuation Times (CET’s) has become even more important since the CSFD added the PUI to their areas of concern. The Mayor, first responders and PPOEM all stated that the City will be broken into 600 plus zones. As currently defined and understood, these new Zones are very small and neighborhood-focused based on geology and topology. These small zones will work in small, localized events, but when another dire fire like Waldo Canyon or the Marshall fire occurs, it becomes a mass evacuation with little notice. For this critical advanced planning and modeling work, an aggregate of multiple zones can easily be defined like the 2010 evacuation study did. That 12-year-old study showed multiple congestion and roads that could not support evacuation traffic. It has only gotten worse, and the ONLY way to know how bad it is and to avoid making it worse, is to do evacuation modeling.
It is the belief of Westside Watch and thousands of voters that requiring CET’s is not only necessary; it is a basic civil right to know how long it will take us to get out, to provide evacuation route maps to residents and visitors, and gauge the impact of development on those times. Councilwoman Henjum stated in her remarks that every citizen has the right to know their CET. This now applies city-wide to both the WUI and PUI.
Evacuation Maps are another key topic. Real time zoning requires real time communication infrastructure and leaves residents with a false sense of security. Even President Strand commented on the failure of technology with a simple task of getting people heard when they want to speak via the phone during council meetings. Communications fail repeatedly in fire after fire. I believe either Fire Chief Royal or Fire Marshal Lacey stated that during an evacuation, when someone gets Zonehaven text notice to evacuate, the citizen will be able to click on a button and get an evacuation map on their phone with a map of the zone which identifies roads. This is a good idea although it isn’t an evacuation route map, and it becomes moot when the cell towers or service fails. Also, consider that depending on one's cell provider and/or the location within the city, coverage, in normal conditions, can be one to zero bars. This leaves citizens in the dark and in danger as they may not receive notification and will not know which route to use. Paper maps are the prudent option as the first priority especially when technology fails.
During the July 12th Council meeting, a task was requested of Travis Easton to conduct an evaluation of FLEET and report back within 120 days. I believe, as do many other Westside Watch board members and followers, that this is a flawed request. First, there is no scope of work to define what is to be evaluated. There are no parameters defined which are critical to get meaningful data from the modeling tool. In addition, Mr. Easton stated that he is a traffic engineer and there are no standards within the traffic engineering national standard for conducting evacuation modeling. Mr. Frisbee has also stated publicly that evacuation modeling cannot be done, however the national experts disputed this and gave examples of its use across the country and throughout the world since the 1970s. An independent, third party should be assigned this task and reviewed by the City and Westside Watch prior to a formal presentation back to City Council. Let’s be thorough and sincere about this important task.
The City is looking at placing a PPRTA ballot initiative on the November ballot for a vote for funding on roads and other infrastructure. There are no projects slated on the west side of town that improve the already potential tragic evacuation concerns which were first identified in the 2010 study. How can you possibly approve of this massive growth without growing the road network capacity, in advance? You are setting up the perfect conditions for a catastrophic outcome.
I respectfully request that the second vote be postponed until the proper scope of work is defined for the FLEET evaluation and CET language and evacuation mapping is addressed which doesn’t rely on technology as the sole source of information. If the ordinance is placed on the consent calendar due to the unanimous 9-0 vote, please note that I am requesting that this ordinance be pulled from the consent calendar.
On behalf of the thousands of Westside Watch supporters, friends, and neighbors and the Westside Watch Board of Directors,
President, Westside Watch
719 338-0140 Cell / Text