REAL LIFE EXPERIENCE
FOR COLORADO’S NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
In recent years Democrats have enjoyed great political success in Colorado, winning the governor’s office and gaining seats in both houses of the General Assembly. Republicans have lost ground throughout the state and we are moving to the political center. Colorado is in a period of political and policy opportunity unprecedented in our history. As a candidate for Colorado’s House District 8, I pledge to capitalize on the opportunities our current political climate presents to ensure that Colorado’s natural resources are protected and our state’s beauty preserved.
Colorado has experienced tremendous growth in the last 25 years. With that growth, however, has come regional sprawl and uncontrolled development. A paradox of our state is that we attract new residents and businesses largely due to our natural beauty and quality of life, yet those are the very assets that are depleted when growth goes unchecked. Agricultural land, recreational opportunities, open space, wildlife habitat, view sheds and clean air and water are all diminished by rampant growth.
Colorado’s future economic security depends upon strong environmental stewardship. Sound public policies that preserve our natural landscapes, water and wildlife are critical to our state’s financial success. Economic development in Colorado depends on conservation of natural resources through wise state-wide and regional approaches to planning, as well as developing efficient transportation systems and alternative energy sources.
EXURBAN sprawl in Western states consumes five to ten times the amount of land as urban and suburban development. In Colorado, the development footprint from this sort of growth has gone from 1.3 million acres in 1970 to 2.5 million acres in 2000. By 2030, exurban sprawl in Colorado is projected to cover 3.5 million acres. Exurban properties often compromise biodiversity, are overgrazed, and pose a significant wildfire threat.
COLORADO state law only regulates developments with parcels under 35 acres; subdivisions containing parcels 35 acres and greater are proliferating in our state. Land use regulations reflect a patchwork of multiple state and local jurisdictions, exacerbating the negative impact of urban and exurban sprawl. Government subsidies, tax policies and zoning regulations usually designed to stimulate economic development, also reflect a lack of coherency and create undesirable outcomes. Sprawl is the result, not the problem.
BETWEEN 1987 and 2002 Colorado lost over 2.5 million acres of agricultural land. If present trends continue, by 2022 Colorado will lose an additional 3.1 million acres of agricultural land, most of it to large-lot exurban development.
AGRICULTURE is the primary economic engine for a third of Colorado counties. Loss of agricultural land stifles local creation of wealth and threatens our tourism industry. Lost agricultural open space fragments critical wildlife habitat and increases air and water pollution.
SINCE the agricultural economy is declining while real estate values rise, farmers and ranchers are facing increasing economic pressure to sell their land.
LARGE lot rural developments cost state and local governments $1.65 for every $1.00 they generate in taxes. Government recovers double the cost of services rendered to private agricultural lands.
SINCE 1970, Colorado’s population has increased from 2.2 million to 4.7 million, and will likely exceed 7 million by 2030. Water supplies will not be able to keep up with demand if projected population growth holds true.
POSSIBLE LEGISLATIVE SOLUTIONS
USE state financial resources and/or taxing authority as incentives, encouraging developers to operate within urban service boundaries.
LIFT 35-acre ceiling of subdivision review.
REVISE nuisance lawsuit rights.
MIRROR DRCOG’s MetroVision 2030 by developing similar regional governance structures throughout Colorado based on social, economic and geographic criteria. Encourage and/or codify regionalism to formulate regional economic indexes and regional sales tax formulas. Listen to local planning agencies to determine urban growth boundaries and areas off-limits to development within the established region and make recommendations to a state quality growth commission.
ESTABLISH a Colorado Quality Growth Commission designed to alter development behavior while preserving agricultural lands and open space. Enable the Commission to evaluate and integrate the sometimes conflicting needs of the state that growth creates.
ENACT Priority Funding Areas (PFAs) restricting locations where state funding is used to accommodate development based on broad criteria established by regional governance entities and approved by the state Quality Growth Commission.
REFUSE funding for widening I-70 through the mountains. Instead, provide incentives for reducing vehicle traffic at peak times. Evaluate long-term solutions, including perfecting and constructing a high-speed, elevated monorail system able to handle steep grades should be the preferred alternative. Funding would be derived from a referendum or initiative. Similar alternatives should be pursued for the I-25 corridor, from New Mexico to Wyoming. Tax incentives for fuel efficient vehicles should be enacted as soon as possible.
PROMOTE water conservation programs before funding new water storage and/or transfer systems including new construction landscape restrictions and alternatives to planting bluegrass. Provide incentives for water conservation efforts such as replacing bluegrass, reducing lot sizes, and installing low flow water systems.
IMPLEMENT the Colorado Climate Action Plan to address global warming and make Colorado an environmentally sustainable state, ensuring our healthy, dynamic and economically viable future.
Colorado’s environmental health and sustainability is a key to a health, happy and economically viable future.
REAL LIFE EXPERIENCE
Posted by Matt Bergles for HD8