Politics sink growth management

 

COLORADO

After a failed ballot initiative, a dozen legislative bills and a special session that burnt the midnight oil, Colorado is no closer to managing its growth.

Gov. Bill Owens, R, had promised citizens a solution by summer, but the Legislature couldn't overcome a partisan impasse. Republicans opposed mandatory impact fees that would have forced development to pay for additional infrastructure costs. The two parties also clashed over proposed incentives for developers who build responsibly within proposed urban growth boundaries.

The Legislature did agree on several points, but Democrats held out for a comprehensive growth package.

"There's a point where you have to stand your ground or you compromise your principles," said Sen. Ed Perlmutter, D-Jefferson County, sponsor of one of the failed bills. He advocates long-term comprehensive planning for the 2 million additional people expected in the state over the next 20 years.

Sam Mamet of the Colorado Municipal League favors local or regional resolution to the growth debate. He says a flood of special-interest groups, from green groups to development lobbyists to Mamet's own organization, dilute the chances for agreement at the state level. He even suggests a hands-off approach: "This kind of thing does take care of itself over time. Colorado's boom-and-bust history proves that."

That laissez-faire attitude makes growth-control advocates uneasy.

Tom Perlic of Western Colorado Congress says the impasse in the Statehouse endangers Colorado's quality of life. "What you have now is ski-resort workers commuting an hour because they can't afford local housing. If things aren't done now, it will be a lot harder to live here."

Another ballot initiative or legislative bill could be proposed next year, but experts see little chance for success in the foreseeable future.