« Return to this article

Know the West

Growth boundary grows



All along the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies, development continues to roll out like freshly laid sod. Five years ago, in an effort to limit sprawl, a voluntary association of business leaders, developers and elected officials from 48 local governments drew up a plan that included an urban growth boundary. But the growth boundary is ... growing.

The original plan limited the Front Range urban area to 700 square miles in the year 2020 (allowing for a 30 percent size increase). To reflect revised population and growth forecasts, the limit was upped to 731. By last year it was up to 747. Now, the limit could swell to nearly 850 square miles.

The latest revision will bring the plan up to date with federal transportation requirements, which require a minimum 20-year outlook. The limit is higher, say planners, because the updated plan, to be released in December, will look even farther ahead, to 2030. "In the Intermountain West," says Charlie Unseld, director of Colorado's Office of Smart Growth, "I think we're doing as well as anybody."

Critics say the plan is too flexible. They point out that four counties have yet to sign on, and other cities and towns have asked for more space to develop. "If they continue to expand the boundary when there's a lack of criteria over when and how to expand," says Ann Livingston, land use attorney for the Colorado Public Interest Research Group, "you really have no growth boundary at all."