Front Range officials debate metro-area growth boundaries
DENVER – Denver-area officials are haggling over whether projected growth boundaries for the metro area should be redrawn to make way for the predicted increase of 1.5 million people over the next three decades.Some members of the Denver Regional Council of Governments think extending the boundaries will encourage sprawl while others insist the boundary is voluntary.Environmentalists argue that expanding the boundary will make it meaningless.At issue is the metro area’s urban growth boundary, part of what’s called the Metro Vision 2030 Plan written by the regional group, made up of officials from 52 local governments.Regional planners and elected officials created the growth boundary to limit development with the hope of reducing traffic and helping the area meet federal clean air standards. The state is under pressure to cut ground-level ozone pollution, formed when sun and heat bakes car and industrial exhaust.The state could face sanctions, including loss of federal highway funds, if it doesn’t meet federal clean-air standards.”I think we need to work together to minimize sprawl,” said Lone Tree Mayor Jack O’Boyle. “It’s a desirable end to keep the urbanized area as compact as possible.”But four counties – Arapahoe, Douglas, Jefferson and Adams – are pushing to expand the growth boundary. The board of the Denver Regional Council of Governments voted last month to explore several alternatives for changing the boundary map, including targeting 17 square miles of rural land for development.”This is a voluntary growth boundary. It’s never been a hard line,” said Arapahoe County Commissioner Rod Bockenfeld. “There’s a balance between private property rights and impacts in communities.”Arapahoe County wants the boundary expanded to include the former Lowry Bombing and Gunnery Range east of Aurora, where a developer plans to build thousands of homes on state-owned land.Aurora has resisted the proposal out of fears of potential impacts on its roads, water and sewer systems.”They’re on the verge of turning the growth boundary into a sieve,” said Matt Baker, director of Environment Colorado.Boulder County Commissioner Will Toor, who is on the regional group’s board, said expanding the boundary will inevitably worsen air quality and traffic.”There’s 200 square miles of undeveloped land already within the growth boundary,” Toor said. “The most compact scenarios perform the best with better air quality, less congestion and less spending on public infrastructure. We can accommodate the growth within our existing communities.”But others say much of the growth on the edges of the metro area is driven by working class families seeking affordable homes. They warn that restrictions on development could harm first-time home buyers by driving up costs.
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