A Growing Problem

Opponents of urban sprawl threaten to take the issue straight to the voters.

"The status quo in Colorado is based upon years of tradition," notes Municipal League attorney David Broadwell. "We've had a decentralized system of zoning and planning in Colorado. One of the major premises of [Pascoe's bill] is that that system doesn't work anymore."

Broadwell says this is the first major effort to enact regional planning in Colorado since the 1970s. During that decade, Governor Dick Lamm engaged in frequent battles with the state legislature, trying unsuccessfully to pass a statewide growth plan. On the local level, says Broadwell, cities in Colorado usually resist any interference in their authority.

While most local officials in Oregon support the idea of growth boundaries, Broadwell says some believe that Oregon's strict land-use regulations have made housing more expensive.

"The main question is whether it drives up housing costs," he says. The median sale price of an existing home last year in Portland was $152,400, while in Denver the corresponding figure was $143,100, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Buzby says COPIRG is already building a political coalition to push the proposal. Besides talking with the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, COPIRG has started huddling with groups representing farmers and ranchers, hoping to convince them that the growth plan will preserve the state's agricultural heritage.

"We've been talking to people, and they're excited about it," says Buzby. "If the legislature won't deal with this, we're ready to take it directly to the voters."

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