Lawmakers debate growth initiative

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— County commissioners and limited land use advocates debated Tuesday whether Colorado voters should be able to set limits to growth by approving growth area maps developed by counties and communities.
The commissioners from rural areas and speakers from the Colorado Counties Inc. Land Use and Natural Resources Steering Committee gathered to talk about growth in the state on the second day of CCI's annual summer conference, which is being held here at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort.
The debate centered on growth initiative No. 256, which is under petition to be on the November ballot.
It proposes that counties with a population greater than 10,000 and cities and towns with populations greater than 1,000 must develop growth area maps for voters to approve.
With a few exceptions, no land could be developed outside of the growth area without voter approval.
Commissioners are concerned that the initiative, if passed, would limit property owners' rights and impact the value of their land.
"If that person wants to do something with their property, they have the right to do that," Jackson County Commissioner Richard Wyatt said.
Stan Broom, president of Club 20, said the initiative is "seriously flawed" and would be bad for agricultural producers because the growth restriction would limit what people can do with their land. If agriculture becomes not economically viable, the land would be worth less if they wanted to sell it, he said.
But Elise Jones, executive director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, disagreed.
"The thrust of this amendment is to avoid sprawl across rural areas," she said. Jones said it would protect agricultural lands and the right of agricultural producers to maintain their way of life.
The initiative also would require that voters be informed of the environmental and social impact of developments "so they can make educated decisions," she said.
"The single most important reason is that counties are overwhelmed with costs," she said, adding that statewide, the initiative would cost $13 million to implement but would save $80 million a year.
Polling specialist Floyd Ciruli said the initiative would be hard for voters to understand. "Most voters will be confused," he said.
Teller County Commissioner Clark Becker said that if the initiative passes, the disinterested voting public would have the responsibility for passing growth maps, even though few follow the issues.
"Is that a practical approach?" he asked the speakers.
"You're going to have to come up with a pretty sophisticated viewpoint for the public," Ciruli said.
Jones said it would be the same system that the country uses for electing its officials and it would at least give the voters more control over growth in their community.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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