Growth amendment debate on Thursday

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— The future of how growth issues are handled in Colorado will be up for debate at 7 p.m. Thursday night at Olympian Hall in Steamboat Springs when Environment 2000 hosts a public meeting
on Constitutional Amendment 24, also know as the Citizens Growth Initiative.
Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison will take the opposing position and former Denver planning director Bill Lamont will speak on behalf of the amendment. Amendment 24 would require local governments in Colorado to prepare growth maps describing where future development will occur. The voters in that jurisdiction would have an opportunity to vote on the map. And before a vote could take place, governments must supply the voters with detailed information about open space and parks, public facilities and infrastructure associated with the new development. In addition, information must be mailed to voters on the effects of the proposed growth on population, traffic, air quality and water supplies. The cost of providing services to the new growth areas must also be detailed prior to the vote.
Reached by telephone at his Carbondale home on Tuesday, Lamont said it would have been far preferable if the provisions of Amendment 24 could have been realized by new legislation. But the citizens initiative came about as a result of frustration on the part of concerned citizens.
"For four years, the Legislature has repeatedly failed to take any meaningful action (to give the state new tools to manage growth)," Lamont said. "Really nothing has been done over the last 20 years. In fact we've gone backwards. The Legislature use to provide funds for local planning in the late '70s. Today, they don't even provide funding for local governments."
Lamont was Denver's planning director in the Pena administration when LoDo, Coors Field, the Cherry Creek Mall and the Denver International Airport were built.
According to the Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly, opponents of Amendment 24 say a constitutional Amendment is too rigid a means of managing growth. They say land use planning should be regulated by state and local laws that can be revised as needed. Amendment 24 fails to take into account diverse local needs, opponents say.
Lamont responds that the constitutional amendment was deemed necessary because of the state Legislature's track record of overriding less formal initiatives passed by statewide votes, including the sanctity of Great Outdoor Colorado funds, an initiative calling for campaign finance reform and legislation meant to put restraints on large hog farms.
Proponents of Amendment 24 say the proposal puts local citizens in control of the future character of their communities by giving them the right to vote on growth and providing information on the impacts and locations of proposed growth.
Opponents of Amendment 24 also say it would drive up the cost of land and housing in areas already approved for growth and put a lid on prices for undeveloped land outside growth maps.
Steamboat Springs Realtor Brent Romick said he believes Amendment 24 would have a bigger impact at the lower end and the middle of the real estate market than it would on the high end.
"If people make you try to believe it's bad for developers, they're mistaken," Romick said. "It's not good for entry-level consumers, and that's the foundation of our community."
Romick, who is the developer of Creek Ranch and Lynx Basin Estates, said with his projects already platted out, Amendment 24 could result in a windfall for him.
"I feel values will increase 20 to 30 percent," Romick said. "If there is less product out there, the price will increase."
Despite that belief, Romick said he remains opposed to Amendment 24 because he feels it will result in a price increase for entry-level consumer, "the people that go to work every day and make the community work."

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