You'd think it would take the light of day to really see the impacts of poorly managed growth and
residential sprawl along Colorado's Front Range. And, certainly, when the sun is shining on all those new homes, you get an idea of what is happening to the Centennial State. But it is at night, really, when all the porch lights are on, that you can see the effects of growth so much more clearly.
It used to be a pretty dark drive from Denver to Fort Collins and by used to we mean about 1985. Except for the headlights in front of your vehicle or the occasional farmhouse out in the distance, there were few lights along the way until you reached the city.
Today, that same night drive isn't the same. Instead of seeing starlit fields on either side of I-25 as you head north, you'll see lightbulb-lit subdivisions in both the near and far distance.
It is that kind of change to the natural landscape of this state that prompted the creation of Amendment 24. The growth-management plan that would change the constitution is an understandable reaction to uncontrolled sprawl.
But it is the wrong reaction.
Amendment 24 would require local governments to prepare for voter approval growth maps describing where future development will occur. Those maps would be backed up by information on the effects of the proposed growth on population, traffic, air quality and water supplies, as well as the cost of providing services to the growth areas.
What is troublesome about Amendment 24 is not that it puts power in the hands of local residents we like that idea but that it issues a mandate.
The proponents of Amendment 24 should look to places like Routt County instead of the Colorado Constitution for solutions to growth problems.
Grass-roots planning efforts here in the Yampa Valley have been recognized at the state level as outstanding examples of the right way to get ready for the future. Routt County and Steamboat Springs know how to plan and we know what's best for us. We certainly don't need the state telling us how to do something we're better at.
Amendment 24 also is a bad idea because it offers a one-size-fits-all approach to growth planning. That's something we can't support. What's good for the Front Range isn't necessarily good for Routt County .
Finally, Amendment 24 is a bad idea because it would alter the state constitution. That document is no place for growth planning. It's too inflexible and amendments are too tough to undo. Do we really know enough about the future to write into stone our growth management idea of today?
Amendment 24 allows counties with populations between 10,000 and 25,000 people to opt out of its provisions for four years. Thankfully, Routt County voters have a chance to do that through Referendum 1C.
Amendment 24 should be thrown out by voters across the state as a bad reaction to a serious problem. But if it's not, we're hoping Routt County voters exercise their option by voting "yes on 1C" not to be controlled by a statewide growth control plan.