Panel discusses growth impact

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— Growth is inevitable for resort towns such as Steamboat Springs, which must focus its efforts on managing it in terms of such things as financing development and affordable housing, an expert panel said Tuesday.

About 100 housing, community and banking leaders from across the state met at the Steamboat Sheraton Resort to discuss growth's impact on the state.

"Growth is not a Front Range problem," said Bob Drake, who works for Talmey-Drake Research and Strategy. "It is a statewide problem."

Drake's firm is the state's largest marketing research firm and has been tracking state public opinion on growth since 1995.

According to a survey the firm conducted last year, about 48 percent of residents polled across the state identified growth as the No. 1 issue.

"Let's face it," Drake said. "Growth is a big issue and it is here to stay."

Surveys indicate the public is concerned about subsidizing growth.

"Everyone is in favor of managing growth," Drake said. "Everybody says we are in favor of that. But when it comes to it, people put away their wallets. Very few people want to pay for it."

Impact fees such as those implemented in Steamboat Springs have become one of the more popular tools counties and communities are utilizing to force new development to "pay its own way."

Vicki Mattox, a senior vice president for George K. Baum and Co., warned impact fees are not the sole solution to the problem.

"Roads are difficult to pay for as you go," said Mattox, who has served as the lead or co-lead banker for the financing of more than 400 municipal bonds.

Bob Brooks, executive director for the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, said there are numerous reasons growth in Colorado will continue.

Since 1990, Colorado has grown at a rate of 2 percent each year, which is twice as high as the national average, Brooks said.

Growth has happened in Colorado because of the baby boom generation buying second homes in resort counties or retiring in the state.

Jobs and Colorado's "high quality of life" have also fueled growth, he said.

"Colorado will continue to experience growth," he said. "The public's concern about growth should continue."

Brooks also said affordable housing will be a tough issue to grasp because of the continued growth.

"When there is a high demand, prices go up," he said.

Although the public is concerned about growth, many residents have not changed their mind about the quality of life in the state, Drake said.

"About 53 percent in our survey deem quality of life as excellent," he said.

"The grass is not always greener. We may have our problems here, but it is better than being someplace else and having their problems. We don't live in Texas."

Tuesday's workshop was held as part of an affordable-housing conference, which continues through Thursday.

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