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 October 8, 1999

Group urges new land use legislation

With growth as the No. 1 issue on the minds of voters statewide, a legislative proposal expected to garner widespread support would encourage – and in some cases require – city-county coordination for annexation and other land use matters.

The proposed legislation, for example, would promote the goal of having cities be kept compact, or densely developed, to preserve open space and lessen sprawl by encouraging new urban development to be in or adjacent to cities.

It also would strengthen the “municipal authority to challenge the formation or expansion of special districts and similar entities in unincorporated areas within a reasonable distance from the municipality where the formation of such districts may lead to the inefficient duplication of services or the promotion of leap-frog development.”

“The legislature will respond positively to it if it is a pretty well thought out proposal. That’s my spin on it,´ said Sam Mamet, associate director of the Colorado Municipal League (CML), a statewide organization of 263 cities and towns and a legislative advocate. CML and Colorado Counties Inc. (CCI) are two agencies behind the proposal, which, Mamet said, a number of prominent Republican legislators are lined up to sponsor.

Both CCI and CML representatives are among those who have spoken to an interim legislative committee formed to look at growth and land use issues; Mamet testified on municipal views regarding land use, specifically that local governments should be given the tools to regulate growth. The legislative committee has been meeting regularly since July and is expected to meet through mid-October.

CML and CCI themselves have been meeting regularly for several months to look at land use issues from the perspective of local officials and establish an agreed-upon agenda to present to the Legislature. “Both groups want to do something about it, which has been the interesting part of this discussion,” Mamet said. “Five years ago I could not have organized meetings like this.”

In the past, city and county officials would just “sit down and yell at each other,” he noted. But with the land use debate in the statehouse, it makes more sense to have local officials set the tone of the debate instead of reacting to the debate, Mamet said.

Boulder City Councilmember Dan Corson, a member of the group behind the proposal, said the proposal is “rather modest” regarding growth management and thus has a better chance than past proposals, which have emerged since the 1970s; the General Assembly has seen several in the last two years.

Corson noted that there are many statutes regarding how cities and counties deal with each other, and that this new proposal would strengthen existing legislation. Some items in the proposal are “musts” and others offer incentives. The proposal in general requires a lot of consultation back and forth between cities and counties.

“We have different issues now,” Corson said. “The growth and development issues are much more significant than anything the state has seen before.”

The proposal has a chance to be adopted and signed into law because, according to CMI, “it respects private property rights, respects local control of land use decision-making, would not require a state appropriation, does not impose any significant unfunded mandates on local governments … generally involves amendments to existing statues rather than the adoption of a whole new statutory scheme (and) would improve regional planning decisions by fostering better municipal-county relations.”

With growth as the No. 1 issue on the minds of voters statewide, a legislative proposal expected to garner widespread support would encourage – and in some cases require – city-county coordination for annexation and other land use matters.

The proposed legislation, for example, would promote the goal of having cities be kept compact, or densely developed, to preserve open space and lessen sprawl by encouraging new urban development to be in or adjacent to cities.

It also would strengthen the “municipal authority to challenge the formation or expansion of special districts and similar entities in unincorporated areas within a…

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