November 3, 2000

Letters to the Editor:Affordable housing not doomed

The Amendment 24 opposition group calls itself “Coloradans for Responsible Reform.” Where is their “reform package?” All they’ve done is spend $5.1 million-plus to try to kill responsible growth management.

They should rename their group “Developers for Business as Usual!” It’s very ironic to hear the development community lamenting the “loss of affordable housing” with Amendment 24 considering that they won’t touch affordable housing with a 10-foot pole. Where is their plan to solve the affordable housing crisis? If they kill Amendment 24, it’s back to business as usual for these guys; more and more sprawl and no affordable housing.

We are in no way in an affordable situation now. Housing prices have risen dramatically throughout the country and especially along the Front Range of Colorado over the past decade irrespective of whether communities have chosen to enact growth management policies. Basic economics tell us that housing prices are based on supply and demand. If you restrict the supply or increase the demand, housing prices go up.

Despite what opponents claim, Amendment 24 is not about slowing or stopping growth or restricting housing supply. It simply says where those houses should go. Amendment 24 is about good planning, and about stopping sprawl.

I urge everyone to go to the Web site, read the information, and make an informed decision. Don’t be swayed by the misinformation being spread by the “business as usual” crowd. We know what Colorado will look like if we do nothing. Vote “yes” on 24.

Michael Doten

Director, Citizen Planners

Fort Collins

24 a legal nightmare


Voters beware. While Amendment 24 sounds attractive, a closer look reveals many shortcomings. Proponents call the debate one of “David and Goliath,” yet slick slogans are no substitute for thoughtful analysis. As a practicing attorney for more than 23 years, I have carefully reviewed the language of Amendment 24 and listened closely to the Sierra Club’s arguments.

Unfortunately, 24 is literally loaded with legal pitfalls, intentional ambiguities and boosts governmental gridlock enormously. This is no common sense approach done by people who just care about the environment. Rather, it is an extremely sophisticated document created by those whose intent is to stop all development – regardless of quality. Who pays? Anyone wanting a house, apartment or a place to work.

Supporters say, “If you don’t like the traffic, vote for 24.” Constitutional Amendments are no substitute for properly timed traffic signals. Simplistic solutions for complex issues make problems worse, not better. Our system works best when popularly elected officials look closely at problems and fashion workable, balanced solutions. That’s not the way of 24. Good intentions are no substitute for good law. Vote “no” on 24.

James E. Ringenberg

Fort Collins

Trust the citizens


Why is the Responsible Growth Initiative proposed as an amendment to the Colorado constitution? Remember when the lottery funds were originally voted to go toward parks and open space? The ink had barely dried when the state legislature upended that successful citizen initiative by diverting much of the lottery revenues to other projects. It finally took a constitutional amendment to return lottery funds back to where voters had wanted them to go in the first place.

Meanwhile, millions of dollars that should have been used for parks and open space were instead redirected toward things that the voters never intended. It was with that difficult lesson in mind that the RGI was proposed as an amendment to prevent state legislators, obligated to big-money interests, from subverting the public intent. Developers dread the possibility that citizens will make important decisions about the future of their own communities. Such an outcome would mean fewer subdivisions strewn about the countryside and lower profits for those who benefit from sprawl.

Amendment 24 is designed to benefit ordinary people and their communities, not to continue fattening the wallets of developers. The opposition will say that Amendment 24 equals no growth. Nowhere in the amendment does it mention anything about stopping growth. It merely gives the citizens a voice in determining if, when, and where such growth will occur.

If Amendment 24 allows the citizens to stop development in an area that the developers want to develop but the people don’t, so be it. If the citizens decide to develop an area that I would personally prefer to keep undeveloped, so be it. That is the beauty of democracy. Don’t forget to vote “yes” for amendment 24.

Shawn Farrell


24 will miss its goal


Like many others in our state, I am disappointed in our legislature for not addressing the issue of responsible growth management. I moved here many years ago because of the quality of life, and I strongly believe others should be welcomed for the same reason.

We have one the strongest economies in the nation as a result of growth. However, we do have to accept the responsibility of protecting our environment, planning our infrastructure and directing new development in such a way as to preserve the integrity of our long-range vision of the community.

Amendment 24 won’t accomplish that mission. Although well intended, it assumes voters understand all the issues. If we were honest with ourselves, would any of us really vote to approve a new residential or commercial development in the hay field across the street? The truth is, we may not like it, but new development and plant expansion provides the jobs both you and I rely upon.

We can’t afford to settle for “the only serious proposal on the table,” there’s far too much at stake. Let’s not clutter our constitution. Vote “no” on Amendment 24!

Chuck Mabry

Fort Collins

Voters need to read


Instead of listening to what supporters of the Citizen Management of Growth Amendment say this document will do to control growth in our state, voters should read the ballot and decide for themselves.

Do you live in a mixed-use, high-density neighborhood? Would you want to live here if that was the only option? If you ran a company, would you want the company to grow? If you have children, would you prefer they have the option of raising their family here?

There’s no question we need to do a better job of managing growth in Colorado, but it will take a lot of hard work and input from all concerned. My hat’s off to the people who brought this issue forward, they just went a bit to far in assuming that their work was perfect. That’s what a constitutional amendment assumes!

Some within the coalition of environmental groups have suggested that “bugs can always be worked out,” which is a very dangerous assertion. If this document were passed by the legislature, I would support many of the provisions. However, we don’t have the ability to “tweak” our constitution without another statewide vote and presumably after the damage has been done.

Read the ballot then vote “no” on Amendment 24!

Claudia O’Leary

Fort Collins

End 24 fearmongering


Alleged extremist supporters of Amendment 24 are out for state control of real estate development, which will only raise housing prices, cost jobs, and so on. So the scaremongers are saying.

Developers have collected millions of dollars to fight Amendment 24, even taxing real estate brokers to fill their war chest. What do these folks fear? They fear democracy, of course. They fear that Coloradans might have some real say over how their communities will look in the future. They dread the possibility that citizens may protect sensitive open space and scenic vistas from becoming subdivisions or parking lots. They fear that city and county governments will have to hear from someone other than big-money interests when reviewing development proposals.

They fear that the public will learn how much it really costs taxpayers to subsidize developers’ profits and maybe think twice before approving costly developments.

Amendment 24 is a reasonable first step toward returning communities to their citizens. Why trust the future to well-heeled development interests that pressure local governments and the state to protect their publicly supported profits, generally at the expense of Colorado’s environment, communities and quality of life?

Vote for Amendment 24 this November.

Michelle Grooms

Fort Collins

Beware the ‘Boulder Effect’


Open space and growth restrictions increases the difficulty for people, especially single parent families and the working poor, to find affordable housing. Both decrease the supply of developable land, increasing the cost of remaining land.

This is mainly why Boulder housing costs more than metro Denver, and Habitat for Humanity opposes Amendment 24. The average new Boulder home $487,000 and the median existing dwelling is $340,000! Is this affordable housing?! People say growth and open space impact quality of life. Does quality of life increase when people who grew up here cannot afford to stay? Which greater impacts quality of life: suburban development or Boulder-like housing costs forcing people into substandard or inadequate dwellings? Do you want Boulder or an affordable place for people other than the wealthy?

Open space and growth restrictions increases regional sprawl.

Learn from Boulder’s example. Boulder thought open space and limiting development would reduce future sprawl, but growth jumped Boulder’s open space into surrounding communities. This can be referred as the “Boulder Effect.” Due to open-space purchases around these towns, and annexation restrictions though inter-governmental agreements throughout Boulder County to “control sprawl,” communities like Fredrick, Dacono, and Firestone are growing much faster than they otherwise would have.

As restrictions and open space increases restrictions and open space increases displacing growth, regional sprawl and leapfrog development skyrockets due to the Boulder Effect.

The Colorado Wildlife Commission fears Amendment 24 will push growth into ecologically sensitive areas. Do not Boulder-cate Colorado, but if you like increased regional sprawl, vote for the proposed moratorium, open space and amendment 24!

Chuck Erwin


Stop haphazard growth


As an individual who owns no car and relies heavily on feet, bicycle or bus for transit, I strongly support Amendment 24, also known as the Responsible Growth Initiative. I’m ready for a future-oriented vision that encompasses pragmatic planning for our inevitable growth.

I especially like the idea that development will occur only in areas where the localities can pay for the infrastructure required to support it; I’m sure none of us need increasing monthly bills! The Public Service Company of Colorado sent me a letter a few months back explaining that my rates are going up due to new development that requires more gas lines to be laid. How much more will each citizen of the Front Range have to pay as we continue to grow haphazardly outward?

Amendment 24 places the responsibility of decision making on all of us – the citizens, the planners, the city council – so that each of us has a say in how our growth happens. This embraces the very nature of our democratic system, so long as we each step up to the challenge and cast our votes when election time comes each year.

I encourage everyone to get out to the polls on Nov. 7 and support the Responsible Growth Initiative, Amendment 24!

Katharine Gormly

Fort Collins

24 limits farmers’ rights


Amendment 24, the antigrowth initiative, is a change to our Colorado Constitution that would severely limit local management of growth. It would require a costly and confusing citywide or countywide vote (once a year) to amend any “growth-area map” to allow for development.

For farmers and ranchers, it would infringe on their property rights to divide even one tract of land unless voters approve the growth area plan. Amendment 24 would restrict animal feeding operations such as cattle feeding, dairy farming from expanding. Weld County Colorado is fifth in our nation in total dollar output from agriculture providing up to $2 billion in meat, milk, eggs and produce to consumers in our state, nation and abroad.

How would any businessperson like to operate in a state that prevented any business expansion? It is even worse for any new animal feeding operations as central water and sewer systems are required and they would have to locate in an urban growth area. Yes, 24 would require new animal feeding operations to be built in urban areas. That’s stupid!

Proponents include the Colorado Environmental Coalition who care more about saving prairie dogs (rats) stopping water storage projects, etc. They want to change Colorado after the order of Boulder County where middle class families can’t afford the housing.

Please join the Northern Colorado Chambers of Commerce, the Colorado Farm Bureau, the Colorado Livestock Association, and sixty other Colorado organizations including the AFL-CIO, in opposing Amendment 24.

Rich Hergert


Clear up misinformation


A number of recent letters have presented misinformation about the effects of Amendment 24, the Responsible Growth amendment. I’d like to try to clear up some of that misinformation.

First, this amendment will not stop growth. It limits sprawl, helping future growth be more compact and adjacent to existing development. It will also exempt new development in areas already committed to development, including tens of thousands of acres of partially built subdivisions, infill sites and vacant land within cities.

Second, it will not strangle the Colorado economy. Other states that have adopted growth management have found it helps their economy because quality industries want to locate in states where their workers’ quality of life is protected. They use growth management as a recruiting tool.

Third, it will not hurt agriculture. The amendment allows local governments to define what activities are agricultural in nature. In fact, the amendment will help protect Colorado’s agricultural economy by slowing the conversion of crop and ranch land to development. It does, however, restrict farmers and ranchers from subdividing their land into small parcels for development – which is not agriculture.

I urge you to support this reasonable first step toward responsible growth.

Margi Williams

Fort Collins

24 text is a muddle


I am writing this letter to attempt to help educate the residents of Colorado of the dangers of Amendment 24.

Although I am as much for growing Colorado in a smart manner as the next guy, I am forced to read between the lines when it comes to amending our state legislation and placing local growth decisions at the state level. Simply put, the Amendment 24 text has been written in such a manner that as to result in numerous interpretation options and legal challenges for years to come. During this interpretation period, the forces that have led to Colorado’s prosperity will be stopped and our economy and future will falter due to Amendment 24.

It is scary to hear the views that many supporters of Amendment 24 are presenting to people. One such view I have heard is that the amendment would promote the economic condition of Colorado by keeping our economy healthy in years to come. I for one cannot even begin to guess where this view is derived within the text of the proposed amendment. In reality it will do only the opposite by preventing local municipalities from making growth decisions in the best interest of their community.

This in turn will prevent local municipalities from attracting new business and improving the lifestyle of the local residents. Amendment 24 places all growth decisions at the State level regardless of local need. According to Amendment 24, a person living in southwestern Colorado has just as much ability and right to determine whether a new grocery store is needed Fort Collins, as do the local residents of Fort Collins. Placing all growth decisions at the state level will only prevent the needs of our communities from being addressed by the people that need them.

Coverage of Amendment 24 in recent weeks has appeared to focus almost exclusively on the issue of residential growth. However, the text of the proposed amendment covers residential, commercial and industrial growth. This means that if a business decides it can be a benefit to a local community the community does not even have the legal ability to provide them with development opportunities until the proposal can be voted on by all residents of the entire state. If this isn’t cause for concern, I don’t know what is.

Therefore, I hope these few point will encourage you to explore the dangerous text of Amendment 24 and vote “no” on Amendment 24 in the Nov. 7 election. Our future depends on voting “no” on Amendment 24.

Rob Swanson


Save Colorado’s treasures


The time to act is now! From the Great Plains, through the foothills to the Rocky Mountains and down the Western Slope, Colorado is blessed with spectacular natural treasures. I, for one, want to pass those treasures on to future generations.

That becomes less and less likely to happen as sprawling development rolls over more and more open lands. Once those natural and agricultural areas are lost to asphalt and buildings, they are gone forever. Traffic becomes more congested, pollution increases, and Colorado begins to look less like its unique self and more like so many other overdeveloped areas around the country. Shouldn’t residents play a role in deciding what their towns and landscapes will look like in the future?

Shouldn’t we have to give some thought to what kind of growth should happen and where? Shouldn’t we be told the full costs of that growth? That’s what the Responsible Growth Initiative – Amendment 24 – will accomplish. It will transfer decision-making power into the hands of the people to decide the future of their communities. The state legislature has dropped the ball on this issue. It is up to the people to take action now, by voting “yes” on 24!

Kris A. Cafaro

Fort Collins

Let planners do jobs

Colorado seems to be caught in the grip of Constitutional Amendment fever. I have always understood the Constitution to be the document which provides the basic framework of our government – that is, how it works, how the laws, rules and functions of our society are to be created and provided for.

It is not intended to be all of the governing statutes, bodies and procedures. If Colorado persists in adding amendment after amendment to the Constitution for each special interest, or good cause or problem to be solved, soon we’ll have a document even more unwieldy than the ballots we are forced to wade through at each election.

I recently received my 80-plus page election booklet. I don’t know about anybody else, but I was left dazed and confused. Not only do I not understand most of what’s being asked of me to decide upon, I don’t even have access to the resources to make a proper, informed decision.

That’s why we have elected legislators, hired planning staffs, engineers and others to devote their time to understanding these issues and all the ramifications involved. Please let them do their jobs; I certainly cannot intelligently and responsibly make these complex decisions on election day. Do we really want to add dozens of planning decisions at each election? Have you ever seen a planning folder? Most run to six inches thick. Are you prepared to read several of those each election in order to make an informed decision?

Regarding Amendment 24, to state that there is a lack of planning effort by the cities and towns of Colorado is disingenuous at best, outright deceit at worst. Colorado cities and towns devote a great deal of time and effort to planning and planning decisions. Planning commissions and city councils are involved at every level, from land planning, to conservation efforts, parks dedications, water and wastewater issues and quality of life on every level. To have all planning decisions determined by a popularity contest on election day, with all the well thought out city plans and other planning efforts just thrown out the door – no rules – is insane.

Think really hard before you vote for Amendment 24. Think about the decision of the Colorado Wildlife Federation, which has come out against Amendment 24 because they have concluded that Amendment 24 will move development from urban areas into the very remote and open areas that 24 purports to protect. Or Habitat for Humanity which has concluded that Amendment 24 will make affordable housing unattainable in our state. Or the AFL-CIO, which has concluded that 24 will torpedo our economy. Or the Cattlemen’s Association, or the Farm Bureau, or the Wheat Growers Association, or the League of Municipal Governments, or Green Industries of Colorado, or the forty other informed organizations, cities and towns that have come out against Amendment 24.

Are they all wrong; or has the Sierra Club become so radical that they don’t care whose economy they ruin or how much existing planning they throw out the window in their effort to stop all growth in Colorado.

Matt Deal

Fort Collins

We pay the bills


I don’t like paying for something that actually makes my quality of life worse. That’s exactly what we are all doing when our tax dollars are used to finance new infrastructure growth. Developers and new residents don’t pay for new schools, roads and utilities. We do. And we don’t have any say in how our money is spent.

Our quality of life worsens in the process. When new growth is not responsible, too much driving is required to get to stores and other services. This adds to pollution and frustrating traffic for all of us.

I am really tired of hearing that indiscriminate growth is required for Colorado’s good economy. This is simply not true. What about my finances, that are fueling this growth, and my quality of life? And what will attract workers and businesses to Colorado if we don’t pay enough attention to preserving clean air and water and the natural beauty of our state?

Vote “yes” on Amendment 24, the responsible growth initiative, so that we can have more say on where, when and how growth happens and how it’s paid for.

Deborah Ogden

Fort Collins

24 hits poor hardest


This November, the Amendment 24 ballot initiative gives us the opportunity to protect Colorado from the agenda of wealthy special interests. With Amendment 24, voters will be able to review growth maps and reject new developments that we see as harmful to our quality of life. At last, we can stop those greedy developers at Habitat for Humanity, CARE Housing, and Catholic Charities from plaguing Fort Collins with endless sprawl.

I’m being cynical, of course. These organizations are not greedy developers. They are nonprofit organizations that develop homes for the working poor. And yet Habitat for Humanity of Colorado, CARE and the Northern Colorado Social Legislation Network of Catholic Charities oppose this initiative. You do not have to be greedy to see flaws in Amendment 24. It is unlikely the “Responsible Growth” initiative will have any positive impact on the problem of sprawl. And I am convinced this initiative will hurt low-income families and assure sprawl from their perspective.

Nonprofit developers already face huge challenges to find affordable land in Fort Collins. Amendment 24 would prevent any new housing developments in Larimer County without voter approval, unless the land is already “committed” for development. Thus, developers will be competing for the committed areas in the city. According to Chadrick Martinez, Executive Director of CARE Housing, it will be very difficult for nonprofit developers to secure land in this scenario. CARE, Habitat and Catholic Charities will likely be priced out of the committed areas of Fort Collins.

Thus, with Amendment 24 sprawl must continue for new low income housing to be feasible. Voters will have to approve new growth areas on more affordable undeveloped land. But remember, under Amendment 24, a municipality may not even propose a new growth area unless it is partially contiguous to an existing development or growth area. Once again, nonprofit developers face the challenge of competition for desirable close-to-town land. Not to mention the challenge of the not-in-my-backyard syndrome that will result when voters must approve low-income housing adjacent to their own neighborhoods.

Unlike a municipality, a county may propose a growth area that is not contiguous to existing developments under Amendment 24. Such remote areas may be the only land that is for feasible for low-income developments. According to Carolynne White of the Colorado Municipal League, the result is that “workers will be forced to range further and further from already developed areas in search of affordable housing.” And we end up with the sprawl that initiative proponents were hoping to curb. Low-income families will be the most impacted by unintended consequences, as they must travel the furthest to reach jobs and services.

There is no need to predict how Amendment 24 will affect the real estate market. We can see the impacts already as land prices fluctuate in anticipation of Amendment 24. Real estate broker Steven Pfister has watched owners of land in committed areas increase prices, or take their land off the market all together until after the election. Meanwhile, land outside committed areas has dropped in value. He cites one example where an affordable housing developer was in negotiation for 140 acres of land annexed by a Larimer County municipality. In anticipation of Amendment 24, the land price has increased from $7500 to $10,000 per acre.

You can call this greed, or call it basic economics. The result is the same for low-income families. Please, help protect the rights of all Colorado residents for decent way of life by voting no on Amendment 24.

Jon Fairchild

Fort Collins

The Amendment 24 opposition group calls itself “Coloradans for Responsible Reform.” Where is their “reform package?” All they’ve done is spend $5.1 million-plus to try to kill responsible growth management.

They should rename their group “Developers for Business as Usual!” It’s very ironic to hear the development community lamenting the “loss of affordable housing” with Amendment 24 considering that they won’t touch affordable housing with a 10-foot pole. Where is their plan to solve the affordable housing crisis? If they kill Amendment 24, it’s back to business as usual for these guys; more and more sprawl and no affordable housing.

We are…

Sign up for BizWest Daily Alerts