Editorial: Growth patterns demand expansion of regional planning

An attendee at BizWest’s Boulder Valley Real Estate Conference, conducted Nov. 29 at the new Embassy Suites in Boulder, asked an astute question during one of the sessions:

“Who is thinking regionally?”

The question came amidst a panel that relayed examples of millions of square feet of commercial development planned for the region, not only in Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties but also beyond. That’s in addition to tens of thousands of planned residential units and hundreds of thousands of additional residents.

The short answer to the attendee’s question is that a lot of people are thinking regionally, as growth issues dominate all along the Front Range. One example is the North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization, focusing on transportation and air quality in Larimer and Weld counties.

The Denver Regional Council of Governments fulfills a similar role for counties in the metropolitan area.

But what organization exists to help guide civic and business leaders in the counties that are “growing together” in a myriad of ways, namely Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties, as well as Adams County to the south?

Much of Broomfield’s growth will occur along its northeastern border, adjacent to Adams and Weld counties. Weld County’s anticipated doubling of population will bring another 300,000 people within its borders, many of them abutting Boulder, Broomfield and Adams counties.

And although some modest progress is being made with regional bus service, providing commuting options between Northern Colorado and employment bases in the Denver metro area — and vice versa — it remains in its infancy.

Transportation and air quality constitute important considerations. But issues of education, health care, high-speed Internet and affordable housing should also be considered. Will sales-tax revenue-sharing agreements come into play for municipalities that previously had little contact?

And what code of conduct should be developed to prohibit communities from buying farmland in one area, then taking the water for their own use? Thornton’s purchase of farmland in northern Weld County to obtain water rights — thereby threatening the growth of communities such as Ault and Pierce — represents the type of water grab that should be prohibited.

A lot of people are thinking regionally, including business leaders developing projects across county lines. But it’s time for governmental leaders to follow suit, exploring cooperation and planning with communities they’ve rarely dealt with before.