Not since the battle over growth controls early in this century has the topic of growth and how to discipline it been more on Coloradan’s minds. A growth control initiative was placed on the ballot in 2000 that initially polled with majority support. It was defeated by a massive campaign by the business and political establishments. The topic shifted to the state legislature until the dot-com bust of 2001 cooled the economy and Colorado’s high influx of new residents.
But the state has been on a growth tear for the last decade, with a population surge that is affecting traffic, roads and quality of life. The latest population projections show a state with more than 8 million people, up from 5 million by 2050. A significant amount of that growth is on the Front Range, from El Paso County and Colorado Springs north to the Wyoming border. Colorado Springs will become the state’s largest city and opens lands in Adams, Larimer and Weld will fill in.
Numerous Front Range local governments are trying to deal with the issue. Using zoning to slow down development are frequent and volatile topics in many metro cities, including Denver, Littleton and Lakewood. Denver’s billion dollar bond initiative and Colorado Springs water fee increase reflect the stress on urban taxpayers to maintain quality of life and public safety. The anti-fracking movement is a symptom of the rapid Northern Front Range suburban and small town growth colliding with the oil and gas extraction industry.
Addressing a near doubling of Colorado’s population during the next 30 years will be a topic in 2018 and well beyond. The issue will be highly visible in the governor’s race and especially in the Democratic Party primary.