"Growth and sprawl are experienced by people on a very personal level. Often, this takes the form of increasing traffic congestion and a dispiritingly long commute to work. Or it may manifest itself when children are forced to endure staggered school days because of inadequate facilities to serve ever-expanding communities. Attention increasingly focuses on the crop of identical roofs which seem to grow across land which was once open country." City of Boulder
For decades, communities like ours have struggled to find a balance between growth and quality of life for residents. Here is an execerpt from a study (Growth Now in Boulder Colorado: A Case Study). A link to the paper is provided at the bottom of the post.
"Growth management has been a central part of the Boulder political culture for more than forty years. It was born in response to the specific challenge of protecting the City’s physical beauty and sense of community.
In recent years, growth management has played a central role in the community’s attempt to mitigate some negative side effects of an expanding regional population and an extremely vibrant economy.
By some measures, Boulder’s experiment in growth management has been quite successful. It has helped preserve important elements of the local physical environment. It has focused community attention on the relationship between economic development and the infrastructure necessary to support that development. It has stimulated continuing public participation in the political process.
The sense that both the City’s natural beauty and its manageable lifestyle may be protected over time has contributed to the desirability of the City as a place in which to live and work.Rate of growth has been addressed by the various manifestations of Boulder’s residential growth management system. The location of growth has been addressed by the definition of service areas and the containment of sprawl -- from within the City and from other cities expanding toward Boulder -- which is accomplished by the City’s Open Space Program. Zoning tools height regulation and various approaches to non-residential growth management have, to some extent, attempted to direct the type of growth in Boulder.
The impact of growth has been somewhat mitigated by the green swath of open space and parks with which the City has surrounded itself.However, growth-related concerns have not evaporated in Boulder. Rather, the City finds itself facing a new set of challenges. So, with fewer available undeveloped spaces remaining, fewer construction options exist to compensate for any deficiencies in the City’s mix of residential and non-residential uses.
It is also true that the political and legal climate in which growth control has prospered is changing. Particularly as “takings” litigation has flowered over the last decade and as the possibility of more rigid “vested rights” legislation has repeatedly surfaced, legal uncertainty has developed concerning the viability of potential new growth management tools.While rate of growth, location of growth, type of growth and growth impacts have all been addressed, there is concern about the extent to which the consideration of those factors has been balanced. For example, despite all its planning efforts, the number of jobs in Boulder has far outstripped the ability of this City to provide housing for all of the workers who labor within it. The consequence is increasing commute times for working people and attendant environmental impacts on the whole region.
Growth and sprawl are experienced by people on a very personal level. Often, this takes the form of increasing traffic congestion and a despairingly long commute to work. Or it may manifest itself when children are forced to endure staggered school days because of inadequate facilities to serve ever-expanding communities. Attention increasingly focuses on the crop of identical roofs which seem to grow across land which was once open country.
These and other stimuli inspire community concern about maintaining the quality of life as the population increases. The image of the west which attracts new immigrants -- and which holds old residents -- includes open spaces and long, beautiful vistas. The specter of a never-ending concrete urban landscape is jarring to Coloradans, and other westerners, in a way that it probably isn’t to other Americans, but all of America suffers from sprawl.Evaluating the success of growth management is not easy.
Frank Gray, Director of Community Planning and Development for the City of Lakewood, Colorado, and past Planning Director for Boulder, has suggested that an analysis of the success of growth management should focus on four interdependent factors:
1. Effectiveness of attempts to control the rate of growth;
2. Effectiveness of attempts to control the location of growth;
3. Effectiveness of attempts to control the type of growth, including the balance between residential and non-residential development; and
4. Effectiveness of attempts to control the impact of growth upon the physical and social environment.Gray stresses that all of the above factors must be considered simultaneously.
Focus on one to the exclusion of others will, in his view, cause systemic distortions and may cause as many problems as it solves. For example, exclusive focus on the rate of growth fails to recognize issues presented by a problematic type of growth. Thus, residential growth rate management without some constraint on commercial and industrial growth is likely to cause a jobs/housing imbalance over time. That is certainly Boulder’s experience.
But Gray’s four factors may not be sufficient. In view of the strong reactions which can be generated by fast growth and by attempts at management of that growth, it is also appropriate to judge growth management systems by a fifth factor: The degree to which they stimulate broad community involvement with, and acceptance of, growth management program elements."
Which raises a question, does Whatcom County have broad community involvement in growth management issues? Or, will existing planning practices create an imbalance over time?
The complete study can be found at: http://www.bouldercolorado.gov/files/City%20Attorney/Documents/Miscellaneous%20Docs%20of%20Interest/x-bgmcs1.jbn.pdf