Western Slope lawmakers look to soften Front Range legislators’ attempt to nix population-growth caps | SteamboatToday.com

Western Slope lawmakers look to soften Front Range legislators’ attempt to nix population-growth caps

Carpenters work on the foundation of the Emerald Heights townhomes. Concerned voices in the Western Slope are speaking out against House Bill 23-1255 that seeks to remove population growth caps from local governments in Colorado.
Scott Franz/Steamboat Pilot & Today

A bill regarding the regulation of local housing growth caps introduced by three Front Range legislators has officials all over the Western Slope demanding amendments.

Legislators pushing House Bill 23-1255 say the bill seeks to tackle issues regarding local governments enacting laws restricting the growth of residential housing. The most recent draft of the bill explicitly “forbids the enactment or enforcement of any future local housing growth restriction, unless the local government has experienced a disaster emergency.”

Opposition votes from state Rep. Meghan Lukens, D-Steamboat Springs, and 25 other legislators were not enough to halt HB23-1255, and a majority vote passed the bill onto the Senate during its third reading Monday, April 24.

Representatives from Summit, Eagle, Mesa and Delta counties cast opposition votes alongside Speaker of the House Julie McCluskie of Summit County.

The bill is being propelled by a housing development study done by the state that demonstrated Colorado has more than 175,00 fewer housing units than needed to combat the spike in population-to-housing ratio growth that occurred from 1986 through 2008. The study showed the state will need 162,000 more housing units by 2027 to catch up.

Opposing officials and advocacy groups mostly take issue with the way the bill is written and the lack of specificity in it, with many calling for amendments that would make the bill more palatable to different types of Colorado communities — rural, rural resort, urban and suburban.

“We still have concerns with how the bill is written, we believe it needs to be narrowed,” said Meghan MacKillop, Colorado Municipal League’s legislative and policy advocate. “We would appreciate some clarification that local governments can restrict growth as long as they allow affordable and attainable growth as well.”

Get the top stories in your inbox every morning. Sign up here: steamboatpilot.com/newsletter

MacKillop confirmed the Colorado Municipal League remains opposed to the bill unless amended, but also noted her appreciation that the bill’s sponsors have been willing to listen to and consider the group’s concerns.

Rep. Lukens said she has been working closely with sponsors Rep. William Lindstedt and Rep. Ruby Dickson to ensure that her constituents’ concerns were reflected in the amendments presented on the House floor.

Lukens cited a substantial amount of outreach from constituents urging a no-vote for this bill as the driving force behind her opposition.

According to Lukens, the amendments she supports provide additional flexibility to local governments to address these concerns.

“Ultimately, I shared the views of local leaders throughout my district that we need all the tools in our toolbox to deal with growth in a way that balances the needs of everyone in our community,” Rep. Lukens said.

She said a major reason this bill would not hold up in Routt County the way it would in more metropolitan areas is because basic principles of supply and demand do not work as efficiently in rural resort communities.

“Routt County’s land-use policies have preserved open spaces, wildlife corridors and critical rural agricultural operations while still allowing for growth in our municipalities adjacent to transit and water and sewer infrastructure, and HB23-1255 could negatively impact these policies,” Rep. Lukens said.

Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan noted that the county’s opposition does not stem from wanting to restrict growth, and in fact there are many places in the county that have the capacity to grow.

His concerns lie with the bill potentially impacting the county’s existing zoning regulations, especially pertaining to the ability to create subdivisions.

He noted counties are particularly wary about the state forcing them to allow subdivision of parcels in areas without water, sewers and roads.

“All this money that would go into infrastructure that we would have to do in order to service those subdivisions, who is footing that bill,” Corrigan said.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.