WCC Growth Committee
WCC'S COSTS AND BENEFITS OF GROWTH PROJECT
The Western Colorado Congress (WCC) has launched an organizing and research project designed to influence growth and land use policy decisions in Colorado. The project has two main components.
- Component 1: Develop and launch campaigns at the local and statewide level to influence growth and land use policy decisions.
- Component 2: Research the costs of growth in several Western Slope counties, and plug the information we gather directly into our ongoing campaigns Component 1:
Organizing and Action at the Local and Statewide Levels
In a sense, nearly every campaign that WCC has undertaken in the last decade -- from challenging industrial polluters, oil and gas interests, mega-retailers, boondoggle water projects, or the privatization of public assets -- has had a growth and land use component to it.
It's also true that some of the most creative land use planning in the United States is being done by small rural areas. For example:
- Ouray County, Colorado has instituted development impact fees.
- Douglas County, Nevada has put in place growth boundaries.
- Local governments in Mesa County, Colorado have signed a pact to prohibit new subdivisions or commercial development on 13 square miles of agricultural land.
- Deschuttes County, Oregon has adopted a transferable development rights program which restricts development in one area by allowing increased development elsewhere.
WCC and its community groups have long held that the best way to influence decisions and create change is to organize people in local communities around issues and values they identify as important. Given that much creative planning is being done in small, rural areas, community organizing at the local and statewide levels is a strategy that makes even more sense.WCC's "Costs of Growth" project provides a framework for designing new strategies at the community level to guide growth and land use decisions.
Undertaking Local and Regional Organizing Campaigns
Specifically, WCC's staff organizers will work with our individual community groups to design, implement and evaluate local land use campaigns. These campaigns will target decisionmakers to take concrete actions that will not only guide growth but make it more sustainable and equitable. We will focus attention on maximizing the involvement of people in land use and growth decisions by:
- organizing citizens as part of every local campaign to attend planning commission, city council and county commmissioner meetings on a regular basis.
- pushing for broad based planning processes that involve the entire community,
- training community leaders and organizers on how to undertake effective growth and land use campaigns at the local and statewide level through one-on-one meetings, house meetings and workshops
- challenging local governments to establish formal mechanisms whereby citizens can oversee the implementaion of land use master plans and specific land use codes, standards and regulations, and advocating reform of the public hearing process at the county level.
Specifically, in the coming months, WCC will undertake the following campaigns at the local level:
- The Ridgway-Ouray Community Council (ROCC) will organize citizen involvement in Ouray County's process to revise its master plan.
- By the end of the year. ROCC members will:
- investigate how caps on growth rates have worked in other communities;
- research how transferable development rights (TDRs) have worked in other communities;
- write letters-to-the-editor about the master planning process and the importance of citizen involvement; · write columns in the local paper after each of the county's public workshops;
- hold their own community meetings to find out what is important to citizens and what values they want to protect;
- develop and organize support for a strong citizens' recommendation to the county.
- The Uncompahgre Valley Association (UVA) wants to make sure that Montrose County's process involves citizens at every level. Montrose County will also begin the process of revising its Master Plan this year, beginning in the fall. UVA members will work to ensure that the county maximizes citizen participation by hiring a consultant that has direct experience working with small, rural counties, involving citizens in the hiring process, dividing the county into planning areas and holding multiple area meetings.
- The Concerned Citizens Resource Association (CCRA) is taking a strong
stand for controlling growth in Mesa County's land development code. CCRA
is participating in the county's workshops to hammer out the new code
by early 1999. CCRA's goal is to protect agricultural land and open space
and ensure that growth pays for itself. CCRA members will:
- strategize on the group's priorities and on its position in planning workshops;
- write letters-to-the-editor in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel;
- devise a media plan to keep the issue before the public;
- produce and distribute fact sheets and action alerts explaining the land development code, detailing changes CCRA wants, and encouraging citizens to write or call planning commission members and county commissioners urging them to adopt our priorities.
Each group will incorporate data from WCC's research as it becomes available into local campaigns.
Influencing Statewide Policy WCC will also bring its community groups together to influence statewide policy related to growth and land use issues. In the coming year, WCC will support statewide policies that will:
- strengthen the process by which annexation proposals are reviewed and require that communities consider a broad range of social, economic and environmental issues when annexing property,
- reform the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission so that its members are more evenly balanced between citizen and industry representatives, and
- establish more stringent environmental and public health requirements for hog farms and other confined animal feeding operations.
In addition, WCC will oppose a number of statewide policies being put forward by development and corporate interests that will:
- require property owners to be financially compensated whenever government regulations impinge on the use of their "property,"
- reform the initiative process so that citizens will have a harder time getting issues on the state ballot,
- allow developers to "vest" or secure the right to develop their property at an earlier point in the land use approval process, and
- facilitate the diversion of water from the Western Slope to the populous Front Range, including the Denver metropolitan area.
Component 2: Researching the Costs of Growth
This component of the project is designed to research and analyze the costs of growth in several counties in western Colorado. The Advisory Committee has decided tostudy three of the most prevalent development patterns in west-central Colorado:
- one house on 35 acres or more,
- a simple or minor subdivision of three houses or less on 40 acres, and
- a subdivision of ten or more lots each on 1- 5 acres.
For each pattern, we will examine a development that is close to an incorporated town and municipal services and an example that is at least five miles from an incorporated town and services. We will research the costs and benefits of growth for each of these three development patterns, based on current levels of service. We will examine the costs of law enforcement, fire protection, emergency services, schools, weed control, utilities, prisons, social services, parks, libraries, medical services, general government, sewer/septic, road construction and maintenance, animal control, post office and waste disposal.
We will also look at harder-to-quantify costs, including noise pollution, light pollution, air quality, visual quality, water quality, wildlife, open space, traffic, jobs and wages, affordable housing, and quality of life. Our researcher's first task will be to find or develop a model to assess the costs and benefits of growth in small, rural communities. S/he will then begin research in either San Miguel, Ouray, Montrose, Mesa or Delta County, first determining which subdivisions to study that fit our three development patterns.
Our goal is to create a replicable product that policymakers and citizens can use to help guide their planning actions. In addition, our researcher will gather information already available on the costs of growth. S/he will also survey what other counties have done to mitigate adverse impacts of growth and develop a range of policy options for our five counties. WCC will contract out the research in the five counties to a capable individual.
We estimate that the person we contract with will need to spend one month on each county conducting the research, compiling and analyzing the results, and preparing a written report. The plan is to begin this research during the second half of the year, depending on the progress of fundraising for the project and WCC's overall cash flow. For the development project profiles, we plan to enlist the help of two interns to get the job done.
We anticipate this work being done during the summer months. Plug Information Into Campaigns The final phase will involve the groups in the eight counties plugging the research and analysis into their campaigns to influence growth and land use decisions. As these individual campaigns move forward, we will rely on the Advisory Committee as a forum to report on successes and disappointments, share information, strategies and tactics, and hold each other accountable. WCC organizers will also assist each group on-site with campaign strategy and development. WCC will also explore developing a statewide campaign based on the research results, and we will act as a catalyst within the six state WORC federation to analyze and develop regional programs and campaign strategies.