POSITION IN BRIEF:

LWVCO supports responsible land use planning by all levels of government. While recognizing that most authority for planning is vested in local governments, LWVCO supports the creation of regional boards and commissions to address regional concerns.

POSITION: (Adopted 1974, rev. 1998)

  • Each level of government in Colorado should recognize its responsibility to make land use decisions that protect our resources and preserve our quality of life. Local governments should undertake comprehensive land use planning, and should avail themselves of all the statutory tools that are available for that purpose. Communities should be encouraged to retain their individuality and sense of place.
  • In matters of more than local concern, municipalities and/or counties should establish regional boards and commissions in order to address concerns that overlap governmental boundaries.
  • Growth should not take place faster than services and infrastructure can be provided nor exceed the resources of the community. Development of Colorado’s natural resources and recreational areas should emphasize environmental protection and reclamation. Scenic vistas and other open space should be protected.
  • Increased transportation alternatives should be available for everyone, including tourists, and a system of transportation planning should be developed and implemented as an integral part or tool of land use planning. Air quality concerns should be integrated into land use and transportation planning.
  • Sites, structures and artifacts of significant historical and cultural importance should be preserved.
  • Consideration and use of new techniques in land management and regulation which will reinforce and support our land use goals and objectives should be encouraged.
  • Prime agricultural land and the water to make it productive should be preserved for economic, social, health, land use planning and aesthetic purposes.
  • While the LWVCO recognizes that land use planning and decisions have been and will continue to be made at the local level, we support the ideal of future statewide planning.

HISTORY

At the 1973 LWVCO Convention, a land use study was adopted as a logical follow-up to the earlier environmental planning and management study, which had concluded that a strong state role was necessary. LWVCO needed criteria to evaluate land use decisions and to define the role of each level of government in planning, management and regulation of land use. As preparation, the study first looked at the geographic, demographic and socio-economic nature of Colorado. Innovative land use techniques and taxing procedures were also investigated.

LWVCO supported a strong land use bill in the 1973 session of the legislature under the Environmental Planning and Management positions. (It failed). In 1974 another land use bill was introduced (HB 1041) that did pass, and today is still the major piece of land use legislation. League did not support the bill because it abdicated too much of the state’s role to local government.

Since LWVCO’s land use position was adopted in 1974, action has emphasized protection of the land use planning functions of both state and local governments. In 1985 LWVCO successfully opposed a developers’ vested property rights bill, which would have crippled land use planning in the state. In 1987, a similar bill was introduced, which League again opposed, but it passed and was signed into law.

In the mid-seventies, the legislature passed a comprehensive mined land reclamation law supported by LWVCO. Subsequently we have opposed legislation to weaken the reclamation program.
In 1989 LWVCO successfully supported legislation clarifying the authority of local governments to enter into inter-governmental agreements for joint land use planning. In the same session LWVCO unsuccessfully supported legislation barring municipalities from annexing non-contiguous lands by means of narrow strips of land along rights-of-way (“flagpoling”).

In 1991 LWVCO successfully supported a measure instituting a new mined land permit fee schedule to further ensure that reclamation occurs. However, the weakened program from the 1988 legislation was at least partially responsible for a cyanide heap-leaching mine failure that threatened fish and irrigated agriculture. In the 1993 session, SB 247, supported by the LWVCO, rectified the weaknesses of the Mined Land Reclamation Law. The Mined Land Board now has the authority to prevent such disasters from occurring in the future.

The sand and gravel industry found SB 247 too stringent for their mines so they introduced legislation in 1995 addressing only construction materials mining. LWVCO opposed this bill as introduced, because of lax requirements. We worked successfully to improve the legislation, which then passed.

LWVCO has also worked to protect such land resources as natural areas and agricultural lands subject to wind erosion.

In 1994 we supported legislation that required the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to reclaim lands (especially agricultural) disturbed by oil and gas drilling operations. A Severance Tax Fund was established to address the reclamation issues.

In 1998, three years after the adoption of a study on Land Use, a concurrence was reached on new wording for these state League positions. The strong emphasis on statewide land use planning in the previous position made it difficult to address any legislation on the state level that was attacking present law.