Front Range towns buying land to provide open space

Our Colorado: Open Space community buffers
Posted at 9:05 PM, Jun 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-24 23:05:50-04

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DENVER -- Responsible growth is a phrase tossed around a lot in our Colorado. For some cities, that means curbing growth by buying up land for open space. 

Denver7's Our Colorado initiative is about focusing on growth issues we all face, native and newcomer alike. 

As you approach Boulder on State Highway 36 there seems to be a natural green ribbon surrounding the picturesque city. That is by design. 

"We have about 45,500 acres that we conserve and manage," said Phil Yates, Boulder's Open Space & Mountain Parks spokesperson. To comment on this story, click on the email link above. 

Boulder began preserving open space way back in 1898 by a vote of the people.

"And then in 1967, Boulder residents passed the first tax in the U.S. by a city to preserve and protect open space," said Yates. 

In fact, Boulder residents have approved a sales tax increase four different times to protect land from overdevelopment. 

That probably has not done much to help its ailing city budget, but has ensured the area's reputation for great parks. 

But clamping down on urban sprawl does have consequences: Home values just keep going up and up in Boulder. The median price of home there is now $1.2 million. That prices a lot of people out. 

Many of them simply go to the other side of Boulder's greenbelts, to places like Longmont, Louisville, Superior, Niwot and Lyons. 

People like the small town vibe of these communities which still offer some big city amenities. They escape the Denver rush, only to find these towns too, cannot escape the growth monster. 

Inevitable growth has extended cities like Longmont for miles in all directions. So Longmont is buying up land on the outskirts of town as a "community buffer" to sprawling development. 

"Development like you might see in Los Angeles where you don't know what community you're in. This provides us the opportunity for community identification," said Dan Wolford, Longmont Land Program Administrator. 

Longmont is buying more than 340 acres to keep the land from being developed. 

"(The) combined total it's about $11 million. It provides a clear line where Longmont starts," said Wolford. 

Longmont leaders insist they welcome development, but they want to manage it in order to preserve the city's stand-alone status. 

"We are not 'no growth,'" insisted Longmont Mayor Brian Bagley. "When you drive from Longmont to Greeley, or Longmont to Loveland, or Longmont to Denver, you know where Longmont is." 

Buying open space is nothing new, but more Front Range communities seem to be focused on the issue to combat Our Colorado's rapid growth. 

"If we didn't have that we'd have residential developments. You'd have maybe 3,000 units in this particular area that now will remain open space," said Wolford. 

"You gotta stop at some point otherwise we're going to be standing on top of one another's shoulders," said Bagley. 

Denver7 wants to hear your thoughts. 

Would you like to see cities and towns buy up more land for open space? What does your Colorado look like, given all the growth?