Category Archives: Planning

Beyond the Boom

The Rocky Mountain News did a series on the energy boom rocking parts of Colorado and how communities are enjoying, coping, and mitigating the impacts (or at least trying to). The series offers a a number of perspectives and the challenges involved in local-state-federal policy making and planning.

The day 1 article in the series, entitled “The billion dollar question: What if?”, is particularly interesting because two state legislators have taken seemingly opposite positions from the ones you would think they would take given their respective political ties. Their perspective is likely influenced by their location place in the state and the energy boom.

Representative Josh Penry, a Mesa County Republican, is witnessing the energy boom first hand and is a big supporter of creating a permanent trust fund from oil and gas severance taxes – similar to what Wyoming did a decade ago. Chris Romer, a Democratic Senator from the Denver Metro area, favors the more measured approach of analyzing how taxes are currently collected and allocated before the state tries to set up a permanent fund.

Who’s the conservative in this debate?

Read the entire series


Economies collide with nature

The natural resource based economy that dominated the Western Slope of Colorado for so many years is making a come back.moly mine - assoc. press pic

As Jason Blevins writes in the Sunday Denver Post, mining is coming back to a number of communities due to increasing demand and prices for precious minerals like molybdenum.

If the recent natural gas boom in Garfield County offers any crystal ball, more Western Slope communities are due increasing revenues, stressed infrastructure, a quick disappearance of affordable housing, and a shortage of workers.

The natural amenity and natural resource economy are colliding and the only thing they have in common is a reliance on nature.

Garfield County sees explosive growth

Garfield County received front page space in the Sunday Denver Post due to the energy boom driving the county’s economy.

Jason Blevins story captures the essence of life in Garfield County since the boom began five years ago. As New Castle Mayor Frank Breslin says, “It’s just all happening so fast out here. I just dart around like a bumblebee.”

The economic growth has been a boon to a county mired in a slump cause by the overnight departure of Exxon (Black Sunday) in 1982 and the county now has more jobs than it has workers. The challenge for the public sector is to try tokeep up and pay for the infrastructure to support the increases in traffic, homes, and wastewater while competing with the gas companies for workers.

Blevins quotes Christy Hamrick, the finance director for Garfield County’s 4,500-student school district, “We pay drivers $14 an hour, and they pay $22 an hour. We have to compete with that, and we’ve seen lots of turnover. ”

EnCana wins approval to house nearly 750 workers at well pads in GarCo

EnCana USA has won Garfield County approval to operate up to 31 temporary facilities housing nearly 750 natural gas development workers north of Parachute.

Each of the facilities, known informally as man camps, is allowed to hold up to 24 employees and contractors. None would be operated more than one year under the county permits.

Energy companies have used temporary housing facilities under the permission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, but the county learned it had authority to regulate them and instituted its permitting process last November.

Parachute Mayor Roy McClung wrote to the county that while the onsite housing will help, the town still will see traffic impacts related to EnCana’s drilling plans and is worried about overloaded intersections and the lack of funding to improve them.

He suggested in the letter that the county needs to be collecting impact fees from such developments to meet highway improvement needs.

Read Dennis Webb’s full article . . .

TOD can save the planet

San Bruno’s Shops at TanforanTransit oriented development is gaining traction around the U.S. (it’s already popular in many other countries) because it can address many community issues — provide affordable housing, increase transit service, prevent loss of open space, create public places — at the same time.

And now, in case you needed another reason to support TOD, it can also save the planet. As San Mateo County Supervisior Adrienne Tissier writes,

The solutions to global warming are found in modern urban planning and zoning and three little words: Transit Oriented Development. Build well-designed, affordable housing within walking distance of efficient mass transit, and the air-fouling traffic jams will unclog themselves. Better yet, build well-designed, affordable housing within walking distance of jobs, schools and retail, and car use will plummet.

It is nice to know that something good for a community has a global benefit as well.

Basalt wrestles growth

When you are the first town downvalley from Aspen and Snowmass Village, and stradle the boundary between Pitkin and Eagle Counties, you would expect some challenging planning and community development situations.

Nowadays, just about every where the Town of Basalt turns presents another significant challenge. For example:

  • Last month, one Basalt’s two downtown affordable hotels, The Green Drake Inn, sold for $4.4 million to an investment group that could repeat the trend in Aspen of converting small lodge and hotel rooms to fractional ownership luxury units;
  • The town is working to connect the older part of town to the newer south side with an underpass, since the 6-lanes of State Highway 82 presents a formidable barrier between two parts of town;
  • The booming second-home market is creating a shortage of affordable housing and every undevelopmed parcel in Basalt’s urban growth boundary has a development proposal in the review process; and,
  • The town hopes to complete the update its of 1999 urban growth boundary and master plan by this summer.

No wonder a recent Aspen Times Weekly article by Scott Condon asked ‘What’s happening to my small, quirky town?’

Basalt rejects Roaring Fork Club plan

The Basalt Town Council’s decision (5-1) to instruct its staff to prepare denial documents on the Roaring Fork Club golf club’s expansion proposal is the most significant decision for the board since the election of three new board members in April. The board members Amy Capon, Gary Tennenbaum, and Chris Seldin were elected, in large part, due to concerns over the proposed expansion and its relationship the the Town’s Master Plan. All three ran voicing their support of the current Master Plan. As Scott Condon writes on the decision,

The council majority said they didn’t believe the application by developer Jim Light and his partners complied with the Basalt land-use master plan, a blueprint for where and how the town wants to grow.

Council members cited the application’s request that the town annex property outside an “urban growth boundary.”

The Roaring Fork Club is east of the Elk Run subdivision. It has an 18-hole golf course and 48 luxury cabins. It applied to add 32 cabins, 18 single-family homes and 36 affordable residences.

To a large degree, the Roaring Fork Club was victimized by a changing of the guard on the council and a poor decision by the council in June 2005. Here’s the sequence of events that led to Tuesday night’s denial:

• The project is submitted in August 2004.

• After months of debate and opposition from a citizens group, Light suggests on June 21, 2005, that the town place the Roaring Fork Club application on a shelf for up to eight weeks. That would give the town time to work on an update to the master plan in the area where the club wants to expand. The council and the town planning commission decline the offer. They say the review of the application and the update of the master plan can occur concurrently.

• The council’s decision motivates a citizens group to oppose the project on grounds that the master plan is being ignored. That group stayed engaged in the process throughout the next 17 months.

• In April 2006, three new council members are voted into office. Tennenbaum, Seldin and Capron pledged in the campaign to the uphold the master plan.

• The Roaring Fork Club clears its first hurdle. The town planning commission grants first-round approval. However, the commission doesn’t debate whether the plan complies with the master plan. That left the threshold issue to the council, and on Tuesday night the hammer fell.

Rappaport and Dows acknowledged, to some degree, that they voted to let the review go concurrently with the update of the master plan back in June 2005. That process “failed,” Rappaport said. He and Dows also said they have heard from numerous residents in public hearings since then that the master plan must be upheld or changed via a process that allows all citizens to participate.

Public hearings on the master plan update are expected later this year or in early 2007.

Read the full article by Scott Condon . . .