THE BOUNDARY COMMISSION:
A MECHANISM FOR COORDINATING
LOCAL GOVERNMENT EXPANSION
IN METROPOLITAN DENVER
College of Design and Planning
University of Colorado at Denver
THE BOUNDARY COMMISSION:
Requirements of the Degree of
Master of Planning and Community Development
University of Colorado at Denver
Dr. Thomas Clark, Advisor
^Senator Dennis Gallagher
Dr. George Hagevik
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Urban Stalemate................................. 1
Purpose and Objectives of This Project...... 5
RECENT CONTROVERSIES AND INTERGOVERNMENTAL
County Boundary Problems........................ 9
Municipal Conflicts............................ 11
Special District Issues........................ 16
HISTORIC PERSPECTIVE............................. 24
The Early Years................................ 24
1945 to 1960................................. 25
The 1960's..................................... 26
Boundary Commission First Proposed............. 32
After Poundstone............................... 38
COLORADO LAW OF BOUNDARIES....................... 51
County Boundaries.............................. 51
Municipal Boundaries........................... 52
Special District Boundaries.................... 56
NATURE AND PURPOSE OF BOUNDARIES................. 62
A Tangled Web.................................. 63
The Issue of Structure......................... 65
Rationale for Third Party Intervention...... 67
The Twin Cities Breakthrough................... 70
TABLE OF CONTENTS (continued)
THE ROLE OF THE STATE......................... 75
A REMEDY FOR METROPOLITAN FRAGMENTATION:
THE BOUNDARY COMMISSION....................... 81
Purpose and Goals of the Boundary Control
What is a Boundary Commission?................. 83
Spheres of Influence.......................... 92
Review of Boundary Commissions -
State by State.............................. 94
Summary of Boundary Commissions............... 103
THE RECOMMENDATION: A METROPOLITAN DENVER
BOUNDARY COMMISSION........................... 110
Administration, Funding, and Staffing......... 110
Determinative Status.......................... 112
Types of Considerations....................... 113
Standards for Boundary Determinations......... 114
Procedure for a Typical Proposal.............. 119
DRAFT LEGISLATION FOR COLORADO:
LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOUNDARY COMMISSIONS......... 125
In the summer of 1985, the City and County of Denver and
Adams County signed an historic interjurisdictional agreement
on thel location of a new airport to replace Stapleton
International Airport and approved a process to allow Denver to
annex some 40 square miles for the site from Adams County.
However, many residents of the northeastern portion of the
metropolitan area would like to see the site further removed
from existing communities. Almost a year after the agreement
was originally signed, a headline article appeared in both of
Denver's major daily newspapers stating that Denver Mayor
Federico Pena was unwilling to renegotiate the site for the new
airport. The next day, an official in Adams County responded
with si proposal to build the new airport independent of Denver
at a location further away from the city. Denver countered
with a statement that, if the airport is not located on the
agreed-upon site, no new airport would be built at all.
Rather, Stapleton would be expanded, thus increasing noise
pollution and congestion in existing Adams County communities.1
The new location, while still relatively close to the
downtown area of Denver, is buffered from most Adams County
communities by the massive Rocky Mountain Arsenal. Denver
wants!the airport to be within its jurisdiction because the
facility is a key contributor to the revenue base of the
Colorado capital city. The airport would be an asset to the
whole state of Colorado, as well as to the entire metropolitan
area. Many resort communities in the Colorado Rockies rely on
tourist traffic which arrives via Denver's airport. Yet given
present boundary laws, residents of Adams County alone will
decide the future of this critical issue at the polls.
The law allowing one county to decide the fate of a
regional facility to be owned and operated by another county,
is an amendment to the Colorado constitution known as the
"Poundstone Amendment." The amendment is named after
suburbanite Freda Poundstone, a prominent Republican lobbyist
and politician. Placed on the 1974 ballot at the request of
suburbanites seeking self-protection against Denver and its
school district (then under a court order to desegragate by
busing), the Poundstone Amendment effectively prohibits the
City and County of Denver from annexing any new territory. The
amendment states that:
"no part of the territory of any county shall be
stricken off and added to an adjoining county without
first submitting the question to the qualified voters
of the county from which the territory is proposed to
be stricken off; nor unless a majority of all t
(emphasis added) the qualified voters of said county
voting on the question shall vote therefore." 3
No longer are residents of a territory being annexed and
the annexing jurisdiction the only parties involved in
determining the annexation, but the question goes before the
voters of the entire county. As a result of the Poundstone
Amendment, the Colorado capital is treated as a county, not as
The fate of Denver's airport is only one issue which
illuminates the inadequacy of current boundary laws in
Colorado. Located on the opposite end of the metropolitan area
is Southwest Plaza, the largest shopping center in the Rocky
Mountain West. Southwest Plaza is the focal point of
development on the Grant Ranch, a vast expanse of property once
owned by the third governor of Colorado. When development of
the Ra|nch was first proposed, the owners sought annexation to
Denver for the provision of services. This annexation was
disputed by suburban Jefferson County. Since Denver is both a
city aind a county, annexation to Denver resulted in a loss of
territory from the neighboring county. The Grant Ranch
property was developed with homes for thousands of people
before the issue of the disputed annexation ever reached the
courts. Residents received Denver services, paid Denver taxes
and sent their children to Denver schools. Two lower courts
decided the land properly belonged in Denver. However, on
appeal, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the Ranch must be
returned to Jefferson County due to a technicality of legal
process. The residents of Grant Ranch immediately became part
of the suburban world of special district services which
tripled their property taxes. Denver, which relies heavily on
sales;tax for its revenue, lost Southwest Plaza. Citizens
petitioned for reannexation into the city, but were told in a
court decision that they would have to abide by the Poundstone
Amendment to the Colorado constitution, which was passed while
the original annexation issue was being processed in the court
system. For the citizens of the Grant Ranch to return to
Denver;, they would have to seek approval by residents of the
rest of Jefferson County. This law effectively halts all
annexations to Denver.5
Similar boundary laws, which will be examined in Chapter
IV, have stymied Colorado's other municipalities. Therefore,
as urbanized areas continue to grow, urban political units are
hindered in the expansion of their boundaries. This means many
new areas of development create their own governmental entities
to provide services. Where boundary expansion is possible,
existing jurisdictions often battle to control the new
The Denver area seems helpless in efforts to deal
effectively with urban boundaries and metropolitan cooperation.
Metropolitan Denver is presently bogged down by many antiquated
and irrelevant governmental entities, thus promoting
substantial waste in money-expenditures and inhibiting
cost-effectiveness. (The Denver area has one-of the highest
number of local governmental jurisdictions in the nation.)
Tensions and<.conflicts between area municipalities are also
growing significantly, often leading to haphazard and
competitive actions. One example is boundary expansion, which
has potentially damaging results for competing sectors of the
metropolitan area, if not for the entire Greater Denver Area.
As a result of the area's extreme fragmentation, awkward and
confusing boundaries, and parochial competitiveness, the
services demanded and required by the population are weakened
by duplication and lack of coordination. For example, in
southern Arapahoe county, several subdivisions actually belong
to more than one water service district. In other
unincorporated areas, one government provides the water that
flows into.'.-the toilet, and another government is responsible
for flushing it away.7 This has happened to a city which, only
forty years ago, was hailed as a model for metropolitan
PURPOSE AND OBJECTIVES OF THIS PROJECT
This thesis project has developed from work done for the
Urban Design Forum two years ago during the "Great City
Symposium." The research for this thesis focuses on past and
present boundary problems in the Denver area and in comparable
regions across the United States. Several states have taken
significant steps to tackle boundary problems. The feasibility
of revising boundary alteration processes in ^he metropolitan
Denver region is examined and a recommendation for metropolitan
cooperation in the Greater Denver Area is presented.
A variety of people and agencies were contacted as this
project was researched. Among these were state legislators,
the Denver Regional Council of Governments, the Governor's
Policy Office, the Special District Association of Colorado,
the Department of Local Affairs, the Advisory Commission on
Intergovernmental Relations, the Bureau of Governmental
Research and Service at the University of Oregon, the Minnesota
State Planning Office, and professors at the University of
Colorado at Denver. Articles from The Rocky Mountain News and
The Denver Post were also helpful in establishing the
historical context of this thesis. Readings on regional and
metropolitan politics and planning enhanced the conclusions and
recommendations presented in this paper.
This thesis sets out to meet the following objectives:
--identify the current issues and problems caused by the
present boundary designations,
examine the historical context in which boundary
demarcations in metropolitan Denver have developed,
consider related political, cultural and social issues,
analyze and discuss the concept and purpose of
perform a comparative analysis of boundary legislation
in other states and jurisdictions,
recommend alternatives to present boundary laws in
This paper assumes the hypothesis that the system for
changing local government boundaries along Colorado's Front
Range is antiquated and ineffective. The legislation regarding
boundaries passed in the last forty years has actually hindered
urban jurisdictions from incorporating developing urbanization
within their spheres of control. The opportunities for
boundary expansion which remain typically produce tension and
conflict between jurisdictions. The whole system, therefore,
has given way to a crazy-quilt pattern of small, limited,
single purpose political entities providing a substantial
number of urban services for metropolitan Denverites.
The failure to establish effective boundary controls has
developed from the refusal of county and other local
governments to deal adequately with urban growth, a sense of
mistrust among neighboring political units, a fear of racial
integration, and narrow notions of local governance and "less
government." The result is (1) costly duplication of services,
(2) inadequate regional services, and (3) diseconomies of
scale. For example, southern Jefferson county, encompassing
more than 20 square miles, has 11 water and sewer districts.
Yet Aurora, consisting of over 60 square miles, is serviced by
a single municipal water department. 9
In the past two decades the Greater Denver area has not
succeeded in establishing some common regional entity to
coordinate regional services or in providing an arena for
tackling interjurisdictional disputes. It is therefore
believed a boundary commission with appropriate authority could
help eliminate the destructive and inequitable competitiveness
of existing jurisdictions for new development. The goal of
this thesis is to determine how the present governmental maze
has emerged and to determine what solutions may be offered to
enable a more efficient, cohesive, and unified metropolitan
area to exist.
1. Broderick, C. "Build Airport By Arsenal Or Forget It,
Pena Says," Rocky Mountain News (hereafter "News). Denver,
Colorado, June 15, 1986. p. 8. See also Diaz, J. "We Won't
Buckle Under, Pena Says," The Denver Post (hereafter "Post").
Denver, Colorado, June 15, 1986. p. 1.
2. ibid. See also Tinsley, J. "Adams May Build Its Own
Stapleton," News. June 17, 1986. p. 6.
3. Lorch, R. Colorado's Government, Revised Edition.
Boulder, Colorado: Associated University Press, 1979. p. 79.
4. Brimberg, J. "Legal Errors Halted Grant Ranch Annex,"
Post. December 11, 1978. p. 3.
5. Pankratz, H. "Grant Ranch Annexation Prohibited,"
Post. January 31, 1986. p. 28.
6. Day, J. "Poundstone Amendment Repeal Sought," News.
August 15, 1985. p. 6.
7. Graf, T. "Special Districts Play Vital, Veiled Role,"
Post. May 4, 1986. p. 5 B.
8. Lorch, op. cit., p. 59.
9. Graf, op. cit., p. 5 B.
RECENT CONTROVERSIES AND INTERGOVERNMENTAL ISSUES
At the beginning of this paper, two key boundary
controversies presently occuring in the Denver area were
presented. There are many more significant intergovernmental
disputes straining the well-being of the Denver Metropolitan Area.
A primary, contributor to this jurisdictional turmoil is the body
of boundary laws currently employed in Colorado. (Chapter IV will
examine these laws in detail.) This chapter will cite several
more issues and recent controversies involving boundaries of
Denver area governments. The issues are organized according to
the types: of jurisdictions experiencing boundary tensions and
COUNTY BOUNDARY PROBLEMS
Many of the counties in the Denver Standard Metropolitan
Statistical Area (SMSA) have developed or are developing "split
personalities" as urbanization intensifies in and around Denver.
Both western Adams and western Arapahoe countiesare primarily
urban in :character, which contrasts sharply with the rural eastern
extremes of the counties. There is minimal interchange between
the urbanized and rural areas of both counties. The urbanized
areas are;, for all intents and purposes, simply extensions of
Denver in their street, communication, and service networks. (It
s interesting to note that the rural population in Adams and
rapahoe counties voted overwhelmingly against the establishment
f a metropolitan council in the early 1970 's. In the end, the
roposal only lost by a very narrow marginby fewer votes than
11 those cast in the rural precincts of both counties.)1
Jefferson County, directly west of Denver, displays a similar
ragmentation in character. Furthermore, the urban-rural
.istinction in Jefferson County follows almost exactly the abrupt
eographical demarcation between mountain and plain dividing that
:ounty. The flatlands of Jefferson County are very much a
:ontinuation of Denver, whereas the mountainous reaches are rural
.n character, actually more similar to Clear Creek and Gilpin
:ounties. Douglas County has also begun to experience the
tensions and changes of a rural area giving way to urbanization.
It should be mentioned that with the exception of Jefferson
bounty, none of the counties in the Denver metropolitan area have
listorical boundaries traceable back to the original delineation
)f Colorado's county system. At one time, Arapahoe County
sncompassed all of the territory of modern-day Adams, Arapahoe,
ind Denver Counties and stretched all the way east to the Kansas
state line. Adams and Arapahoe were split into two long, narrow
counties shortly after the City and County of Denver was formed in
Given the City and County of Denver's lack of power to expand
its boundaries to keep up with the expanding urbanization occuring
Dver the past few decades, the question is often posed whether
)enver should remain a separate county. The original city-county
.onsolidation in Denver at the turn of the century effectively
mified the urban area of the Colorado capital into one
jovernment. Now, some eighty years later, the Denver area is a
confused maze with over 300 separate political jurisdictions.
Cnterestingly, the cities of Lakewood and Aurora have recently
considered county status as a way to meet the urban service needs
bhey feel their respective counties have been deficient in
Many of Denver's suburban communities presently in a position
to expand their city limits are finding themselves at loggerheads
with neighboring communities over boundary-related questions. A
key issue is the acquisition of new territory to reap property and
sales tax benefits. Within the past year intense controversy has
arisen concerning the so-called "Walter's property" near Cherry
Creek Reservoir. Once an outdoor learning facility for the
suburban Cherry Creek School District, the property has been
acquired by a developer hoping to create a specialized shopping
complex. The City and County of Denver annexed l,and on three
sides of the property over a decade ago, but Denver is no longer
in a position to annex additional areas because of the Poundstone
Amendment. The developer of the property in question wanted the
City of Aurora to annex the land, meaning that the City of
Greenwood Village first had to deannex a narrow corridor of land
along the Cherry Creek Dam which forms the fourth side of the
boundary of the Walter's parcel. Furthermore, Denver controls the
utilities on the site and could cost the developer and/or the City
of Aurora millions of dollars if it were to refuse to provide
services to the property and force the construction of duplicate
utilities for the parcel. Logically, the property should have
been annexed to Denver or even to Greenwood Village. To improve
its standing, Aurora proposed sharing some of the tax windfalls of
the site with the other municipalities in that vicinity, providing
they cooperate with the Aurora annexation scheme.4
In the Spring of 1985 Denver began a lawsuit to block
Aurora's annexation of the Walter's property. Officials from
Denver cited a 1973 agreement between Denver and Aurora in which
Aurora agreed not to annex territory as far east as the Walter's
property is located.5 Aurora retaliated with a counter-suit.
However, before the matter reached court, the two jurisdictions
were able to resolve their differences and produce several
cooperative agreements. Aurora would annex the site and share tax
revenues from the development with both Denver and Greenwood
Village. Aurora also agreed to pay Denver annually for costs to
run Denver General Hospital and the central city's cultural
Aurora has other annexation challenges as well. Back in
November of 1978 Aurora declared a moratorium on annexations. At
that time leaders of the municipality felt that the city needed to
focus development on land already within the city. Furthermore,
the city believed it was necessary to upgrade streets and services
i existing areas of the community.7 However, this self-imposed
Dratorium was dramatically lifted late in 1984 when the Aurora
lanning Commission, and subsequently the Aurora City Council,
pproved an effort to expand the city boundaries within a 117
quare mile area of both Adams and Arapahoe counties. This area
lone is larger than the entire core city of Denver.8
Greenwood Village and neighboring unincorporated communities
re becoming quite anxious and concerned with Aurora's recent
ggressive attitudes towards annexation in the southeast
letropolitan area. They fear absorption by Aurora would have a
legative and devasting impact on their lives and property.
Interestingly, many of those same concerns were voiced about
)enver prior to the passage of the Poundstone Amendment.)
Residents fear that Aurora's interest to expand its tax base with
office and retail developments will clash with the predominantly
residential character of existing communities. Greenwood Village
las threatened closure of the Cherry Creek Dam Road, a major link
oetween Aurora and the Denver Technological Center, a major
employment center in the metropolitan area.9 Moreover, Greenwood
i/illage is also examining an option to annex the Cherry Creek
Reservoir State Recreation Area to provide a defensive buffer from
Almost twelve miles due west of the Cherry Creek Reservoir in
southern Jefferson County lies the Bear Creek Dam. Some property
nearby was recently proposed for a massive commercial and retail
complex. If built as planned, the complex could rival and even
dwarf, the Denver Technological Center. The land in question has
been under consideration for annexation to the adjacent
municipality of Lakewood for a number of years. Due to the
proximity of the site to the tiny mountain community of Morrison,
the City of Lakewood once proposed a joint development partnership
with Morrison. The proposal would have allowed a sharing of
profits from the development. The profits would partially finance
related projects designed to stem potentially adverse impacts the
developmerit might have on the little town (e.g. traffic
congestion, housing demand, etc.)10
However, the whole project was thrown into a hotbed of
controversy in 1984 when Morrison announced that it would be the
sole municipal party involved in the development scheme, and
Morrison--not Lakewood--would unilaterally annex the entire site.
This meant the sleepy little town would expand its boundaries
outside of the mountain valley where it is nestled and would
nearly quadruple its size.11
Lakewood officials were furious at the "lightning-strike"
approach Morrison used and charged that the small community's
leaders were inept and duped by developers taking advantage of
their urban ignorance. Former City Manager William Kirchoff of
Lakewood claimed the whole project to be poorly conceived and
out-of-proportion to what Morrison could manage, as well as what
both office and retail markets could support. Lakewood is now
experiencing a great deal of anxiety concerning the effect the
Morrison project will have on Lakewood neighborhoods.
Similar frictions have developed northeast of Morrison, along
the 1-25 corridor in Adams County. Many local leaders and
developers in that region felt the area was also ripe for a
massive Denver Technological Center type project. Again,
unincorporated land was eyed, and the cities of Thornton and
Westminster began battling for control of the property, including
potential tax money benefits. This spring the two cities agreed
to set a mutually acceptable boundary for annexations.13
One final' feature of competition and aggressiveness
experienced in the Greater Denver Area because of uncontrolled
boundary expansion has been the creation of "landlocked"
jurisdictions. Englewood, Sheridan, Glendale, Cherry Hills
Village, Mountain View, Edgewater, and Northglenn are communities
totally surrounded by other municipalities and have no room for
The southern suburb of Englewood is one of these "landlocked"
communities, totally surrounded by other incorporated cities. In
1974, before Littleton annexed territory effectively closing
Englewood off from adjacent unincorporated land, the two
communities established an agreement in which the Arapahoe County
fairgrounds would be annexed to Littleton if the owners of the
land sought attachment to a municipality. When the fairgrounds
moved from the site, however, Englewoodnot Littletonannexed
the property. Littleton brought suit against Englewood in the
beginning of 1984. The issue remains unresolved.
Tragically, arbitrary and uncoordinated boundary alignments
may potentially lead to the stagnation (fiscally, physically, and
socially); of many Denver area jurisdictions, while other
municipalities can monopolize the benefits of the area's growth
and development. Should the "Auroras" and "Morrisons" of Greater .
Denver be the only communities to reap the benefits of the area's
SPECIAL DISTRICT ISSUES
It is obvious that the confused county and local
government system in Greater Denver contributes to many of the
problems among the cities and towns in the region. For
example, of the thirty-plus municipalities in the six-county
metropolitan area, five cities now overlap into more than one
county!. (The city of Broomfield actually lies in three
counties.) Another six communities provide services to areas,
not only outside their jurisdictions, but also into other
counties. For example, the Littleton Fire Department services
southeastern Jefferson County, and even has fire stations in
that county, although the City of Littleton is fully contained
in and! is the county seat of Arapahoe County. -
The "crazy-quilt" of metropolitan Denver governments is
further complicated by the balkanization of special district
services provided in the region. According to officials at the
Denver! Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), over 200
special districts serve the Denver SMSA and many of these
districts overlap other governmental jurisdictions (see Table
1). The Bancroft Fire District, for example, encompasses most
of the southern portion of the City of Lakewood, the City of
Morrison, and unincorporated communities in southeastern
Special districts often have fewer restrictions on their
functional powers than do municipalities or counties. As a
result, these districts are sometimes financially troublesome,
incurring cost overruns, and prove to be more expensive than
general purpose governments providing the same type of service
(see Table 2) .'lt5
A prime example of a special district boundary problem in
Greater Denver is the confusion in the southeastern portion of
the metropolitan area over the precise delineation between the
Parker and Cunningham Fire Districts. By and large, Arapahoe
Avenue, an east-west arterial street, marks the servicing
district limits of both fire departments: Cunningham to the
north and Parker to the south. However, there are a few
parcels along that avenue claimed by both districts. No one
knows to which district these properties belong, nor whether
the property owners are paying both districtsfor service.
Even more disturbing is the fact that there are several other
small sections of land along the boundary limits which neither
district considers in its jurisdiction. Both departments
regard those parcels as being in the other's domain. Again, it
is not known whether the property owners of those pieces of
SPECIAL DISTRICTS BY COUNTY, 1984
County Number of Districts
Clear Creek 6
Source: Division of Local Government Files,
(from Cody, T. Special Districts in
Note: Some districts overlap into
more than one county.
COLORADO SPECIAL DISTRICT REVENUES AND EXPENDITURES
1957, 1967, 1977, 1983
: 1957 1967 1977 1988
TOTAL REVENUE $ 8,448 $ 26,490 $215,108 $434,300
TOTAL EXPENDITURE $11,083 $ 33,236 $261,526 $520,100
TOTAL OUTSTANDING DEBT $75,832 $164,451 $476,954 N/A
Source': Colorado Public Expenditure Council Report,
"Special District Government in Colorado"
(from Cody, T., Special Districts in Colorado.)
land are aware of this inconsistency or if they are paying for
services they assume they are receiving.
One pattern precipitating the growth of special districts
has bee'n the growth of communities in unincorporated areas of
metropolitan Denver. Not only have municipalities been unable
to expand their boundaries to include these communities, but
unincorporated areas rely heavily on the services and
provisions of local incorporated jurisdictions. This is
coupled with the fact that unincorporated communities
contribute little to the municipal tax bases which enable the
unincorporated areas to maintain and improve their service
offerings and programs.
Moreover, present legislation and laws make it very
difficult for areas to attach themselves to municipalities (see
Chapter IV). Unfortunately, a system exists which inhibits and
prevents neighborhoods and properties from joining or becoming
a part !of an existing city. The so-called Poundstone laws of
1974 and 1980 (which are presented in detail in Chapter IV) are
key obstacles to this process. These laws, in effect, deny
people the opportunity to politically and legally associate
with an existing municipality. Several subdivisions (e.g.
Friendly Hills, the Grant Ranch, and the Buckaroo Ranch) have
been prevented from becoming a part of the City and County of
Denver, as desired by the people living in these areas. (The
Little Buckaroo Ranch has subsequently annexed to Aurora.)16
The resulting effect is irregular, illogical, and irrelevant
boundaries, causing service inconvenience and duplication, as
well as awkward jurisdictional enclaves. (There are several
sections of Jefferson and Arapahoe.counties totally contained
inside of and surrounded by Denver County.) When the Grant
Ranch, mentioned earlier in this paper, was deannexed back into
Jefferson County in 1980, the residents there were removed from
the multi-purpose, multi-service jurisdiction of the City and
County of Denver into a myriad of special service districts.
Detachment from Denver increased residents' taxes, while
simultaneously offering fewer services than Denver had
provided. School children were bused to Jefferson County
schools, a further distance from their homes than the Denver
Public Schools they previously attended.17
This review of current boundary controversies provides a
glimpse into the difficulties and problems experienced by
governmental entities in the Denver region. Strained services,
increased and inequitable property taxes, awkward and disputed
boundaries, and inefficient land use have plagued metropolitan
Denver for over a quarter of a century. The next chapter
provides an historic overview of the origin of current problems
1. Rosen, J. "Denver Officials Concerned Over Annexation
Talks," News. September 26, 1973. p. 5. See also Morehead, J.
and B. Ewegen. "Denver-Area Voters Scuttle USA Proposal,"
Post. September 26, 1973. p. 1.
2. Garnard, et al.
We, the People: A Citizen's Guide to the Colorado Constitution,
Denver: League of Women Voters, 1984. p. 21.
3. Williams, J. "Lakewood County Status Suggested," and
McBean, B. "Aurora City County Idea Claimed Hard to Achieve,"
Post.;January 22, 1979. p. 11.
,4. Day, J. "Denver May Sue Aurora Over Project," News.
May 14, 1985. p. 7.
5. "Aurora OKs Annex Pact," Post. August 14, 1973. p.
6. Blackman, J. "Council Will Consider Resolutions To
Protect Parks, Galleria Area," Post. January 27, 1986. p. 28.
7. McBean, B. "Aurora Council Votes Indefinite
Moratorium on Annexations," Post. November 28, 1978. p. 20.
18. Lowy, J. "Aurora Expected To Drop 'Blue Line'" and
"Landowners Near Aurora Not Eager To Annex," News. November 19,
1984. p. 7.
9. Day, J. "Arapahoe County Residents Blast Greenwood
Village Traffic Plans," News. March 5, 1985. page 9.
10. Duran, M. "Possibility of Bust Scares Morrison,"
News. September 16, 1984. page 28.
11. Duran, M. "Morrison OKs Project, Triples Size," News.
October 19, 1984. p. 14.
12. Duran, M. "Lakewood May Fight Annexation," News.
October 20, 1984. p. 8.
13. Schraeder, A. "Cities in Adams County Gobble Up
Land," Post. June 23, 1986. p. 2 C.
14. Hulse J. "Littleton Sues Englewood To Halt
Annexation," News. January 10, 1984. p. 10.
15. Anderson, W. and D. Walker.
State and Local Roles in the Federal System. Washington, D.C.
Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, 1982. pp.
16. Lowy, J. "Aurora Mulls 43 Acre Parcel For
Annexation," News. November 22, 1984. p. 40.
17. Stevens, M. "'Return To Denver' Residents' Battle
Cry," News. July 12, 1982. p. 7.
THE EARLY YEARS
During the first decades of Colorado's statehood an effort
was made by the state legislature to oversee Denver and its
government. This ended in 1902when Denver was granted home
rule and became both a city and a county. The legislature then
incorporated fifteen of the seventeen communities which made up
the Denver area into the City and County of Denver. (One of
those communities, Fletchernow know as Aurorawas left out
of the consolidation because of the community's critical
financial difficulties.) 1
Until World War II, most new development in the
metropolitan area was annexed into Denver. At one time
boundary difficulties in the metropolitan Denver area focused
more on seeking attachment to the center city, rather than
being detached from the regional core. The area was hailed as
a region which had found a political mechanism, namely the
consolidated city and county status, for handling the
metropolitan nature of the community. For forty years the
Denver area was relatively free of overlapping units of
government. The region was highly unified with a systematic,
though simple form. However, by 1945 tension was developing
between Denver and its neighboring counties from which the new
developments were annexed. In January of that year the
Colorado State Association of County Commissioners urged
legislation to end Denver's annexation of suburban land.
1945 to 1960
After the war ended, a great period of migration to Denver
began. Many service personnel who had been stationed in or
near the city during their tour of duty moved their families to
Denver. The city's political system could not keep up with
annexations and by 1951 the suburbs were growing two and a half
times faster than the center city.3
Throughout the 1950's both the city and suburban
communities wrestled with the issue of annexation to Denver.
Planners from the central city asserted that Denver actually
subsidized the fringe areas, especially with its water
resources. Some suburban leaders suggested the suburbs should
unite into a single government.-5 The mayor of Denver set forth
a proposal asking the city and the suburbs to join together in
a four-county regional government authority.6 This proposal
was met with an invitation from leaders of suburban communities
for the Denver mayor and for politicians of adjacent
jurisdictions to study a "super-government plan for the Denver
area.7 Eventually Mayor Quigg Newton and the mayors of
thirteen suburbs pledged to work together to solve problems of
a regional scope.8
THE 1960 'S
The year 1960 witnessed the formation of the Metropolitan
Cooperation Commission. The main product of this group's work
was the creation of the Metropolitan Capital Improvement
District in 1961. The district received authorization to
collect a two percent sales tax in the four-county metropolitan
area to fund capital improvement projects for facilities
serving the entire metropolitan region, such as museums,
libraries, and the zoo. 9 Lawsuits representing suburban
interests reached the Colorado Supreme Court, but failed to
halt the inception of the District on January 1 1962.10 The
four counties began collecting the tax as new suits were filed
to block the district. Denver received the first revenues from
the tax a week later. However, by mid-February, in the case of
Four County Metropolitan Capital Improvement District v. Board
of County Commissioners, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled the
establishment of the district unconstitutional. The court
cited a law which prohibited the creation of a special district
to perform a service already handled by a municipal government.
With that, the Denver area's brief experiment with a regional
cooperation agency ended.11
With the momentum from the defeat of the Metropolitan
Capital Improvement District, several prominent suburban
political figures banded together later that year to seek the
adoption of a state consitutional amendment to weaken Denver's
annexation powers. The city had chosen a rather moderate
course of action regarding annexations and opted against
annexing major sections of urbanized Jefferson County,
preferring instead the annexation of ".raw land" into the city.12
Specifically, groups in Edgewater, Lakewood, and Wheat Ridge
soughtjannexation to Denver during the later half of the 1950 's
and early 1960's. 13
During the 1960 's communities all around the Denver
metropolitan area wrestled with the issue of annexation versus
incorporation. By 1963 the greater Denver area had more than
200 local governments.14 Proposals to overcome the area's
fragmentation focused on establishing a "super-city" or a
"super-county." In the super-city scheme, advanced by then
State Senator Joe Shoemaker, the four counties making up the
metropolitan area would become "boroughs" of the City of
Greater Denver.15 The super-county scheme advanced further than
the borough plan. Under this proposal, all urbanized areas of
Adams, Arapahoe, and Jefferson Counties would unite with Denver
to form a single urban county. Municipalities in the new
county would remain the same. The new county's government
would be responsible for all regional services and would
oversee disputes between localities.16 The suÂ£>er-county
proposal was approved in the Colorado House of Representatives,
which proposed a constitutional amendment to allow the
formation of this new government. The plan was never approved
by the Colorado Senate.17
The Colorado Municipal League joined the anti-annexation
suburbanites and voted to support a strong new annexation law
for the state. Some of the proposed language for the
annexation law was so strong that Denver officials feared all
of the city's expansions since 1902 might be ruled illegal.19
The controversial annexation measure did receive legislative
approval, but was vetoed by Governor John Love to the relief of
the City of.Denver.20
By the next Spring, steps were taken once again to adopt a
constitutional amendment curtailing Denver's annexation powers.
That amendment failed in the legislature, but a similar bill
curtailing annexations was passed by the state senate the
following year. This time the amendment was killed by the
Colorado House of Representatives.21
There was a great deal of concern in the 1960 's with the
effects of special districts on local government structure in
Colorado. In 1964 the Governor's Local Affairs Study
Commission identified five main problems of special districts.
First, the proliferation of special districts had fragmented
the local government structure in the metropolitan area and
throughout the state, resulting in a "loss of citizen
responsiveness." 22 A second concern focused on the problems
special districts created for other local governments such as
counties and municipalities. The part-time status of many
staff personnel, who often had little experience, was a third
problem cited by the Commission. Fourthly, organizational laws
for special districts were neither clear nor uniform. Lastly,
the Commission was critical that the initial formation of
special districts was not regulated and the on-going operation
of these districts was not reviewed or controlled.
The result of the Commission's work was the passage of the
Special District Control Act in 1965. Until 1965 there had
been no uniform method for forming special districts. Each
type of special district was authorized by a separate and
distinct act of the legislature. Thus, there were separate and
uncoordinated laws for the establishment of districts
overseeing water, sanitation, fire, hospitals, recreation,
library, soil conservation, cemeteries, drainage, water
conservancy, law enforcement, and transportation services.24
The 1965 Act sought to curb the unchecked proliferaton and
fragmentation of local government. The Act also attempted to
eliminate duplicated or overlapping service provision by local
governmental entities. Solving problems of double taxation and
the overall diffusion of local taxing sources was also an
objective of the Act. A primary goal was the creation of a
mechanism to facilitate the consolidation of districts,
reducing costs and increasing the efficiency of operations.
The Act also provided a program for dissolving special
districts to encourage the transfer of services to general
service governmental entities.
Few other legislative bills with the purpose of changing
the manner in which special districts are created and operate
have passed. In 1966 the Governor's Local Affairs Study
Commission tried in vain to establish special tax districts,
and ultimately eliminate the need to create special districts
at all. Instead, special district functions would transfer to
county control. A 1970 General Assembly study promoted the
view that stronger legislation was needed to dissolve and
consolidate special districts. Five years later, a bill
subsequently was introduced in the legislature to transfer the
authority over existing special districts to the control of the
cities and counties where they were located. The bill also
sought to prohibit the establishment of new special districts.
The legislature defeated the bill.27
The year 1966 also marked the creation of the Denver
Regional Council of Governments. This council is a
confederation of counties and municipalities which voluntarily
join the association. The agency lacks the strength and
cohesiveness of a true regional authority. It is more a
"clearinghouse" for information, statistics, and programs than
a decision-making, policy-setting governmental body.28
In the late 1960's suburban school districts entered the
battle against Denver's annexation powers. The Denver Public
School District is coterminous with the City and County of
Denver. When the city expands its boundaries, so does the
school district. The Cherry Creek and Sheridan School
Districts in suburban Arapahoe County particularly felt
threatened by Denver's annexations into their territory.29
Again, suburban legislators sought new legal steps to curb
Denver's annexation. An amendment was introduced in the House
of Representatives seeking to allow municipal annexations which
would not disturb school district boundaries.30
At the same time, the super-city idea was being
resurrected" by the Denver Chamber of Commerce. Members of the
Chamber launched an ambitious plan to amalgamate the entire
region into a single multipurpose government.31 Senator
Shoemaker again expressed his interests in unifying the
metropolitan area and proposed the establishment of a new layer
of government--a Metropolitan Board of Supervisors. These
supervisors would function similar to county commissioners, but
would have authority over them and over municipalities in the
region. Neither scheme advanced to the point of official
Denver refused to recognize the backlash building against
its annexation policies and labeled efforts to curb the city's
expansion as "ridiculous." 33 Annexation laws were unable to
receive approval in the legislative process and the city
continued to annex significant parcels from suburban counties.
Even though Denver was able to expand its boundaries during
this period, when the city experienced financial difficulties
in the late 1960 's, the crisis was blamed on what some city
officials termed restrictive annexation policies.
* In 1969 Greenwood Village sought annexation to Denver as
did most of east central Jefferson County. The later
annexation would have attached all urbanized areas of Jefferson
County to Denver with the exception of Arvada. Moreover, the
residents of Lakewood and Wheat Ridge initiated and promoted
the movement to attach themselves to the center city.- Public
meetings hailed the advantages of being part of Denver and the
area responded positively by filing all of the proper
petitions. However, the Denver City Council eventually turned
down the opportunity to annex the nearly thirty square miles of
urbanized Jefferson County. The council used the rationale
that it would be too costly to provide the area with the urban
services which had become standard in Denver. New fire and
police stations would be needed immediately and the city's
library and parks would have to be expanded significantly.36
Not long thereafter, a United States Federal Court imposed
busing on the Denver Public Schools for the purpose of
achieving integration. Furthermore, Denver's program of
annexing "raw land" was meeting more and more opposition. The
Jefferson County Board of Education (the entire county is one
school district) passed a motion vowing to fight Denver's
expansion into that county. It was agreed that suburban school
districts were losing a great deal of anticipated revenue to
Denver's land grabs. School districts rely heavily on property
taxes for funding.37 The school boards of the two counties
at which Denver annexations would stop.38 A legislative
committee studied the possibility to create a single
metropolitan school district at this point in time, but
concluded such a district was not feasible.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the metropolitan area,
Denver and Aurora began an intense race for new land in the
prestigious and growing southeast Denver corridor. The two
communities finally decided to declare a truce and approved an
agreement to establish a boundary line for the two
jurisdictions' expansion areas.40
BOUNDARY COMMISSION FIRST PROPOSED
Despite some efforts of Denver to define annexation
boundaries, the commissioners of Adams, Arapahoe, and Jefferson
Counties joined together in 1973 to pass a resolution
committing themselves to find a way to halt annexations by the
central city.41 The three counties subsequently sued the Denver
Water Board because they believed the Board's water allocation
policies favored areas which conceivably would eventually be
annexed to Denver.42 The Denver City Council responded by
approving a moratorium on the expansion of the city limits.
Legislative intervention was urged to end the hostility between
Denver and its suburbs over boundaries. A metropolitan
boundary commission was proposed to settle city-vs-suburban
During 1973 a new effort emerged to create a four-county
Regional Service Authority in Metropolitan Denver. A measure
to present the issue to metropolitan area voters won approval
to appear on a special election ballot by both houses of the
Colorado legislature. This movement was facilitated by the
adoption of a constitutional amendment in 1970 which provided
the opportunity for a defined region to establish a regional
service authority for itself. This amendment removed the
constitutional limitations which had invalidated the
Metropolitan Capital Improvements District in 1962. Now
political units could share in the imposition of taxes, as well
as in the incurring of debt.44
The establishment of the Regional Service Authority was
defeated by less than 700 votes. It is now known the measure
would have passed had rural portions of Adams, Arapahoe, and
Jefferson Counties been eliminated from the proposed district
of the authority. The action of the legislature at that time
allowed for the creation of a regional service authority any
time the voters of a defined region approve the concept.45
(Table 3 provides a listing of the services authorized by the
Service Authority Act.)
In the wake of the defeat of the Regional Service
Authority, John Vanderhoof, who was then governor, appointed a
seventeen member committee on metropolitan cooperation to work
out boundary squabbles. In the meantime a suburban group of
community leaders and developers, under the leadership of
suburban lobbyist, Freda Poundstone, had gathered over 60,000
signatures for a referendum forcing a constitutional amendment
SERVICES AUTHORIZED BY
THE SERVICE AUTHORITY ACT OF 1970
FOR COLORADO SERVICE AUTHORITY AREAS
1. Domestic water collection, treatment, and
2. Urban drainage and flood control
3. Sewage treatment, collection, and disposal
4. Public surface transportation
5. Collection and disposal of solid waste
(if existing service is inadequate:
6. Parks and recreation
8. Fire protection
9. Hospital, nursing home, medical care facilities,
10. Museums, zoos, art galleries, theaters,
12. Weed and pest control
13. Management services (purchasing, computer,
equipment, and procurement)
14. Local gas or electric services
15. Jails and rehabilitation
16. Land and soil preservation.
Source: Murphy, T. and C. Warren, Organizing Public
Services in Metropolitan America. Lexington,
MA: Lexington Books, 1974. p. 77.
to eliminate Denver's power of expansion via annexation.46
Under Poundstone's proposal, the voters of the county from
which territory is to be annexed would have to approve of the
deannexation. This scheme definitely tilted the scales in
favor of the suburban counties.
Denver officials disapproved of the constitutional
amendment proposed by Poundstone and decided to back a boundary
commission plan devised by the legislature as a compromise.
However, the commission proposed was rather limited, having
authority only to approve boundary alterations of the City and
County, of Denver. (In actuality, it is more like an
arbitration board than a true boundary control commission.)
The commission would have six members, three appointed by the
City and County of Denver and one appointed from each of the
three counties immediately adjacent to Denver. A simple
majority would be needed to approve of any annexation being
considered by Denver.47
In the 1974 general elections, both proposals (the
so-called Poundstone Amendment and the Metropolitan Boundary
Control Commission) passed with clear majorities. Even though
presented in statewide referenda, the amendments also received
majority support within the City and County of Denver.
The passage of both amendments upset Denver officials.
They believed only one or the other would pass and thought the
boundary control commission was the more appealing proposal.
City officials scrambled to exempt Denver from the double punch
of the Poundstone Amendment and the Boundary Control
Commission. However, officials from Adams, Arapahoe, and
Jefferson Counties banded together to fight Denver's attempts
to circumvent the Poundstone Amendment. A bill to exempt
Denver from the new law died in a General Assembly committee
less than a month after it was introduced. Meanwhile, many of
the lawsuits challenging Denver's earlier annexation efforts
were first reaching the courts. Areas such as the Grant Ranch,
referred to earlier in this paper, were ruled to be improperly
annexed, leaving their citizens and Denver officials helpless
in terms of reannexing the land. Other annexations withstood
the scrutiny of the court, leaving the city and county of
Denver with highly irregular and awkward boundaries.50
The first test of the Poundstone Amendment was an attempt
to annex a small parcel of land from Arapahoe County to the
City of Denver at the request of the owner. Arapahoe County
residents solidly voted against the annexation and the owner
subsequently has no recourse.51
The Boundary Control Commission has met six times, being
called only when there is a formal request for it to do so.
The first meeting ended briefly after it began because there
was no business to discuss. The issues examined in the
subsequent meetings have all failed because of a tie votewith
one exception. The three Denver commissioners have voted to
approve of the annexation requests, while the three suburban
commissioners have consistently opposed the new annexations.
The one exception was the proposal to annex the Little Buckaroo
Ranch to Denver. Both Denver and Adams County commissioners
voted in favor of the annexation. However the request was then
subject to the Poundstone Amendment and the voters of Adams
County rejected the detachment of the Ranch from Adams County.52
Two petitions for annexation to Denver were seen as
hardship cases. One, the Bear Valley Enclave, is a 1 1/2 acre
site totally surrounded by Denver, but legally in Jefferson
County. Only one home is on the property and the owner
petitioned for annexation in order to tap into the Denver
services which surround the property. The boundary commission
refused the petition.53
The second case involved a 5 1/2 acre site in Arapahoe
County surrounded by Denver on three sides. The 82 year old
woman who lives on the property petitioned for annexation to
Denver in order to receive water and sewage services. Arapahoe
County does not provide such services and her septic tank had
developed a leak, contaminating her well water. The suburban
commissioners voted against the annexation, but suggested that
Denver provide the services to the woman anyway.
Many have interpreted the Poundstone Amendment to be a
clear indicator that present boundary arrangements and laws for
boundary adjustment are in need of modernization. In 1975 the
Citizen's Assembly on the State Constitution recommended that
the Constitution be adapted in order to "provide the mechanism,
with incentives, for reduction of the number of counties and
(for) the consolidation of counties" in the stated5
recommendation echoed a suggestion promoted by the
administration of Governor John Love in the mid-1960 's to
consolidate Colorado's sixty-three counties into thirteen new
counties, roughly following the lines of the territory of the
State's Councils of Government.
In the late 1970 's a group of prominent citizens from
communities throughout the metropolitan area met and formed a
study panel devoted to reviving the concept of establishing a
metropolitan government in the Denver region. These
individuals felt confident with surveys revealing that the
majority of people in the four-county area favored some form of
metropolitan government.56 Furthermore, a study by the Federal
Department of Housing and Urban Development (H.U.D.), in
conjunction with the Denver Urban Observatory, recommended the
Denver region as a prime area for the establishment of a
metropolitan government council.57 In January 1977 the study
panel presented a recommendation to create a metropolitan
council. The council, to be called the Urban.Service
Authority, would have the authority to provide the planning and
management selected urban services as approved of by the voters
in the four county region.
When submitted to officials at the Denver Regional Council
of Governments, the proposal received high acclaim. The
Council of Governments would have been absorbed by the
Authority. The state Senate gave its approval to the scheme in
March of that year. Denver city officials endorsed the
regional government plan as well.59 A few months later, the
Council of Governments proposed expanding the Metropolitan
Council to a six-county area including Douglas and Boulder
State representatives killed a motion to establish the
six-county council in a General Assembly committee, but this
did not deter backers of the measure. The next day the Denver
City Council voiced its support for creation of a metropolitan
council and tabled a motion which had been before the body to
withdraw from the Denver Regional Council of Governments to
show support for metropolitan cooperation.61 Citizens who had
been active with the original study panel decided to begin a
petition drive to place the Urban Service Authority on the
ballot for direct voter approval. However, opposition to the
metropolitan council also began to build. Neighborhood
activists, such as architect and columnist Tom Morris, found
themselves teamed up with suburban lobbyist Freda Poundstone to
denounce the council 62 Fears of cross-county- school
integration began to surface in suburban newspapers, further
jeopardizing the plansf3
During the middle of the petition drive in the Denver
area, Metropolitan Portland in Oregon adopted a metropolitan
council similar in format and function to the one proposed for
the Denver area. Colorado advocates of metropolitan government
gained confidence that this success could be repeated in their
state.64 The proposal gained the support of the Denver and
Colorado Leagues of Women Voters, the Denver Chamber of
Commerce, and the Junior Chamber of Commerce5 The petitions
for a referendum to establish the Urban Service Authority were
filed in the summer of 1978. A state court ruled against the
petitions that December.66 In February of the next year the
Colorado Supreme Court ruled the petitions valid and renewed
the proposal to create a metropolitan council by election.67 It
was not until August of 1980 that advocates of the effort
arranged a date for the issue to be on the ballot. The
decision reached was to place the question on the general
election ballot in November. Such proposals are usually
defeated in general elections, and this referendum followed
this established pattern. The Urban Service Authority lost by
a significant margin, leaving metropolitan Denver once again
without an official agency for coordination or cooperation.
Meanwhile, boundary alterations continue to be a problem
issue in the suburban jurisdictions. A twin amendment to the
1974 law, also authored by lobbyist Freda Poundstone, was
passed in the 1980 general election. It further limited all
municipalities in the state from easy annexations.
So much negative attention has been given to Denver and
other municipalities in their efforts to widen their ranges of
influence to include growing developments outside established
boundaries, that insufficient attention has been given to how
the various metropolitan counties should relate to one another,
or in what areas the whole region should work together as a
functional whole. The replacement of Stapleton International
Airport is the best example of this. Why must Adams and Denver
Counties be the only players determining the fate of air travel
in this region into the next century?
The boundary disputes in the region focused on Denver's
relationship'with suburban neighbors, leaving unresolved how
other jurisdictions are to relate to one another. Arvada,
Aurora, Brighton, Commerce City, Englewood, Golden, Greenwood
Village, Lakewood, Morrison, Thornton, Westminster, and Wheat
Ridge have all recently experienced or are presently involved
in conflicts over boundaries (see Chapter II). Furthermore,
the individual metropolitan counties have not figured out how
to relate to each other (e.g. the airport relocation issue).
Since 1980, efforts to resolve these issues originated
exclusively in the Front Range Project, a program of Governor
Richar.d Lamm to identify and propose solutions to problems
confronting communities in Colorado's urbanized areas.
In examining boundary issues, the Project found current
jurisdictional demarcations to be antiquated and inefficient
and recommended replacing the city, town, and county system
with a network of "localities, districts, and regions." To
restructure governmental entities, economic and demographic
traits would be used to draw new boundaries and to define who
provides which services?0 To date, none of the recommendations
of the Project have been implemented.
In 1984 the Colorado Municipal League prepared a list of
concerns it felt were of significance due to the mushrooming
number of special districts in Colorado. The League identified
instances where districts have been created which overlap
municipalities having both the capability and resources to
provide the same services. Oftentimes these districts operate
with different standards from those of municipal facilities,
thus making any future interfacing or consolidation rather
difficult. The League also found that special districts can
burden residents with substantial expenses when districts
overlap. In the opinion of the League, special districts are a
major contributor to high local property taxes (see Table 2).
This, in turn, leads to inefficiencies of scale, poor overall
budgeting, and inadequate capital improvement programming.71
The Colorado Municipal League also criticized the "low
profile" of special district functions and actions. Typically,
residents are unaware of, or are unable to participate in, the
activities of many special districts. This finding directly
contradicts the notion that small governmental entities are
"closer to the people" and further democratic involvement.
Lastly, the League expressed concern that districts formed and
working independently of other units of local and regional
government often install infrastructure and services in areas
in which development might not have otherwise occurred, thus
promoting urban sprawl and contradicting other jurisdictions'
As a result of the efforts of the Colorado Municipal
League, the General Assembly established a Legislative Council
Committee on Special Districts in 1984 to study special
districts and opportunities for curbing and consolidating
special districts. Among its findings, the Committee
identified 76 inactive special districts in the state, and
another 27 districts which have been authorized, yet never
formed. The Committee noted that current laws have set rather
finite limitations to the number of cities and counties in the
state, whereas the number of special districts could
conceivably be limitless. In questioning the viability or
merits of a proposed district, the burden of proof lies with
those who oppose the creation or operation of the proposed
The Legislative Council Committee on Special Districts
also criticized those officers of the state who, by statute,
are responsible for the regulation of special districts, i.e.
county commissioners. Due to their unwillingness to question
or veto special district formulation proposals, the allocation
of resources and services is occurring in piecemeal manner by
small, independent governmental fragments, rather than by
agencies with regional scopes. Special districts are,
therefore, performing functions and services which are
appropriately the responsibility of other units and levels of
government, but which these governments have chosen to
As a result of these findings, the Legislative Council
Committee identified several objectives which need to be met to
make the special district system in Colorado more accountable
and efficient. First, the Committee felt the 1965 Special
District Control Act ought to be re-examined and possibly
improved. Second, efforts must be made to strive for the
achievement-of economies of scale among localities and regions.
The Committee suggested that the state and its counties look at
the possibility of establishing taxing districts in existing
multi-purpose governmentsespecially in countiesas a viable
alternative to the creation of more and more special districts.
Finally, the Committee recommended that laws and procedures for
initiating and facilitating the dissolution, consolidation, and
absorption of special districts by general purpose governments
need to be strengthened.
The history of metropolitan cooperation in Greater Denver
is a tragedy of failed opportunities. Substantial sections of
the metropolitan area have at one time or another seen
themselves as a part of Denver, as is evident by the fact that
serious annexation attempts were pursued. Yet these areas have
remained in separate political jurisdictions with no common
governmental structure to relate to the core city of Denver.
Meanwhile, urbanization continues and it is "business as usual"
in terms of forming new, small-scale governmental entities to
meet service needs. For example, in the 1986 legislative
session, eight new special district governments were created,
primarily in suburban Douglas County.
In lieu of the fact that metropolitan cooperation has not
succeeded in the Denver area, other mechanisms need to be
explored to prompt better relations among the governments of
the Denver region and to promote better coordination of
area-wide service provision. In this light, this study will
proceed to examine the nature and purpose of political
boundaries and will view alternatives for handling
interjurisdictional and boundary related questions and issues.
1. Garnard, op. cit., p. 21. See also Lorch, op. cit.,
2. "Commissioners Would End City's Land Annexation,"
News. January 6, 1945. p. 6.
3. Lowe, W. "Suburbs Grow 2 1/2 Times Faster Than City,"
News. November 26, 1951. p. 26.
4. "Planners Say Denver Subsidizes Fringe Area," Post.
May 21, 1953. p. 1.
5. Buchanan, J. "Suburban Government Unit Urged," Post.
May 16, 1953. p. 1.
6. Hutton, T. "Newton Urges Suburbs To Join 4-County
District Authority," Post. February 17, 1953. p. 28.
7. Lucas, J. "Suburbs Invite Nick To Join In Study Of
Super-Government," News. September 6, 1957. p. 5.
8. "Mayors Pledge Unity in Battling Problems," News. May
27, 1958. p. 19.
9. Margolin, M. "Area Voters Pass Sales Tax Proposal,"
News. September 27, 1961. pp. 1, 5. See also Buchanan, J.
"Metro Sales Tax Wins By Surprising Margin," Post. September
27, 1961. pp. 1, 3, 14.
10. Bearwald, M. "Consumer Gripes Few Over New Tax Bite,"
Post. January 2, 1962. p. 3.
11. Bearwald, M. "High Court Upholds Its MCID Ban," Post.
March 4, 1962. pp. 1, 3.
12. Margolin, M. "Planning Unit Asks Annex Restraint,"
News. June 28, 1962. p. 7.
13. "Group in Edgewater To Seek Annexation," News. August
28, 1955. p. 16. See also "Edgewater Block Eyes Annexation,"
Post. August 28, 1955. p. 16 and Margolin, M. "East Jeffco
Residents Urged To Form Two New Towns," News. September 8,
1961. p. 10.
14. Weiss, L. "One Community, 200 Governments,"
Empire Magazine. Denver: The Denver Post, December 8, 1963.
15. "Supporters of Borough Plan Seek Backing Of Ed
Johnson," Post. January 9, 1964. p. 3.
16. Largen, L. "Super County Plan Advances," Post.
February 21, 1965. p. 1.
17. "Super Metro County Bill Introduced," Post. March 4,
1965. p. 48.
18. "Panel Backs Annex Law," Post. June 15, 1962. p. 1.
19. "All Annexations Since 1902 May Be Ruled Illegal,"
Post. November 7, 1961. p. 3.
20. Thomasson, D. "Gov. Love Vetoes Annexation Measure,"
News. May 7, 1963. p. 5.
21. "House Eliminates Annex Amendments," News. May 7,
1965. p. 21. See also "Vote Sought To Cut Denver Annex Power,"
News. April 3, 1964. p. 14; "Annex Amendment Vote Petition
Fails," News. July 4, 1964. p. .15; and Gavin, T. "Annex Bill
Amended To Curb City Growth," Post. April 16, 1965. p. 5.
22. The Governor's Local Affairs Study Commission,
Local Government in Colorado. Denver: 1966. p. 52.
24. Cody, T. Special Districts in Colorado:
An Analysis of Their Roles in Local Government. Denver:
University of Colorado at Denver, 1984. pp. 27-30.
25. ibid., pp. 32-33.
26. The Governor's Local Affairs Study Commission, op.
cit., p. 51. See also Cody, op. cit., page 47.
27. Cody, op. cit., pp. 48-49.
28. Lorch, op. cit., p. 86.
29. Pinney, G. "Two School Districts Threatened," Post.
January 10, 1965. p. 75.
30. "Annex Plan Splits Schools, City Lines," News.
January 22, 1968. p. 20.
31. "Denver Chamber of Commerce Launches PlanCreate
Super-City of Denver," Files, Western History Department,
Denver Public Library. May 10, 1967.
32. "Metropolitan Supervisor Board is Recommended," News.
November 12, 1967. p. 66. See also Johnston, D. "New Layer of
Local Government Urged by Shoemaker," Post. November 12, 1967.
p. 37 .
33. "Anti-annexaton Plan Termed 'Ridiculous'," Files,
Western History Department, Denver Public Library. February 19,
34. "Denver Financial Crisis Blamed On Annexation
Policies," The Denver .Post: Zone One. February 19, 1969. p. 1.
35. "Group Formed To Make Areas Part Of Denver," News.
January 9, 1969. p. 17.
36. Morehead, J. "Denver Council Rejects Jefferson Area
Annex," Post. April 15, 1969. p. 24.
37. Udevitz, N. "School Officials Defuse Issue," Post.
November 22, 1973. p. 3. See also "Jeffco School Unit Vows to
Fight Annexation Tries," News. June 21, 1973. p. 12.
38. Tooley, J. "Jeffco Boards Agree on Annexation
Boundary Line," Post. September 26, 1973. p. 29.
39. Branscombe, A. "1-Unit School Plan Ruled Out, For
Area," Post. November 27, 1974. p. 48.
40. "Aurora OKs Annex Pact," Post. August 14, 1973. p.
41. Jain, B. "Annex Acts Suspended," Post. September 20,
1973. p. 5.
42. Prouty, D. "City Water Board Stops Tap Permits,"
Post. August 8, 1973. p. 3.
43. Tucker, R. "Agency To Settle Annexation Issues
Urged," News. December 21, 1973. p. 8, 21. Se.e also Brown, F.
"Boundary Unit Creation Studied in Annex Battle," Post.
December 21, 1973. p. 3.
44. Rosen, J. "Denver Officials Concerned Over Annexation
Talks," News. September 26, 1973. p. 5.
45. Brown F. "Annexation Talks Near Breakdown," Post.
September 27, 1973. p. 1.
46. Ewegen, B. "Voters Due Voice In Annex Fight," Post.
January 10, 1974. p. 21.
47- Udevitz, N. "Denver Council Backs Boundary Commission
Pian,"Post. March 26, 1974. p. 4.
48. "Poundstone Stirs Up Denver Officials," News.
November 2, 1974. pp. 8, 12.
48. "All Amendments Approved," Post. November 6, 1974.
pp. 1, i 2 .
49. "Bill To Reduce Annexation Barrier Dies," Post. April
13, 1975. p. 2.
50. Lowy, J. "Poundstone Law Polarizes Metro Area," and
Weiss, S. "Power To Annex Not Seen As Cure To Denver Woes,"
News. October 22, 1984. p. 6.
51. "Arapahoe to Denver Land Transfer Defeated," News.
November 5, 1980. p. 16.
52. Lowy, J. "Metro Boundary Panel A Study In Failure,"
News. October 22,1984.p.7.
55. Garnard, op. cit., p. 22.
56. Morehead, J. "Metro Government Favored," Post.
September 19, 1976. p. 39.
57. Lorch, op. cit., p. 86.
58. Morehead, J. "Panel Recommends New Metro Council,"
Post. January 23, 1977. p. 34.
59. Pardue, B. "Denver Officials Back Regional Government
Plan," News. December 21, 1977. p. 5.
60. Morehead, J. "COG Urging 6-County Metro Council,"
Post. January 11, 1978, p. 34.
61. Gerhardt, G. "Council Backs Metro Planning," News.
February 15, 1978, pp. 13, 17. See also McGovern, T. "Denver
Delays'Vote On Leaving COG," Post. February 15, 1978. p. 29.
62. Schlesinger, A. "City Residents Decry Plan For Metro
Council,: News. February 13, 1978. p. 5. See also Cunningham,
A. "Mrs. Poundstone's Metro Council Stand Rebuffed," News.
March 8, 1978, p. 6.
63* "Fears of Cross-County School Integration
Jeoparadizes Plans," Files, Western History Department, Denver
64. Morehead, J. "Portland Area Adopts Metro Council,
Denver Still Struggling," Post. May 31, 1978. p. 15.
65. Lorch, op. cit., p. 86.
66. Gordon, A. "Metro Government Plan Put Into Limbo By
Ruling," News. December 12, 1978. p. 8. See also "Ruling
Blocks Vote on Metro Council," Post. December 12, 1978. p. 3.
67. Morehead, J. "Court To Review Metro Panel Case,"
Post. February 22, 1979. p. 3.
68. "Metro Council Plan Going Down By Small Margin,"
News. November 5, 1980. p. 15.
69. "Annexation Amendment Approved," News. November 5,
1980. p. 15.
70. Garward, et al., op. cit. p. 24.
71. Colorado Municipal League. "The Role of Special
Districts in Colorado," CML Newsletter. Denver, February 12,
1984. p. 7.
73. Cody, op. cit., p. 51.
74. ibid., p. 63.
75. ibid., pp. 66-67.
76. ibid., p. 67.
77. Personal conversations with State Senator Dennis
COLORADO LAW OF BOUNDARIES
This section examines present Colorado law on boundary
alteration. The examination will focus on local jurisdictions
and the powers the state has established for itself, through
the constitution and legislative process, to fix or change
governmental boundaries in Colorado.
One hundred and ten years ago, Colorado was admitted to
the union as the thirty-sixth state. The state constitution
acknowledges counties as "merely subdivisions of the state" for
general and governmental purposes.1 Today there are 63
counties in Colorado and their boundaries continue to be
defined by state statute. Article XIV of the constitution
delegates to the legislature the power to create new counties
out of, territory from one or more existing counties. 2 In
addition, the legislature is also authorized to adjust
"property fights and equities" between old and new counties.3
However, decades have passed since county boundaries have
been altered in the state, with the exception of changes
resulting from annexations by the City and County of Denver
into neighboring counties. This is due to two factors. First,
the general pattern of the General Assembly is to maintain the
"status quo."4 Second, the constitution has been amended to
prevent removal of territory from any county without a vote of
approval by the qualified voters in that county. This
amendment effectively freezes county boundaries and prevents
the General Assembly from handling what is properly a state
In examining statutes on municipal boundary changes, this
study focuses on three major types of boundary alteration
techniques used by Colorado cities. These are incorporation,
annexation, and disconnection.
Tlie process for incorporation has deliberately been made
difficult. The proposed municipality cannot be within one mile
of an existing incorporated city, unless the proposed new city
contains more than 32 0 acres.' Furthermore, no undivided tract
of land consisting of forty or more acres may be included in
the incorporation without the consent of the owner.6
Incorporation is presently accomplished through a process
which begins with a petition to the district court(s) of the
county|(or counties) where the territory is located. The
petitioners must file a bond to cover the expenses of the
proceedings. Then the court must examine the area to determine
if the territory is "urban" in its character. A primary
criterion for determining the urban character of a locale is if
the area has at least fifty registered voters per square mile.7
If there are less than 500 registered voters in the entire
proposed community, then a public hearing is required before
the board of county commissioners for that jurisdiction. The
commissioners may refuse to allow an incorporation for one of
two reasons. First, the board may veto the incorporation if it
feels the new jurisdiction will create unnecessary duplication
of services' already provided in or adjacent to the area. In
such instances the board would probably also encourage
annexation to a nearby community as a preferred alternative to
incorporation. Second, the commissioners may reject an
incorporation proposal judged to be inconsistent with either a
county or regional master plan.
If the board of county commissioners approves the way for
an incorporation election, or if the proposed community has
more than 500 registered voters, then the election is held
under the auspices of the board of county commissioners. The
board must report the results as "fair and valid" to the court
to complete the incorporation process.'
The Municipal Annexation Act of 1965 sought to rewrite
Colorado's annexation laws completely. The legislature passed
the act to encourage "natural and well-ordered development of
municipalities of the state."10 The legislature further
asserted that the Act "is to be construed liberally in order to
implement its purposes."11 However, the Colorado Supreme Court
has viewed the Act to be "vague" and has actually suggested
that it be redrafted. The Act has not really made it easy for
cities; to keep pace with expanding urbanization. Rather, the
Act actually encourages the "forces of suburban separatism."13
Under the Municipal Annexation Act there are three
alternatives for expanding city boundaries: (1) by initiation
of a city council, (2) by petition of landowners in the
proposed annexation area, and (3) by petition for an election
by registered voters of the proposed area. Each of the
alternatives will be briefly reviewed in the following
(1) Initiation by City Council
The city council of a municipality can initiate annexation
proceedings for a parcel of land meeting one of three criteria.
In the first instance, the proposed area must be owned by the
city and at be at least one-sixth contiguous with the existing
city boundary. A second option allows for the annexation of. an
unincorporated enclave surrounded completely by the annexing
municipality for at least three years. The final possibility
allows a city council to initiate annexation proceedings for an
area two-thirds contiguous with the existing city boundaries
for at least three years. After adopting a resolution to annex
the territory, the city council must then set a date for a
public hearing and publish notice for the hearing. After the
hearing has taken place, the city may then annex the parcel.
(2) Petition of Landowners
An area may also be annexed to a city if the parcel is at
least one-sixth contiguous to the established municipality and
if fifty percent of the landowners of the area petition the
city council. When the petition is filed, it must be
accompanied by a description of the land and a detailed map.
There must then be a public hearing, unless the petition
represents each and every landowner. If all statutory
requirements have been met, then the annexation may be
completed by the passage of a city ordinance.15
(3) Petition for Election
This method of annexation begins with the filing of a
petition representing at least 75 qualified voters or ten
percent of the registered voters in the area proposed for
annexation. When the petition is filed with the city, a public
hearing is scheduled and the terms are set for the annexation
proposal. The district court then appoints three election
commissioners to "call for the election."16If a majority of the
voters approve the annexation, the city council must adopt an
ordinance and the court then decrees the territory to be
annexed.17 During these proceedings, the city'may impose
certain conditions on the proposed annexation area or request a
particular zoning for the area. At any time, the city may also
reject the petition for no reason at all.18
There is a major inconsistency in Colorado boundary laws.
On the one hand it has been stated that "fixing and changing of
boundaries is a legislative matter." Yet, on the other hand,
. annexation is regarded as a "proper municipal activity."
Perhaps such inconsistencies have prompted the Colorado Supreme
Court to criticize the state's annexation laws.
Disconnection of Territory
By state statute, the disconnection of territory from a
jurisdiction may only be accomplished by mutual consent of the
landowner(s) and the jurisdiction. Several stipulations
restrict disconnections. For one, an area cannot be
1 disconnected if it has been platted into lots and those lot
configurations continue to exist. A second stipulation states
an area must remain in a city which has maintained "streets,
lights, or other public utilities" through or adjoining the
area for at least a three year period. A related regulation
prohibits a disconnection if the municipality has improved any
of the highways passing through or adjoining the tract of land,
or if the city has constructed and maintained any special
improvements for more than two years. Finally, disconnections
are not allowed to divide the city into two isolated or
non-contiguous parts.21 In a similar manner, special charters
of the state provide for the dissolution of a" jurisdiction or
absorption into an adjoining political entity.
SPECIAL DISTRICT BOUNDARIES
Special districts are not actual government corporations
with the "power of local government." Rather, they are public
agencies granted many of the attributes of towns and cities
felt to' be essential to the performance of their specific
tasks. 23 A great deal of variation in how special districts are
created exists in Colorado. Many districts are created by
petition of the taxpaying electors in the proposed district.
Others are created by a local governmental entity, either a
county or city. Finally, some are established by the General
The process for forming special districts by the petition
of taxpayers is designed to be restrictive. According to the
Special District Control Act, petitions to create special
districts must be presented to the district court serving the
jurisdiction where the proposed district is located. Along
with the petition, a "service plan" must be filed. The service
plan consists of a financial survey and an initial
architectural or engineering survey, describing how the
proposed services are to be provided and financed. Also to be
included are the following items: a map, population estimate,
assessed valuation, description of facilities to be
constructed, and estimated costs and expenses for formation and
operation of the district.
Next, there may be a public hearing before the board of
county commissioners representing the county where the district
is to be located, if the district is at least partially in
unincorporated territory. In such instances, a resolution
verifying board approval must be presented to the district
court1. The court has a hearing and determines if the statutory
requirements under state law have been met. An election is
The legislature has also provided for consolidation and
dissolution of special districts. Interestingly, two or more
special districts may be consolidated into a single unified
district, even if they do not perform the same function.
Moreover, the districts do not have to be contiguous. State
statutes also provide for the exclusion of territory from a
special district annexed by a municipality.28
School districts are a type of special district. Colorado
law states they may be abolished or dissolved at the will of
the General Assembly. The legislature also has the power to
consolidate school districts, or create new ones by dividing an
existing district. Nationwide, the number of school districts
has significantly decreased during the past two decades, while
other special districts have increased substantially in number.
Colorado statutes require annexation and consolidation
proposals to have a resolution from the board of directors of
the school district where the change is to occur. Thus, school
districts have an important, even decisive, bearing on other
local governmental entities. 29
Colorado laws have not effectively curbed the overlap of
special districts with cities, counties, school districts, and
other special districts. This often leads to duplication of
costly services and, instead of bringing government "closer to
the people," creates a confused system which many people do not
care about or understand. Although there have been attempts to
streamline municipal and special district boundary laws in
Colorado, the "changes in government have not kept pace with
the changes in how and where people live" in the state.30
: CHAPTER IV
1. Banks, J. Colorado Law of Cities and Counties.
Denver: by the author, 1979, p. 17.
2. ibid., P- 60.
' 3. ibid., P- 61.
4. Lorch, op. cit. , P- 69
1 5. Banks, op. cit. , page
6. ibid., pp. 45-46
7. ibid., P- 46.
io. ibid., P- 53.
13. Lorch, op. cit. , P- 80
14. Banks, op . cit. , P- 53
16. ibid., p- 56.
18. i ibid.
19. ibid., p- 52.
20. ibid., p- 56.
21. ibid., p- 59.
22. ibid., p- 60.
23. ibid., p- 21.
24. ibid., pp. 49-50
27. ibid., p. 51.
28. ibid., p. 73.
29. ibid., p. 61.
30. Lorch, op. cit.,
NATURE AND PURPOSE OF BOUNDARIES
Contemporary urban problems do not coincide with historic
governmental boundary lines. Boundaries of today's
governmental jurisdictions were drawn over a hundred years ago.
Rather1 than encouraging dynamic interaction between
administrative or political units, most communities follow a
static course of action when it comes to resource and service
allocation, and boundary location and relocation.1
Public services, provided by government agencies, are
necessary and contribute to the overall welfare of society.
Divisions of services are needed for efficiency and
practicality. Ample theories and formulas are available to
help determine the appropriate size and frequency of these
service providers. Yet, when expansion and new development
spread beyond established boundaries, reorganization is rarely
considered as a way to accomodate the spillovers between
adjacent servicing districts or political jurisdictions.
Governmental boundaries have come to symbolize the extent of
governmental power; where the boundary ends, so does the power
of that jurisdiction. As the demand for high quality,
expensive, specialized services increases, it stands to reason
that either larger or interrelated servicing districts are
required. Small municipalities and service districts on the
urban fringe are uneconomic and often experience serious public
A TANGLED WEB
Out-dated political patterns complicate contemporary urban
life. Today's local government units typically criss-cross one
another, producing a complex array of boundaries. This "web"
of governments poses significant problems for land use and
publicadministration. For the citizens, it is a source of
confusion which can create fertile ground for mistrust of local
government. Serious public service problems occur because
state laws and policies do not keep up with urban growth.4
Areas with overlapping special districts also suffer from
substantial tax burdens and fiscal inequities.
Economic issues usually influence efforts to achieve
efficiency. However, arguments for efficiency have rarely
swayed1 individuals to restructure their local boundary
arrangements. At a time when the municipalities comprising
America's metropolitan areas are experiencing cutbacks and
constraints, they should be integrating services, or at least
cooperating in their service provision efforts. Instead, there
has been a tendency to pursue narrow autonomous interests at
the ekpense of the larger functional metropolitan community.
Citizens and officials pursue parochial interests, foregoing
regional concerns, out of fear of a loss of autonomy and
satisfaction with the status quo. In spite of this, limited
coordination has been achieved with the existing fragmented
system (e.g. The Regional Transportation District and the
Metropolitan Sewage District serve the entire Denver
Other advocates of present local governmental arrangements
cite central city deterioration and concerns over racial strife
as reasons to disregard regional structural reform. Central
cities, such as Denver, have complained of unbalanced economic
relations with their neighboring jurisdictions, but little has
been done to rectify the inequities. Denver officials first
raised the issue of the center city subsidizing services
enjoyed by the suburbs back in the 1960 's, but to date the city
has not defined what the suburbs' "fair share" should be.6 Add
to this a legislative process which is easily bogged down and
allows power and responsibility, properly administered by the
state, to be abdicated. 7 The result is a metropolitan area
that has fallen prey to issues and problems directly related to
boundary delineations, and through the years has not developed
a meaningful or successful means of resolving them.
The argument for local autonomy is often strengthened by
the argument that it promotes "government clos'e to the people."
Coupled with this notion is a tradition of privatism. In other
words, the collective well-being is achieved through individual
pursuits for happiness. As a result, urban and regional growth
and development typically stems not from a sense of community,
but from the ambitions of the entrepreneur. In this context,
the notion of "close to the people" seems to necessitate
fragmentation, which in turn is deemed to be corollary to
"democracy." This pattern in America's metropolitan areas
fosters divisive interests at the expense of the unity of the
larger community. The balkanization of this country's
metropolises has lead to over-bureaucratization and to
diseconomies of scale, waste, and remoteness. For example,
people living with special district services often have no idea
who controls and operates the services they receive, although
thesejdistricts are small and supposedly "close to te people."
In reality, ignorance and apathy, not citizen involvement or
"yeoman democracy" describe citizen response to special
On the other side of the issue, expansive governments tend
to promote sameness, ignoring local or neighborhood interests.
Many biig city residents have feelings of alienation and
distance toward remote city government. Neighborhoods and
localities should be involved in the governmental process as
decision makers and not merely as advisory members.10 All of
this creates what political scientist Robert A. Dahl refers to
as the "Goldilocks dilemma."
"Can we find units of government that are 'just
right'small enough to facilitate participation and yet
large enough to exercise authority so significant as to
make anticipation worthwhile?" 11
THE ISSUE OF STRUCTURE
As exhibited previously in this paper, the issue of
boundaries is related to the issue of the ability of overall
governmental structure to handle the needs and concerns of
metropolitan areas. Unfortunately, there are no conclusive
answers to exactly how, and to what extend, governmental
structures contribute to the "cause and solution" of urban and
regional problems. As the "Goldilocks dilemma" exemplified,
both centralizing and decentralizing have been offered as
solutions to metropolitan problems.
Perhaps the key issue is how local governmental structures
relate to various population and community groupings at the
local and regional levels. Regarding boundaries, the question
could be posed: do local governmental boundary arrangements
deny certain groups access to needed or desired resources or
services? The answer to this question is often affirmative;
therefore, it stands to reason that some kind of official and
responsible arbitration is necessary.
The basic idea for vesting power in an impartial body to
decide boundary changes dates back to 1904 in the state of
Virginia. Until the late 1950 's, that eastern state was the
only one to have supervised municipal expansion. Virginia
created a special tribunal of three circuit court judges to
employ judicial determination to oversee efforts of annexation
and consolidation. The tribunal also had the authority to
approve, modify, or deny boundary modification proposals on the
basis of standards prescribed by the state legislature.13 In
the case of Falls Church v Fairfax County, the state court
determined that impartial judicial determination was in "the
best interests of the county, city, and ... of the area
proposed to be annexed."
The provision of public services today operates within
complex social, economic, and political structural networks.
Subsequently, boundaries should be multi-functional and
rational. On the one hand, they should be wide enough to allow
for the coordination of development in conurbations, while
respecting natural boundaries and providing maximum resource
efficiency. Yet, on the other hand, sensitivity needs to be
shown to local emotional and psychological sentiment and
regional patriotism. 15
RATIONALE FOR THIRD PARTY INTERVENTION
Basically, current boundary alteration efforts today can
be grouped into three procedural categories: (1) unilateral
determinations, (2) bilateral determinations, and (3) third
party interventions. The boundary commission process is
properly categorized as the third type. A brief description of
In unilateral determinations, the parties most affected
typically do not have a voice in the proceedings or in the
alteration decision. It could be that the Poundstone Amendment
sought to correct problems it perceived in the unilateral
annexations the city of Denver had made; however, the amendment
has failed to eliminate such problems. As the Grant Ranch
example indicates, the Poundstone Amendment has succeeded only
in shifting the unilateral determination to another party.
County concerns are often parochial and, in the case of the
Grant Ranch, have prevented the residents from receiving the
municipal services they desire.16
Bilateral determinations require the concurrent action of
two parties, usually the annexing jurisdiction and the
residents or owners of the territory proposed for annexation.
Problems of bilateral determination include uncertainty of the
outcome and its effect on established comprehensive planning.
The politization of the process can be shortsighted because of
the emphasis placed on negotiation and compromise, rather than
appropriateness and efficiency. Furthermore, compared to
unilateral determination, the bilateral process may seem more
balanced, but it still limits participation in the boundary
alteration issue. By involving only the two parties
immediately affected, neighboring political entities or
jurisdictions, which may also have a significant interest in
the alteration, are excluded from the decision-making process.
With third party determination, represented by the
boundary commission process, the alteration decision is not
guided by special interests. Rather, third party intervention
operates on the premise that only an outside party is able to
consider and apply general public policies that transcend the
interests and concerns of the immediate parties involved in the
The boundary commission operates as an administrative
agency, with general policies and standards established by
legislative action. In states employing the boundary
commission concept, neutral party determination has been
described as "more effective, more responsible, cheaper,
faster,, fairer, (and) otherwise better."19 Third party
determination offers several distinct advantages. First, the
officially sanctioned boundary commission is able to gather and
provide significant relevant data more efficiently than most
individuals and municipal offices. Second, commission hearings
provide a forum where all parties and interest groups,
including neighboring cities and districts, can express their
views and concerns. A third advantage is the impartial nature
of a third party body. Boundary commissions can serve as
mediators and coordinators of change proposals. Moreover, as
officials for the state, commissioners are required to declare
any conflicts of interests that may interfere with their
objectivity. Lastly, third party intervention allows for a
system, of checks and/balances. In most instances, the state
legislature developes the public policy to be followed by the
boundary commission. The application and interpretation of
that policy is carried out by the commission under periodic
, . ,; , . 20
THE TWIN CITIES BREAKTHROUGH
This paper has reviewed the boundary problems experienced
in the Denver area since the late 1940 's. Between 1950 and
1960, 45 new municipalities incorporated in the Minneapolis-St.
Paul metropolitan area. Twenty-two of those incorporations
contained less than a thousand people. Recognizing there was a
problem developing, the Minnesota state legislature established
a Commission on Municipal Annexation and Consolidation in 1959.
Two years later, this commission was restructured into a state
agency, the Minnesota Municipal Commission. This commission
was given three main powers:
1. The power to eliminate referenda for
incorporation or consolidation,
2. the power to alter boundaries, and
3. the power to2jnitiate consolidations and
Ten years later, the Minnesota Municipal Commission was
given broader powers, including the authority to affect
boundary changes clearly benefitting existing municipalities.
It is especially interesting to note that this reaffirmation of
the boundary commission was part of a larger package of
legislative reforms and programs for promoting metropolitan
cooperation. Some of the new regional efforts coupled with the
successful Minnesota Municipal Commission included a regional
tax-sharing program (aimed at reducing fiscal disparities among
municipal jurisdictions in the Twin Cities region), a county
government modernization plan, and a policy allowing
governments to establish interlocal agreements and to transfer
service functions. The Minnesota Supreme Court, in the case
Village of Lakeville v Village of Farmington, affirmed the
validity of the Minnesota Municipal Commission and credited
that boundary agency with facilitating "the orderly growth of
Minnesota municipalities by ending the proliferation of small
municipalities . and (by) resolving conflicting claims "of
The use of an impartial agency has slowly been adopted in
several other states. The appraisal of such administrative
boundary commissions has been quite favorable. The fact that
none of these agencies created to date has been appealed, gives
credence to their effectiveness and usefulness?4
Having reviewed, in previous chapters, the unsuccessful
attempts in the Denver area to create a united metropolitan
government system (through consolidation, annexation, a
municipal borough plan, a super-county plan, a metropolitan
capital improvements district, a metropolitan board of
directors, a regional service authority, and an urban service
authority with a metropolitan council), it could be asserted
that the area must look at several less ambitious regional
cooperation schemes prior to the creation of a massive
metropolitan super-agency. The steps to a regional government
plan needs to begin with informal inter-jurisdictional
agreements, intergovernmental service agreements, emergency aid
agreements (particular to fire and police service) and joint
action plans. An impartial metropolitan boundary commission is
a rather modest proposal, which could help effect more
substantial efforts for metropolitan cooperation. If properly
implemented, an impartial boundary review agency, even at this
late date, can contribute to the more rational fashioning of
the governmental pattern in expanding metropolises, such as
1. Massam, B. Location and Space in Social Administration.
New York: Halsted Press, 1975. p. 103.
2. ibid, pp, 2, 50.
3. Bollens, J. and H. Schmandt, The Metropolis:
It's People, Politics, and Economic Life, 4th Edition. New York:
Harper & Row, 1982.p.309.
4. Tollenaar, K. et al. Local Government Boundary
Commissions: The Oregon Experience. Eugene, Oregon: Bureau of
Governmental Research and Service, University of Oregon, 1978. p. 1.
Massam, op. cit., p. 105.
"Planners Say Denver Subsidizes Fringe Area," Post. May
Massam, op. cit., p. 106.
Harrigan, J. Political Change in the Metropolis, Second
Boston: Little, Brown, 1981. p. 39.
9. Murphy, T. and C. Warren. Organizing Public
Services in Metropolitan America. Lexington, Massachusetts:
Lexington Books, D. C. Heath and Company, 1974. p. 143.
10. ibid., p. 146.
11. Dahl, R. After the Revolution. New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1970.
12. Florestano, R. and V. Marando. The States and
the Metropolis. New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc., 1981. p. 157.
Bollens, op. cit., p. 309.
Wright, E. Practical Municipal Law
Charles C. Thomas, 1972. p. 5.
Massam, op. cit., p. 169.
Tollenaar, op. cit., p. 48.
ibid., p. 49.
19. ibid., p. 50.
20. ibid, p. 51.
21. Massam, op. cit., page 120. See also Zimmerman, J.
"Coping with Metropolitan Problems/The Boundary Review Commission,"
State Government, Vol. 48, No. 4. Lexington, Kentucky: Council of
State Governments, Autumn 1975. p. 257.
22. Zimmerman, J. "Substate Regional Governance: The
Intergovernmental Dimension," National Civic Review, Vol. 67, No. 6.
New York: National Municipal League, June 1978. p. 274.
23. Fordham, J. Local Government Law. Mineola, New York: The
Foundation- Press, Inc. , 1975. P- 234.
24. Bollens , Jop. cit. , pp. 310-311
THE ROLE OF THE STATE
"The acid test of the states' real strength lies
in their relationships with their own localities.
Here the legal, political, fiscal, functional, and
institutional capabilities of the states are most
severely tested. The states, afterall are the chief
architects, by conscious or unconscious action or
inaction, of the welter of servicing, financial and
institutional arrangments that form the substate
governance system of this nation."
Jeanne and David Walker, States'
Responsibilities To Local Governments: An
Action Agenda, 1975.
Metropolitan jurisdictional problems can at least
partially be attributed to the failure of some state
legislatures (including Colorado's) to facilitate the
annexation of urban unincorporated lands to existing
municipalities, and to restrict the creation of new
governmental entities, particularly special districts.1 States
have turned their backs on the fact that boundary changes are
more than just a local concern. Mergers and consolidations
involve more than one unit of local government. Annexation
obviously involves the exercise of powers outside the city.
None of these actions are a right of constitutional home-rule
power. Rather, they have their base in the statutory powers
granted by the legislature. Unfortunately, state legislatures
often fail to monitor the use of these powers, abdicating their
responsibility to issues with possible statewide
Moreover, existing state policies are typically piecemeal,
compromised, and outdated. Continued urbanization and
technological advancements strain local governments and thus
demonstrate historic local political boundaries as inadequate
to cope with contemporary areawide issues and problems. Yet
Colorado and most other states maintain a policy of limited
action in reorganizing local government units in burgeoning
metropolitan areas. Independent special districts continue to
proliferate primarily because of legislative constraints on
general purpose governments, such as municipalities. The
spread of special districts, in particular, steadily erodes the
authority of local governments.
The result is a gross mismatch of area, power, service
needs, and fiscal resources. Elected state officials have the
responsibility to sift through the partisan morass of the local
government scene including the multiplicity of special
interests, and to decide what is in the best interest of the
state1as a whole. Rather than inhibiting local governments'
efforts to manage urbanization in their region, the state ought
to assume the roles of facilitator and initiator, thereby
preventing further fragmentation of the local governmental
system, and promoting more efficient and effective regional
governance. A comprehensive state policy, as well as a process
for dealing with local organizational problems and
fragmentation, are needed now more than ever.
Local units do not necessarily have to be consolidated to
achieve the efficient provision of urban services throughout a
metropolitan region. The state should strengthen the ability
of municipalities to extend urban services by giving them
authority to initiate more types of annexations and by
eliminating the absolute veto power of residents in
unincorporated areas when an annexation meets state statutory
standards. The governmental forms of counties should be
modernized to include the performance of urban services.
Predominantly metropolitan counties should have an elected or
appointed executive officer, not unlike a city manager.
Contiguous urban counties should be empowered to consolidate
identical or comparable county offices and functions.
Multi-county consolidation should be encouraged where a broad
geographic scope is more appropriate. With regard to special
districts, the state needs to create efficient mechanisms for
ordering the dissolution or consolidation of small, non-viable
Boundary review commissions can play a useful role in
preventing further fragmentation of the regional governance
system of an urban area and in adjusting the boundaries of
existing local units. A local government boundary commission
should have the power to regulate municipal incorporations,
non-viable units of general local government, special
districts, and interlocal servicing agreements. Such a
commission should also oversee the implementation of state
statutory standards for boundary adjustments and recommend any
appropriate modifications of substate districts and county
boundaries. Besides monitoring and facilitating municipal
annexations, a boundary commission would appropriately
coordinate the development of "spheres of influence" or
expansion limits defining the ultimate boundaries of staged
municipal annexations and areas of potential municipal -
incorporation. Finally, a boundary commission, working in
conjunction with other state agencies and the legislature,
should supplement or establish standards for local government
viability. (Colorado has already established a precedent in
the area of performance review with its so-called "sunset
law.") If an entity does not meet certain standards, then it
should be dissolved and its functions and/or services
transferred to an appropriate alternative unit of general local
In summary, the state appropriately has an interest in,
and a responsibility for, determining and adjusting local
jurisdictional boundaries in an orderly manner. This is
especially true given the increasing intergovernmental
importance of local governmental boundaries. The boundary
review commission offers a concrete model of a state-initiated
effort to prevent the needless increase in the number of local
governmental units and to simplify local government in general
in metropolitan areas. States with boundary commissions have
discovered a successful mechanism for adjusting local
governmental boundaries in a manner conducive to a more
adequate, efficient, and economical provision of public
services and resources. Perhaps the simplification of local
government by a system of boundary control actually is the key
to increased citizen interest and participation in government.7
; "State governments are still the key to improved
governmental arrangements in metropolitan areas.
They must not only look to their constitution and
extend their services to meet metropolitan needs, but
must also establish some effective focus of state
concern for local governments and must hasten to
stimulate localized regional planning and
Luther H. Gulick, The! Metropolitan
Problem and American Ideas, 1962.
1. Zimmerman, J. "Coping with Metropolitan Problems/The
Boundary Review Commission," State Government, Vol. 48, No. 4.
Lexington, Kentucky: Council of State Governments, Autumn
1975. p. 257.
2. Etter, 0. "Local Government Boundary Control: Basic
Considerations," Local Government Boundary Commissions:
The Oregon Experience, op. cit., p. 75.
3. Anderson, op. cit., p. 444.
4. ibid., pp. 444-445.
5. ibid., pp. 445-446.
6. ibid., p. 445.
7. Tollenaar, K. op. cit., pp. 7-8.
A REMEDY FOR METROPOLITAN FRAGMENTATION:
THE BOUNDARY COMMISSION
Given the numerous voter rejections on the question of the
creation of a metropolitan council in Denver, and given the
lack of interest in creating a tax profit sharing program in
the Denver area (ala the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council in
Minnesota), something else should be considered to ease the
conflicts and tensions among local governments in the Denver
Resources are being wasted by boundary, jurisidictional,
and programatic frictions. Areawide needs, are unmet because of
the lack of effective regional units authorized to meet such
needs. There is a definite need in the Denver area to develop
a system to promote and enhance inter-local cooperation and to
stop jurisdictional boundary disputes from spreading. One
proposal to help solve the area's boundary problems is the
development of a boundary commission. Such a-commission could
help meet the needs of a metropolis struggling (often with
itself) to handle problems and services which do not
necessarily correspond with existing boundaries. Such a
commission, if properly empowered, could deal practically, yet
sensitively, with the intergovernmental nature of existing
jurisdictional jealousies. Moreover, such a commission could
'create an open, accessible, and politically accountable process
for addressing and resolving boundary disputes.
The boundary difficulties in the Denver region are by no
means unique to this area. Other areas of the country have
experienced similar problems and have taken action to correct
their jurisdictional irregularities and conflicts. Several
states have already created, in one form or another, boundary
commissions to deal with boundary alterations and adjustments.
These existing commissions range from rubberstamp forums for
approving city or special district expansions (e.g. New
Mexico), to effective agencies which affirmatively resolve
interlocal boundary disputes and positively control urban
sprawl (e.g. Oregon).
PURPOSE AND GOALS OF THE BOUNDARY CONTROL AGENCY
Boundary commissions are created (1) to encourage the
orderly formation and development of local governmental
agencies and service providers, (2) to discourage urban sprawl
and (3) to initiate and make studies of existing governmental
agencies in order to determine (among other things) their
maximum service areas and capacities. They also evaluate
financial and fiscal considerations, examine the ramifications
on the areas affected by boundary issues, and (in some states)
make "sphere of influence" proposals and recommendations.
Boundary commissions are created to achieve a variety of
goals. Stated goals vary from state to state and from one
commission to another. Common goals include helping preserve
natural neighborhoods and communities, finding the most logical
and beneficial use of physical boundaries (such as water, land
contours, and highways)preventing abnormally or unnecessarily
irregular boundaries, adjusting impractical boundaries. Other
goals include the dissolution of inactive or impractical
special service districts, the creation and preservation of
logical and efficient service areas and providers, and the
creation of recommendations or policies for the incorporation
or annexation of areas possessing urban characteristics.
WHAT IS A BOUNDARY COMMISSION?
Where employed, boundary commissions typically are
administrative agencies with powers to do the following: (1)
review petitions, (2) initiate proposals, (3) develop factual
information, and (4) make final decisions on boundary
adjustments. Most states with developed boundary commissions
have established them with the hope of creating more rational
and functional local governments. Their intent is to respond
better and more practically to the demands of urban growth and
of service needs. These commissions operate under the premise
that government can indeed work efficiently and effectively.1
Some have broad powers to effect their goals, while political
compromise has weakened the abilities of others.
Membership and Staffing
With most existing boundary agencies the commissioners are
appointed by the state governors, although provisions for local
input are usually part of the selection process. In the state
of Washington, for example, the appointees are chosen from a
list of nominees compiled by local officials, including county
commissioners arid city mayors. In states with regional
boundary commissions, governor appointees usually serve on a
board with other commissioners chosen by a local selection
process. In California, local commissioners are selected by
colleagues of a county board of commissioners or are elected by
the general public. In Minnesota, such local board members
serve strictly ex officio. Oregon specifies that no local
government officials may serve on boundary commissions, but
there is a five-member advisory committee which works with the
commission. Membership numbers on existing boundary
commissions vary greatly (from 3 to 15) depending on the nature
and scope of the particular commission. (Some boundary
commissions are statewide, others handle concerns in a
specifically defined metropolitan area, and others are strictly
county agencies.) Most funding for boundary commissions comes
from the state, although in many cases, the local governments
(usually the counties) are required to pay some of the
expenses. The size of the permanent, full-time staff of most
boundary commissions is quite small, ranging from only one or
two staff members to seven (see Table 4). In some instances,
county officials do double duty by handling all the boundary
commission staff work in their particular district or
BOUNDARY ADJUSTMENT BOARDS, 1980
Date State/Local Type of Boundary Additional Revie'
One for each
5 appointed By state 2 Annexation and other Review by state
by Governor $94,000 local boundary changes of Board initia
which may be re
(no special districts disapproval of i
in Alaska) both houses
__________________________________________Appeal to court
legally re- enplcyees
Annexation Referendum, loc.
Detachments fr. cities
and abolition of special
districts and county
One statewide 3 appointed
board by Governor
One for each
of the three
7 or 11
By state 4 Annexation Appeal to court
Detachment fr. cities
Consolidation of munici-
____________________palities and towns_____________________
1 has 7 Annexation
2 have 2 Detachment fr. cities
mod. of districts and
private sewer/water firms
of sewer or water
subject to vote
Appeal to court
One for coun-
11 for count- By state
500,000+; 5 $175,000
for all others
Annexation Appeal to court;
Dissolution of cities
Consolidation of cities
abolition of special dist.
of sewer/water _______________________
5: Press, Survey of States with..Boundary Review Agencies and Zimmerman, Coping with Metropolitan Probl
iry Review Commission. State Government, Autumn 1975, pp. 257-260, and information from states.
Types of Considerations
Some existing boundary commissions deal only with a few
clearly specified issues (e.g. only annexations and
incorporation). Others make determinative decisions over a
broad range of issues, including consolidation and dissolution
of cities. All in all, there are eight basic areas of
consideration employed by various boundary commissions around
the country (see Table 4).
The first, and by far most extensive area of consideration
for boundary commissions, is annexation. For most commissions,
annexation and other local boundary adjustment issues are very
time consuming and constitute the bulk of their work.3
Municipal incorporation is a second area of consideration
for most boundary commissions. Many states feel that if new
incorporations can be reduced, then regional fragmentation is
likely to be lessened. The mere presence of boundary
commissions in some regions may actually discourage the
development of proposals for new incorporations. After
establishing the first boundary commission in 1959, Minnesota
experienced a significant decline in the number of
incorporations, comparing the ten years before and after the
creation of its commission.4
A third considerationspecial districtsfalls under the
scrutiny of many of the nation's boundary commissions. In most
cases, the commission can create, modify, reorganize,
consolidate, or abolish special districts and/or county service
areas, as it deems necessary or appropriate. In some
instances, boundary commissions can assign additional functions
. . 5
or responsibilities to special districts.
Some urban experts feel that regulating special districts
is the area in which the boundary commissions are most
effective in determining sensible local government development
patterns. Many boundary commissions have succeessfully
prevented new, unnecessary special districts from forming and
have dissolved existing special districts, which were
inefficient or duplicating the services of another local
government. In the cases of the dissolved districts, their
functions and programs typically were transferred to other
local governments. In other instances, commissions reorganized
special districts making them dependent service units of other
local governments (especially of counties). In perspective,
active boundary commissions have insured the viability of the
appropriate special districts, and have established a necessary
linkage of special districts with other local governments and
with other similar districts, in order to facilitate vital and
efficient intergovernmental networking.6
As with incorporations, the establishment of boundary
commissions in several states has had a marked impact on the
absolute growth of special districts and on their structural
and/or functional make-up. California, for example, has seen a
standstill in the number of special districts in the state
following several decades of phenomenal growth in the number of
such districts (see Table 5). This, however, does not mean
that special districts are stagnating in that state. On the
contrary, new districts are being actively created, while many
existing ones are being examined and reviewed, then
subsequently dissolved, reorganized, or consolidated.
(Interestingly, this process parallels the "sunset" concept
developed in Colorado, which reviews the need and effectiveness
of state agencies.) California has seen a trend in which
special districts now are developing almost exclusively in
rural areas, whereas annexation and reorganizations are
increasing in metropolitan areas. Similarly, Oregon has
experienced a 35 percent reduction in the number of special
districts in regions under the authority of boundary
commissions, while areas of the state without boundary
commissions have noted a 27 percent increase in special
districts. A close look at the Denver area shows special
districts to be problematic in unincorporated areas. This is
particularly true in areas such as Douglas County which has few
existing municipalities to offer quality urban services.
Also, some sections of southern Arapahoe County have four or
more special districts servicing the same area.
A fourth area of consideration for some boundary
commissions may be the consolidation or merger of local
municipal jurisdictons. At least three states (Minnesota,
Washington, and Oregon) allow their boundary commissions to
NUMBER OF SPECIAL DISTRICT GOVERNMENTS IN SELECTED STATES
WITH BOUNDARY CONTROL AGENCIES:
1967, 1972, 1977
States 1977 1972 1967
California i 2,227 2,223 2,168
Louisiana 301 419 334
Michigan 168 139 110
Minnesota 263 211 148
Nevada 132 134 95
New Mexico 100 99 97
Oregon 797 826 800
Washington 1,060 1,021 937
Colorado 950 812 748
United States, Total 25,962 23,885 21,264
jRepresents zero or rounds to zero.
XA large number of units in Louisiana were reclassified from
independent special districts to dependent agencies of parishes
and municipalities for the 1977 census, as a result of the 1974
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census,
1977 Census of Governments, Vol I, No. 1, Governmental
Organization, Washington, DC, U.S. Government Printing Office,
1978, Table 4, p. 28.
FROM: Anderson, W. and D. Walker, State and Local Roles in
the Federal System. Washington, D.C.: Advisory Commission on
Intergovernmental Relations, 1982.
deal with this issue, although cases come up only occasionally.
In most instances, cities and towns must vote on a referendum
if the motion for consolidation did not originate at the local
level., Such referenda rarely are approved.
Extraterritorial extension of services is a fifth possible
consideration for some boundary commissions. Typically this
pertains to sewer or water services provided by a city or
special district. In some instances, boundary commissions may
be empowered to act on a sixth type of consideration also
related to service provisions. A few commissions may create
private sewage or water firms to provide service needs to a
specific region or municipality. This is especially true in
There are two final types of considerations handled by
some boundary commissions. Those bodies are allowed to examine
issues' related to the possible detachment (or deannexation)
from cities, and to the complete dissolution of cities or towns
as governmental bodies.11
How Determinative Are Commission Decisions?
The more effective boundary commissions are those able to
initiate proposals themselves and have the final word on
determining a decision. The determinations of the commissions
in California, Oregon, and Texas are final. Unfortunately,
most commissions are permitted only to review petitions or
requests brought to them. This stems from political factors
which typically dictate a "go-slow" attitude. Nevertheless,
boundary commissions almost always can develop and compile
factual information, conduct hearings, and deny proposals
deemed unworkable or unrealistic. If metropolitan Denver is to
have an effective and successful boundary commission, it would
needs 'to insure its commission appropriate powers and
The final decisions of many of the existing boundary
commissions are often subject to additional review or approval.
In these instances, one of three further processes is possible:
(1) legislative review, appeal (appeal to court or appeal to
state planning agency), or (3) referendum (see Table 4).
In a few cases commission-initiated action is reviewed by
the state legislature. Actions or decisions may be rejected
only if there is disapproval by the majority in both governing
houses of the legislature. Where appeals of commission
decisions are allowed, the appeals may be made to the state
courts, back to the boundary commission itself, or possibly (as
in Oregon) to a state commission or agency with authority over
land and development.
The referendum process allows for popular determination of
proposed boundary changes. Some states automatically require
referenda if the proposal for boundary alteration is
involuntary, or initiated at the state level or by the boundary
commission. In other instances, referenda are prescribed if
the proposal for change is initiated by a certain percentage of
the registered voters (usually 5-15 percent) living in the
effected area. (This sometimes may be waived if the request
for a boundary change already states the consent of a majority
of property owners.) Typically, most such referenda meet with
SPHERES OF INFLUENCE
A recent development in boundary regulation is the
creation of the spheres of influence concept. The term "sphere
of influence" refers to an area which a municipality is
eventually expected to annex or which is dependent on a city
for services. Where these expansion zones have been
designated, competitive, preemptive, and defensive annexations
have been reduced or eliminated. Spheres of influence further
serve to identify the eventual, forseeable limits of a city's
jurisdiction and thus improve a municipality's ability to plan
for physical facilities, fiscal resources, and land-use
control. The sphere of influence designation has a strong role
in the' decision-making process of an area under consideration
for boundary related issues. Such issues include the
determination of maximum possible service areas, the range of
services to be provided (and by whom), and the development
planned in the area. Spheres of influence also take into
consideration the social and economic interdependence and
interaction between an area and its surroundings. For the
boundary commission, these spheres simplify decisions regarding
the creation of special districts, since absorption by a
municipality is forecasted and known. Finally, spheres of
influence give fringe areas advanced knowledge of zoning and
subdivision standards which should positively facilitate
private and public planning.16
Again, Minnesota was in the forefront regarding boundary
issues when it enacted the sphere of influence concept in 1969
to implement an "orderly annexation process."17 In that state,
as fringe settlements develop, the adjacent municipality is
expected to expand its serving capacity to those projects.
Therefore, issues of timing, taxation, assessment, utilities
and service provision, and development control are negotiated
in advance. Two simple questions are posed in Minnesota to
determine if an area should be considered a part of a city's
sphere of influence: (1) Is the area about to become urban (or
suburban) in character? If so, (2) can. municpal services be
extended within the immediate future?
The "sphere of influence" concept could be employed in the
Denver area in order to initiate and direct orderly and desired
growth and development. The concept is similar to an
annexation agreement reached between Aurora and Denver in the
early 1970 's. Those two municipalities established a line
beyond, which each agreed not to attempt annexation, thus
staying off any heated confrontations. Given the expected
growth, of nearly 700,000 additional residents in the
metropolitan area in the next 30 years (according to DRCOG
figures), spheres of influence established throughout the area
could eliminate many predictable defensive and aggresive
REVIEW OF BOUNDARY COMMISSIONS STATE BY STATE
The boundary control commission in Alaska, established by
the state's constitution, has the authority to present boundary
alteration proposals to the state legislature during the first
ten days of. every regular legislative session. A proposed
change is implemented unless it is rejected by a majority vote
in both houses of the legislature. The five commissioners are
appointed by the Alaskan governor to serve overlapping five
The Minnesota Municipal Commission has three members
appointed by the Governor and two ex-officio members, who are
county commissioners for the county in which the boundary
change is being considered. When an annexation is not
initiated by a majority of property owners in the proposed
area, then the commission's recommendation, if positive, must
be affirmed by a referendum. 20
New Mexico has operated with two boundary commissions
since 1965. One serves the Albuquerque metropolitan area and
has a five member gubernatorially-appointed board, known as the
Metropolitan Boundary Commission. The other body, the New
Mexico Municipal Boundary Commission, has three members
appointed by the governor and reviews annexation petitions for
.the sections of the state outside of the Albuquerque area.
These commissions replaced a system in which a boundary
arbitration panel was appointed to oversee each boundary
For a petition to reach the Metropolitan Boundary
Commisision, 15 percent of the property owners in the proposed
area sign an annexation petition. Then the commission calls
for a referendum of the qualified voters in the effected area.
This system is rather ineffective; no annexation petitions have
ever been processed by the commission in the Albuquerque area.22
In Michigan, the governor names three commission members
and two others are appointed by the presiding probate judge
from the county in which the annexation, incorporation, or
consolidation is being considered. The 1968 law establishing
the State Boundary Commission requires that a referendum must
be heid if a petition is signed by 5 percent of the registered
voters in the affected area.23
The Nevada legislature established a City Annexation
Commission (CAC) in 1967 for each county in the state with a
population of more than 100,000. Each CAC consists of three
members: a chairperson, a county commissioner, and a member of
the city's governing body. Commissioners serve two-year terms.
Annexations must be rejected if a majority of the property
owners in the proposed area make protests in writing or at a