Planning for preservation of open space in the Colorado Front Range urbanizing corridor

Material Information

Planning for preservation of open space in the Colorado Front Range urbanizing corridor
Wheeler, Douglas
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1 online resource (v, 93 leaves) : maps, forms ;


Subjects / Keywords:
Open spaces -- Colorado ( lcsh )
Open spaces ( fast )
Colorado ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 91-93).
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Planning and Community Development, College of Design and Planning.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Douglas Wheeler.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
983205355 ( OCLC )

Full Text
Douglas Wheeler
A thesis presented
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Planning and Community Development
University of Colorado Denver, Colorado
October 22, 1984

City and Countryside
If we can create the humane city, rather than the city of bondage to toil, then the choice of city or country-side will be between two excellences, each indispensable, each different, both complementary, both life-enhancing. Man in Nature.
- Ian McHarg
Colorado Front Range Open Space
For the first time in Colorado, business interests, environmentalists, and state and local government officials agreed that preservation of open space can and should, play an important role in preserving and enhancing the quality of life along Colorado's Front Range.
- The Colorado Front Range Project

Foreword ............................................................. i
CHAPTER II GROWTH SCENARIOS ...................................... 8
Population Forecast for the Year 2010 ........................ 8
New Housing Land Requirements ................................... 9
All Urban Activities Land Requirements ....................... 9
Three Scenarios .............................................. 10
Twenty Stumbling Blocks ........................................ 14
Twenty Opportunities ......................................... 18
Urban Techniques ............................................... 25
Rural Techniques ............................................. 33
Techniques for Preserving Open Space ........................... 41
Techniques for Containing Sprawl ............................... 46
Summary of City Techniques ................................... 53
Techniques for Preserving Large Scale Open Space ............. 58
Techniques for Preserving Small Scale Open Space ............. 65
Techniques for Housing Densities, Infill and
Contiguous Development ...................................... 68
Summary of County Techniques ................................... 73

Trends ........
Recommendations Getting There .
Survey Questionnaire .........
Colorado Front Range Cities .. Colorado Front Range Counties

My roots are in the open Iowa farm country and the dense Southside of Chicago. The farm and the big city are both life-renewing to me. Moving to Colorado Springs in 1974, I found beauty and inspiration in the mountains, foothills, and plains of Coloradodriving city streets by car, taking a motorcycle out on the highways, hiking in the mountains, fishing the streams. Between 1974 and 1980 I watched Colorado Springs sprawl out in every direction. On the many trips I made to Denver along Interstate Highway 25, the natural countryside was gradually making room for urban development. Over the last several years I have listened to Coloradans lament that soon there will be one city from Colorado Springs to Denver and Fort Collins. No one likes the idea, but seemingly nothing can be done to change what is happening. It is inevitable.
I believe something can be done to prevent the Front Range from following the model of New York/New Jersey or Los Angeles urban areas. It is possible to plan for a balance between city and countryside. That is the motivation for this study.
I would like to thank Herbert Smith, professor of Planning and Community Development, University of Colorado at Denver, for his helpful comments in the research and writing of this thesis, and for his encouragement along the way.
Doug Wheeler Denver, Colorado, 1984

Population forecasts for the year 2010 (25 years away) anticipate
1.5 million more of us living along the Front Range from Ft. Collins to
Pueblo.^ If new growth occurs in the same densities and patterns as has
occurred to the presentnearly 750 square miles of land will become
city and suburb to accommodate the new residents. Included in this new urban build-up is today's farm land, ranch land, and open space between cities. Seven hundred fifty square miles of new urban development can be pictured as a continuous string of homes, shopping malls, roads,
industrial sites, small parcels of vacant land, parksone mile wide and stretching from Denver to El Paso, Texas, and 20 miles into Mexico. Or, alternately, a path of new development six miles in width from Colorado Springs to Ft. Collins.
Driving the highways from Ft. Collins to Colorado Springs, there is very little land remaining that has not already been subdivided and
^March 1984, Colorado Department of Local Affairs Population Estimates (by County) and Population Forecasts for 2010 (by County).
Urban land use area in 2010 is based on 1984 total Front Range urban land use area and 1984 total Front Range population. If current urban density continues, 750 square miles of open space would be required for the 25 year population growth.


zoned for urban development. Over the next 25 years, the Front Range could lose most of today's open space between cities, the uncluttered mountain views along major highways, and the food producing farm and ranch landsunless city and county jurisdictions, the State Legislature, Front Range residents and business interestsbegin to plan a future that plans for retention of open space. Once the natural environment is covered with urban development, it is goneforever.
This study uses a broad definition of open space: any land which brings together urban residents and their natural environment. Open space includes scenic unobstructed mountain views, truck farms growing vegetables for urban residents, hayfields, parks, natural rock formations, cattle and sheep ranches, wildlife habitats, green belts between cities, meandering bike paths along canals and rivers, freeways with scenic vistas. Open spaces in an urban area such as the Front Range come in small and large piecesbut all bring together city and countryside .
This thesis has three purposes. The first purpose is to explore the issues and trends that make difficult the retention of Front Range open space, and issues and trends that are encouraging protection of open space.
The second intention of this study is to provide a "shopping list of potential strategies that are currently used by cities and counties in the United States to accomplish a balance between urban development and preservation of open space and agricultural lands. Front Range cities and counties are then surveyed to find out what strategies are being used locally.

The third purpose of this report is to present recommendations of techniques and strategies that could be adopted by cities and counties. A critical concern is: can local governments preserve open space without strong state legislated regional land use policies?
The ten Front Range urbanizing counties included in this study are Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer, Pueblo, and Weld Counties.
Several assumptions are made in this thesis:
- Population and economic growth will continue in the region.
The presence of high technology and energy industries, the location of the U.S. Space Command Center, regional military and government employment centers, and a general national perception of the Colorado Front Range as a desirable place to live and locate a businesshave created a momentum for growth which is likely to continue over the next 25 years.
- It would not be ethically desirable or politically feasible to limit population growth in the region or "close the door" to new residents and industry. Population growth and preservation of open space need not be incompatible. There are a wide range of possible scenarios in which the Front Range can receive 1.5 million new residents over the next 25 years and retain open space.
- A comprehensive state initiative to plan for population growth and preservation of open space along the Front Range is unlikely in the near future. Cities and counties therefore will need to develop their local initiatives.
State policies may eventually emerge as Front Range residents and local governments become concerned and active in implementing open space preservation strategies.
Retaining open space in the Front Range urban corridor encounters multiple issues, each of which could merit a major study. Agricultural issues include land costs, production costs, grain and livestock market prices, speculation in agricultural land on the urban fringe, and the availability of water for irrigation. Urban issues include housing preferences of Front Range residents, city and suburban land values, urban

infill housing policies, annexation policies, and infrastructure costs. Other governmental issues include the role of special service districts, the role of regional planning, state land use policy, and the role of Federal policies. Private sector issues include short-term versus longterm goals of developers, housing financing policies of lending institu-tions, and the question of who will pay for open spacepublic or private sector. Economic, social, and political issues are closely interwoven. This complexity is a constraint.
While recognizing the complexity of these issues, this study seeks to narrow the scope and develop a "menu" of do-able techniquessome working directly to preserve open space, and some indirectly preserving open space by raising urban densities and encouraging new development to occur within existing communities.
Secondary research for this study has included:
The National Agricultural Lands Studythe primary resource for agricultural land preservation techniques. Agricultural Land Conversion in Colorado was a valuable resource for addressing regional issues.
The San Francisco Bay Area study Room Enough: Housing and Open Space in the Bay Areaa comprehensive study of the relationship between protecting open space and strategies for infill and moderate density housing. Room Enough was an important influence on the philosophy and methodology of this thesis.
The national report Costs of Sprawlused in this study as a model for developing general cost and land requirement comparisons of alternative growth scenarios and housing

densities. Computer population forecasts from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs provide population growth estimates used in this study.
Workgroup reports from the Colorado Front Range Project (Open Space, Housing, Land Use)provided extensive background data for regional issues and trends. This study aims to find out what strategies and techniques (many of which were recommended by the Front Range Project) are being tried and implemented by the counties and cities of the region.
Primary research surveyed the ten counties and 27 selected cities
in the Front Range region to find out what techniques and strategies are
now being used to preserve open space. Primary research has included:
A questionnaire mailed to planning directors of the 27 cities surveyed. A 74% response was attained. The assistance of Sam Mamet and the Colorado Municipal League was especially valuable. Follow-up interviews were
conducted with planning staffs of several cities which did not respond. A table of techniques currently used by cities of the region was then compiled.
With each of the ten counties of the region, in-person interviews were conducted with either the county planning director or a planning staff person. A table of techniques used by counties was then compiled from these interviews.
Interviews were carried out with a number of people who are working with land use and open space preservation issues in the region: Steve Ellis (Colorado Department of Local Affairs), Terry Minger (Governor's Office), Jim Ruebing (Colorado Department of Agriculture), and Marty Zeller (Colorado Open Lands).

Secondary research found that many studies have been done on agricultural land retention and issues relating to farming and ranching. Likewise, considerable research has been done on urban infill and urban sprawl. Surprisingly few studies are available that link together rural and urban needs, problems, and objectives. The result is somewhat myopic research that approaches agricultural land retention as if the need for inexpensive urban housing did not exist, and urban studies that fail to consider the impact of urban policies on agriculture and open space. The hypothesis of this study is that urban and rural issues cannot be separated when considering the goal of preserving agricultural lands and open space.
There are alternatives and choicesfor both rural and urban interest groups within the region. This study explores opportunities for Front Range residents and their local governments to plan for future open space, to achieve a balance between city and countryside, while creating a life-enhancing place for future generations to live.

Front Range Population Forecast for the Year 2010
The single most important challenge to Colorado Front Range open space is the region's rapid population growth. New residents require new homes. New homes require land on which to build. The most readily available land is the region's agricultural and open space lands.
The Colorado Department of Local Affairs estimates a 1984 population of 2,438,398 for the Front Range counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer, Pueblo and Weld. A population of 4,057,054 is forecast for the ten county region in the year 2010a gain of more than 1.5 million residents over the next 25 years. At 2.6 persons per household (the Denver Metropolitan Area average household size in 1980)^576,923 new housing units will be needed for these new residents.
These new housing units will be constructed on land. The portion of new housing that will be built within the present urbanized areas and
^Denver Regional Council of Governments, Regional Data Series, 1980-82 County Population and Household Estimates.

the portion that will be built on present agricultural lands and open space, will be decided in the planning choices which residents and their local city and county governments make.
Land Required for New Housing (Square Miles)
Slow Growth 1,000,000 New Residents (square miles)
(Assuming 2.6 persons per household)
With Low Density Development (2.5 D.U. Acre) 240 360
With Moderate Density Development
(7.0) D.U. Acre) 86 129
With High Density Development
(10.0 D.U. Acre) 60 90
At moderate residential densities (7.0 D.U. per acre) between 86 and 129 square miles of land will be neededfor residential development only. When other land uses are consideredfor the activities that will support 1-1.5 million new residentsthe regional impact of this population growth becomes apparent.
Land Required for All Urban Activities (Square Miles)
1 Million Growth 1.5 Million Growth
At 3.58 persons per acre
Arapahoe County Urban Pattern 436 655
At 8.65 persons per acre
Denver County Urban Pattern 180 271
Moderate Growth 1,500,000 New Residents (square miles)

Arapahoe County and Denver County provide a contrast of population densities and urban form (population divided by acres of urban development). Arapahoe County represents a lower density suburban model of population concentration and land use3.58 persons per urban acre. Denver represents a higher density urban form8.65 persons per urban acre. Whether "spread out" as in Arapahoe County, or "compact" as in Denverland uses in both counties provide for the wide spectrum of social and economic activities essential to the people living in an urban community: housing, factories, warehouses, offices, schools, hospitals, retail shops and stores, gas stations and garages, restaurants, entertainment and recreation centers, vacant parcels of land, streets and highways, airports, and the hundreds of other activities that together make up the urban infrastructure.
The land needed for housing and urban infrastructure to support 1.5 million new residents is the greatest obstacle to preserving Front Range open space. At Arapahoe County densities more than 650 square miles of open space and agricultural land will need to be converted to urban uses. Yet it would be theoretically possible to have the same population growth occur within existing urban areas and convert nio agricultural or open space landthrough greatly increasing densities and efficiently using existing land and urban infrastructure.
Three Scenarios
Front Range open space and urban density in the year 2010 will be shaped by the sum of decisions made by cities, counties, the Colorado State Legislature, land developers, and the business community. The

choice for or against open space will be made at all levels of the public and private sectors.
- The state legislature in deciding wither to adopt enabling legislation for strong regional open space planning.
- The private sector in location decisions for new urban development and in decisions to support or oppose retention of open space.
- Routine city council and county commission decisions relating to zoning densities, open space acquisition, the form of urban growth, and support of regional agriculture.
Three scenarios for Front Range population growth and retention of open space are presented. The first scenario would require a strong and unambiguous public and private sector decision to use every planning technique available that retains open space. The second scenario would result from a clear public and private sector decision not to plan for Front Range open space. The third scenario would occur with mixed decisions and ambiguous planning policies.
Scenario #1
In this scenario, most new development would occur within existing urban communities, and large expanses of open space would be permanently retained. Each city and urban
unincorporated area would increase in density and population. Townhomes and condominiums would be permitted on all developable land, except land dedicated for parks and open space.
In Denver, this might mean a ten mile long "new town" of townhomes and condominiums fronting on the Platte River, together with infill housing throughout the city. In Colorado Springs, increasing densities might mean single family homes and townhomes in many large tracts of land "skipped over" in that city's growth. In Aurora, population might double with the "filling in" of undeveloped land within that city's boundaries. A 20 square mile new community might rise on the plains of Arapahoe Countywith 100

square miles of surrounding land publicly dedicated for farming, ranching, and recreation. In unincorporated Jefferson County, very high density development might occur in nodes adjacent to Chatfield Lake and National Forest lands.
This scenario is likely with the following conditions:
- High level of public planning, including the creation of a Front Range umbrella land use commission to delineate urban and rural development areas.
- Cities and counties developing a mix of techniques and strategies to increase residential densities and jointly delineate urban and rural service areas with corresponding housing densities and provision of services.
- Counties stringently limiting subdivision in rural areas.
- Cities taking a conservative approach to annexation of undeveloped open lands.
- Strategies implemented for acquisition of critically located undeveloped lands.
Scenario #2
In this scenario, new development would occur largely on land that is currently open countryside. New single family detached homes and attached townhomes would be built within new subdivisions where market conditions are most favorable: areas with highway accessibility, proximity to employment centers, low land costs, and where scenic amenities are greatest. A mix of housing types and densities, together with employment centers and commercial centers would occur in a diffused pattern, but generally following major highways of the region. This scenario would emphasize small parcels of open spacesmall acreages for single family homes and semi-private landscaped common areas for townhomes. Open countryside between urban communities and scenic viewsheds would be retained where market conditions and topography are unfavorable for development. Open space in close proximity to urban communities would be in the form of small park and recreation areas.
Urban infrastructure costs would be maximized in this scenario. With relatively low population densities, transportation options would be limited to automobile and highway transit. The greatest loss of agricultural land would occur with this scenario.

This scenario is likely with the following conditions:
- Low level of public support for retention of open space.
- Low level of public planning for development of the region.
- Low levels of infill housing activity within cities and unincorporated urban areas and inability of urban areas to increase housing densities.
- Cities and counties unable to delineate urban and rural development areas and reach agreement on annexation, subdivision, zoning, and infrastructure policies.
- Cities and counties unable to develop strategies for retention of critically located open space areas.
Scenario #3
In this scenario, development patterns would be a mix of scenarios one and two. Some high density infill development would occur within the region's cities and counties and some mixed density housing would be built in diffused development on relatively inexpensive farm and ranch lands.
Cities and counties that early adopted strategies for retaining open countryside between and around urban communities would provide a sharp contrast in urban form with cities and counties that adopted no open space retention policies. Farm and ranch lands and large expanses of open space would be retained in some areas within the Front Range corridor, while other areas would become continuous urban development. This scenario is likely with the following conditions:
City and county initiatives (rather than state or regional) for protecting agricultural land and open space.
- Mixed support from the region's residents for the goal of retaining open space, and mixed public support for the goal of increasing development densities within the existing urban communities.
- Planning for open space occurring after development pressures are already strong.

Twenty constraints and twenty opportunities for preserving open space have been identified from the Colorado Front Range Project (Workgroup Reports), Agricultural Land Conversion in Colorado, Room Enough: Housing and Open Space in the Bay Area, and the National Agricultural Lands Study.
Twenty Stumbling Blocks: Issues and Trends Discouraging Open Space Preservation
The following issues and trends are presented as critical factors making difficult the retention of open space in the Front Range urbanizing corridor. This listing of constraints is not intended as a hierarchical prioritization, but rather as a grouping of dynamic and continually changing and interacting social, economic, and political trends and issues.
- Population growth of the region is a critical deterrent.
1 .5 million new residents will require land on which to live, shop, work, and travel.
- There is a perception that open space and urban development are mutually exclusive goalsthat preserving open space and making room for 1.5 million new residents are mutually exclusive.

High profits can be made by owners of agricultural land in the path of urban development. Regulation of land to preserve open space could reduce profits.
Nearby mountain lands and acreages of state and national forests and parks leads many to think that the preservation of agricultural lands and open space is not a high priority.
Existing zoning and subdivision regulations are often viewed as an end in themselves, serving the local needs of local residents, rather than a means to achieve a high quality of life in the larger community. A neighborhood, city, or county, may adopt zoning policies which serve local interests, but negatively affect the larger regional community over the long run.
There is a perception that agriculture is not important to the Front Range economy.
Open land used for agricultural purposes is worth more when sold for urban development than it is in farming or ranching. 30-70 acres of dry grazing land are required per head of cattle (depending on rainfall). Irrigated crop land has a greater economic potential and therefore has a greater economic value. Agricultural land converted to urban development has the greatest economic potential and greatest value.
The population of the Front Range region tends to be highly mobile. The "Native," "Alien," and "Semi-Native" bumper stickers tell the story of where present residents have come from. Bumper stickers telling where residents are going to would also show the transience of the Front Range population. The revolving door quality of the Front Range population may have the effect of discouraging long range planning for open space and agricultural lands. A common attitude is: "We plan to move in a few years.

Those who will live here in 25 years should plan for the kind of community they want to live in 25 years from now." If agriculture is to continue in a locality, there must be sufficient farm and ranch acreage in the region to support a wide range of agricultural related businesses and services (Agricultural Critical Mass). In a similar way, new urban development acreage requires an urban critical mass. Urban development is a catalyst for more urban growth in a region (Urban Critical Mass). A decision to remove a few acres of agricultural land from production may have little impact on open space. And a few acres of new urban development may have no appreciable impact on open space. It is the multiplier effect of the sum of these "little" decisions that alters the agricultural critical mass and the urban critical mass, and results in loss of agricultural lands and open space.
To make affordable housing available to the largest possible cross-section of the region's population, the housing industry has tended to concentrate new development where the land costs are leastopen agricultural land in urban fringe locations.
The Colorado Front Range region has a history of political conflict between advocates of state land use planning and advocates of local land use planning. This conflict has led to the dismantling of the state planning department.
No regional planning authority exists that has the statutory authority to implement a regional land use program that would encourage contiguous and infill development and preserve large tracts of open space. Planning and zoning policies for open space and infill/contiguous development must occur at the local level (each county and city), which frequently results in fragmented planning and loss of a regional context for what is done locally. Currently there are over 550 local

government entitles along the Front Range, each with its own agenda and priorities.
There is an over supply of single family detached zoning districts, and a shortage of higher density residential zoning in new suburban areas.
People (including some government officials) feel that higher density land uses result in lower quality of life, and low density is better.
A reasonably high level of service is provided by existing Front Range interstate highways and multi-lane state highways. These highways make it possible for current open space areas to develop at urban densities.
There is a perception that local governments can do little to provide urban buffering and preserve open space adjacent to urban areas.
There is a perception that fee simple acquisition is the only way to protect open space, and all funding for open space must come from the public sector.
A lack of communication exists between housing-related groups regarding existing programs and strategies for infill housing. Inflexibility of existing regulations, fees, laws, and ordinances discourages infill development. At all planning levelsfrom each individual neighborhood to the ten county region as a wholethere are trade-offs between density and open space. Up to this point the connection between density and open space has not been appreciated by residents and elected officials. Few counties and cities have planning mechanisms in place which can handle the trade-offs between density and open space.
Adopting and implementing regulations and strategies to preserve open space is a time consuming and difficult change process. Citizen groups are most supportive of the status quo.

Twenty Opportunities: Issues and Trends Encouraging Open Space Preservation
A population gain of 1.5 million new Front Range residents will create pressures for converting open space and agricultural land to urban uses. Yet paradoxically, the very magnitude of this population growth may be the needed catalyst for shaping public opinion and developing local government policies that will protect existing farm and ranch lands, preserve wildlife habitats and natural areas, and enhance the vitality and beauty of the region. Population growth is both obstacle and opportunity.
It is possible for the region to both grow in population and maintain large open space areas. Digging ten holes at random in a tennis court would seriously interfere with the game, but digging all ten holes beneath the net would have almost no disruptive effect. In a similar manner, the location and distribution of open space areas and new urban development, will be the critical factor in shaping the quality of life for Front Range residents over the next 25 years.
The following twenty issues and trends express the contextual environment for developing policies that would preserve open space. The listing of opportunities is intended as a grouping of continually changing regional social, economic, and political trends and issues.
- Taxpayers are becoming increasingly aware of the costs of sprawl. Even with strategies in which "development pays its own way" there are hidden costs which are left to local governments to pay. A 1983 report that calculated infrastructure capital costs for single family low density-residential development on typical open land on the urban fringe, found infrastructure costs to average $31,600 per

housing unit. Assuming 576,923 new housing units will be needed to house new Front Range residents over the next 25 yearsover 18 billion dollars (1983 dollars) will be needed to pay for new highways, streets, sewer and water systems, schools, libraries, parks, police and fire protection, and other infrastructure capital costs. Taxpayers and local governments are becoming increasingly aware that these capital costs can be reduced through higher density development and infill development that more efficiently uses the urban infrastructure (Costs of Sprawl, adjusted to 1983 household sizes and 1983 dollars).
Between 1959 and 1978 400,000 Front Range acres of farm land formerly used for producing hay, corn, sugar beets, potatoes, fruits, and vegetables, was converted to urban uses. An additional 900,000 acres of ranch lands were converted to non-agricultural uses. A total of 2,031 square miles of land has gone out of agricultural use. The result is an increasing importation of food and reduced capability of the Front Range to produce fresh milk and vegetables. Regional food self-sufficiency will become more important as pressures on agricultural land increase elsewhere (as is occurring in California) and energy costs increase. Consumer awareness of the source of the regional food supply encourages policies to protect the Front Range "milk shed" (including hay fields) and fruit and vegetable farms. Tax dollars spent on agricultural greenbelts between or around cities are partially returned in lowered food costs and a higher quality locally produced food supply (Agricultural Land Conversion in Colorado, 1980).
A growing national concern for protecting agricultural lands encourages protection of Front Range agricultural lands. The National Agricultural Lands Study found that 3

million acres of agricultural land are converted to non-agricultural uses each year. 13% of all U.S. farmland lies within the 242 SMSAs in the countryfarmland that is particularly vulnerable to conversion to urban development.
During the last two years a number of Front Range business interests have created and financially supported Colorado Open Lands, a non-profit public purpose partnership established to promote and actively pursue the preservation of critical Colorado open space areas. In the short time Colorado Open Lands has existed, projects have included the Evans Ranch in Clear Creek County, a greenbelt buffer between Loveland and Ft. Collins, and consulting work with counties and cities in the region. Other non-profit national organizations, such as the San Francisco based Trust for Public Land, have also been engaged in purchasing critical parcels for open space.
Low density Front Range urban development generates higher levels of air pollution than high-density development housing the same number of people (20-30% higher). Air pollution increases with number of automobiles and length and number of trips. Surveys consistently show air pollution to be the number one concern of Front Range residents. Public policies encouraging moderate or high density housing both within existing urban areas and in developing areas on the urban fringeare consistent with the regional concern for improving air quality (Agricultural Land Conversion in Colorado, 1980).
Shifting Front Range demographic, lifestyle, and economic trends of the 1980's favor moderate density development. A "smaller and smarter" trend translates into smaller household sizes (1984 average household size of 2.6 in the Denver Metropolitan Area), smaller (but creative) housing units built on smaller lots, to match with the

lower real income levels of the 1980's. Soaring housing costs and cost of money have resulted in only 29% of households in the U.S. earning enough to quality for a conventional mortgage. Together, these trends suggest opportunities for moderate or high density infill and urban fringe development that over the long term can work to preserve open space in the Front Range region (Planning, January 1984).
Over the past ten years Front Range voters have supported funding for acquisition of open space lands: Jefferson
County has instituted a sales tax for open space programs; the city of Boulder has established a sales tax for open space lands acquisition; statewide voters have given approval for a lottery and an income-tax check-off for conservation purposes.
An attractive quality of life is the reason most frequently given by businesses and new residents for moving to the Colorado Front Range from other regions of the country. Creation of a megalopolis stretching from Ft. Collins to Pueblo is perceived to be destructive to the region's quality of life and to the region's economy. New high tech industries establishing in the Front Range for the vitality and beauty of the natural environment could become a catalyst for preserving open space. Agriculture is big business in Colorado, contributing well over $2.5 billion a year to the state's economytwice the revenue brought in by mining and three times that generated by tourism. Colorado is the second largest agricultural producer among the eleven western states, topped only by California, and ranks fifteenth among all the states in total agricultural sales. In a recent year, Weld County ranked third in agricultural sales among all counties in the nation. Agricultural economic interests are particularly important in the northern one-half of the

Front Range region (Agricultural Land Conversion in Colorado, 1980).
Front Range cities and counties are beginning to develop policies to take advantage of opportunities for infill housing that exist within cities and unincorporated urban areas of counties. A national survey estimates 20% of most cities' land is developable and vacant. The
percentage is likely even greater in Colorado where urban population densities are below the national average. In Denver there is 1,200 acres of undeveloped vacant land zoned R-2 or less in over 3,000 parcels (excluding undeveloped Northeast and Southwest annexation areas of the city). More than 14,000 units of infill housing could be constructed on this land if it is developed at maximum density under present zoning categories (Denver Post, April 29, 1984).
The Colorado Front Range Project housing workgroup identified a wide range of financing alternatives that could act as a catalyst for urban infill housing projects. If even a small number of these financing programs are developed, there is potential for increasing Front Range infill housing starts.
The Colorado Front Range Project identified the preservation of open space as a top priority. This is significantin that business interests, developers, environmentalists, and state and local government officials agreed that protecting open space lands should play an important role in sustaining a desirable quality of life in the region. There is evidence that a broad base of interest groups is beginning to work for preservation of open space within the region.
The administrative branch of Colorado state government has consistently advocated for policies that would manage Front Range growth and protect open space. The Governor's

Office, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Local Affairs are particularly active in efforts to protect agriculture and open space.
Within the legislative branch of Colorado state government, there is a potential for creating a coalition of rural and urban legislators that could enact needed enabling legislation for techniques that would protect agricultural lands and open space.
Throughout the Front Range region there are large tracts of land owned by the federal government (military bases, Bureau of Land Management, Array Corps of Engineers, Forest Service) and state and local governments (highway surplus lands, parks). These public lands are a unique asset and offer a number of largely unexplored possibilities for balancing urban growth and protecting natural open space.
1) High density development tends to be attracted to certain types of open space (such as Cheesman Park in Denver and Cherry Creek Reservoir in Aurora). New high density development could be encouraged on land adjacent to large tracts of existing public open space (National Forest, reservoirs, county and city open space lands).
2) Publicly owned lands in areas where open space preservation is not a critical need could be traded for privately owned land in locations where open space protection is a critical need.
A number of "urban buffering" projects needed along the Front Range have already been proposed by counties and cities.
At the center of the Front Range region, Denver Regional Transportation District proposals to build a light rail system would encourage higher density new housing in Denver and suburban communities.

The techniques exist which could protect large and small parcels of Front Range open space without tying up large public expenditures.
In some locations within the region there are large tracts of land with geological conditions which make development nearly impossible. In these urbanizing areas geological constraints guarantee future open space.

Techniques for Cities and Urban Counties to Use in Preserving Open Space
Protecting open space and encouraging infill/incremental new development within existing urbanized areasare closely related urban dynamics. Looking at the overall picture of a growing urban area, techniques which encourage one also encourage the other.
Cities and urban counties have a wide range of policy options. The following techniques are some approaches currently used by local governments in the United States to preserve open space and encourage infill and incremental development. Most of the techniques could potentially be adopted by Front Range cities and counties. Techniques which encourage infill and incremental new development tend to be most frequently used by cities. Techniques which preserve conservation lands, scenic views, greenbelts between communities, and farming and ranch lands, tend to be most frequently used by counties. Because local conditions vary greatly from one area to another, there is much overlap between the role that cities and counties may play in preserving open space. There are few exclusively "city techniques" and few exclusively "county techniques."
ADVOCACYPublic support from elected public officials and agencies for the policy of preserving open space. Advocacy by public officials and agencies is a prerequisite for

effective implementation of techniques for preserving open space and encouraging infill/increraental new development. Advocacy includes facilitating a public planning forum involving all interest groups within a community.
Public Cost: Variable with the strategies and techniques a city or county adopts.
ANNEXATION POLICYA technique in which a city bases boundary change decisions on the impact an annexation would have on preservation of open space. Critical factors to be considered by annexation policies include: Will the annexation promote incremental development (rather than leapfrog development)? Will a decision not to annex mean development will take place anyway, without provisions for open space? Will a decision not to annex encourage preservation of open space by excluding urban services? When water rights are required with annexation, this tends to encourage development of prime agricultural lands.
Public Cost: Cost savings from efficiently utilizing city infrastructure.
BUILDING HEIGHT LIMITATIONA technique for protecting scenic views that is effective when linked to a specific viewshed. A 60 story building could be compatible with the landscape of one location, while a three story building may be incompatible with the landscape of another location. Public Cost: No cost.
CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS PLANNINGA technique in which a city or county projects five years or more into the future and delineates annual needed improvements through a budgetary process. The timing of construction of new streets, improvements to existing streets, extension of sewer and water lines, and purchase and development of parks, are

included within the Capital Improvements Plan. This technique is effective in encouraging incremental planned growth, and is indirectly effective in preserving open space away from the urban service area. Over the long term, Capital Improvements Planning cannot be used to protect open space within a city by denying urban services. The technique can be useful in projecting open space needs and timing purchase of lands for open space or parks.
Public Cost: Cost savings from efficiently utilizing city and county financial resources.
COMPREHENSIVE PLANAn official document, normally adopted by a city or county planning board and elected body, which serves as a policy guide for decisions regarding future physical, social, and economic development. The inclusion of an element for infill urban development and an open space element, can be useful for accomplishing these objectivesif the plan is referred to when policy decisions are being made, and if the plan is periodically reviewed and updated to reflect changing local conditions.
Public Cost: Variable with the strategies and techniques a city or county adopts.
CONSERVATION EASEMENTSA city or county may acquire the development rights for land that has a public conservation interest. Wildlife habitats, valuable ecosystems, and significant farming and grazing lands are identified in the Comprehensive Plan. The city or county may acquire development rights for the land by purchase (negotiation or eminent domain), donation, or developer dedication during the subdivision review process.
Public Cost: Variable.

DEVELOPMENT STANDARDS FLEXIBILITYA city or county may create flexibility in zoning regulations and building code standards in order to encourage infill new development and rehabilitation of existing structures. Greater flexibility can result in higher new housing densities in targeted neighborhoods, and increased feasibility of relocated housing structures, manufactured housing, and development of small lots and difficult sites.
Public Cost: Cost savings from efficiently utilizing infrastructure .
DEVELOPMENT RELATED FEESA city or county may encourage new infill housing by reducing (or waiving) front end costs in targeted neighborhoods by such methods as reduced fees for sewer and water hookups, building permits, zoning change requests. This technique targets areas and types of projects which would increase efficient use of existing infrastructure and require no new capital costs for local government.
Public Cost: Short term loss of some revenue from development fee waiver or reduction, compensated by increased tax base. Must be carefully targeted for specific areas and types of projects.
FINANCING PROGRAMS FOR INFILL DEVELOPMENTA city or county may assemble financing programs targeted to encourage infill housing and rehabilitation projects. Examples of programs include: 1) federal funding through Community Development Block Grants and Urban Development Action Grants, 2) city or county funding through general obligation bonds and property tax abatement, and 3) private sector funding through lending institution mortgage pools and equity syndication strategies involving developers and non-profit organizations. New infill development financed through city or county assembled

programs will be small in relationship to total new construction throughout a region. The effectiveness of infill financing strategies is in acting as a catalyst for new development within an existing urban service area. Public Cost: Low to high. Varies with the mix of public and private funding sources.
FRONTAGE ROADSA county or city may adopt a policy in which service roadways along major highways, freeways, or
parkways, are constructed at a distance from the highway. Service roadways are located in relationship to contours of the landscape rather than as ribbons closely paralleling the highway. New development is thus encouraged away from the highway and open space along major highways is preserved. When linked with open space zoning provisions, this technique can be somewhat effective in protecting some open land between communities.
Public Cost: Low.
LAND BANKINGThe acquisition of land for permanent city or county ownership or for later resale in a manner that directs the pattern and rate or urban growth. Land may be purchased through either eminent domain or voluntary purchase. This technique may be used by a redevelopment agency in assembling sufficiently large parcels of land for new infill development, or may be used within a Capital Improvements Plan for purchase of future park lands and open space.
Public Cost: Can achieve long term cost savings by purchasing land for public uses before development pressures raise land costs.
LIMITED ACCESS ROADWAYSA city or county may adopt policies which petition the state to build roadways between cities

with few or no points for access from abutting parcels of land. This technique discourages conversion of existing open space and agricultural lands between urban areas. Because state roadways are paid for by people who live throughout the state, this technique assumes highways are constructed primarily to serve statewide interests, rather than local interests.
Public Cost: No cost.
PURCHASE OF DEVELOPMENT RIGHTSThis technique operates on the presumption that the ownership of property consists of a "bundle of rights" that are unique and separable from each other. A city or county purchases the development rights and the landowner continues to use the land for agricultural purposes. Purchase of development rights may be used to protect a conservation interest (conservation easement), a scenic view (scenic easement), or to provide a greenbelt around a city or between cities.
Public Cost: Usually high. May be reduced if a landowner sells development rights below market value in exchange for tax benefits.
PLANNED UNIT DEVELOPMENT AND SUBDIVISION OPEN SPACE REQUIREMENTSScenic views and natural open space can be protected through PUD and subdivision open space requirements. This technique can preserve relatively large amounts of open space within large scale new subdivisions. Development is clustered in such a manner that a viewshed or a wildlife habitat remains in a natural state. When there is strong development pressure or when other open space techniques are not acceptable, this technique can become a "middle road" strategy for protecting strategic open space.
Public Cost: None.

SCENIC EASEMENTSA county or city may acquire the development rights for land in order to protect a scenic viewshed. Development rights are acquired by purchase, donation (with tax benefit to owner), or developer dedication during the subdivision review process.
Public Cost: Variable.
TRANSFER OF DEVELOPMENT RIGHTSA complex technique which generally involves:
- Designation of an open space zone and development zone.
- Prescription of the number of development rights required for each housing unit to be developed within the development zone.
- Owners of preserved open space receive certificates of development rights in an amount that represents the percentage of assessed value of all undeveloped land in the open space zone.
- An owner of developable land who desires to develop land
more intensely than that allowed by right, buys additional development rights on the open market. Owners of
preserved open space may sell development rights to owners of developable land, or to real estate brokers or speculators. Owners of preserved land thus are compensated without any capital costs to government.
This technique has been successfully used for preservation of historic structures. It is a new strategy for preservation of open space.
Public Cost: Low (Administrative Costs).
URBAN AND RURAL SERVICE AREASA technique which designates agricultural service areas and urban service areas. Public services and capital expenditures (roadway traffic lanes, water and sewer services, police and fire protection) are provided only at a level required for the district. This

technique is most effective when implemented on a regional scale by an umbrella governmental jurisdiction. In the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Area this technique is expected to save $2 billion in public investments over a period of 15 years. The designation of service areas may also be used by a city and county on a sub-regional scale. Public Cost: Cost savings from efficiently utilizing
ZONING---Local governments may adopt a wide range of
combinations of zoning techniques which both encourage incremental and infill new development, and discourage conversion of open space and agricultural lands. Techniques include:
- Bonus Floor Area Ratios (FAR) for infill development.
- Bonus Floor Area Ratios when open space is preserved.
- Preservation of viewsheds and conservation areas within large Planned Unit Developments.
- Increased housing densities permitted in all residential zones.
- Permitting second units within existing housing.
- Mixed use zoning to encourage housing along commercial streets.
- Mixed use zoning allowing housing within existing warehouse and industrial structures.
- Agricultural districts in which subdivision is not permitted.
Before adopting zoning techniques, a local government needs a carefully thought out Comprehensive Plan which includes an open space preservation element and infill housing element. Combinations of zoning techniques can then be adopted which "match up" with conditions of the local community.
Public Cost: No costs over and above normal administrative

Techniques for Urbanizing Counties to Use in Preserving Farm and Ranch Lands
In urban areas where development pressure is strong, cities and
counties share together a wide range of possible techniques which can be
used to protect open space. Because most agricultural land lies outside
of incorporated municipalities, counties have a number of additional
potential techniques for preserving open space that is currently used
for farm and ranching purposes.
ADVOCACYPublic support from county elected officials and county agencies for protection of agricultural interests in a county. Advocacy begins with recognition of the importance of agriculture in a region. As advocacy moves on to facilitate a public planning forum in which various interest groups in the county participate, the issues rapidly become complex. Advocacy includes facilitating the adoption of policies which address the core of the problem: farmers and ranchers can realize more profit from the sale of land for urban development than they can earn by farming or ranching operations on the same land.
Public Cost: Variable with the strategies and techniques a county adopts.
AGRICULTURAL DISTRICTSVoluntary aggregations of farms which band together to obtain legislatively granted benefits such as lower property tax rates (assessed only at farm value); immunity from nuisance legislation; limitation of public use of eminent domain for construction of power lines, road improvements, water and sewer lines. This technique can be moderately effective in preserving open space in urban countiesif stringent regulations are attached which provide for tax penalties when agricultural lands are converted to urban uses.

Public Cost: Low. Costs are primarily in loss of potential tax revenue from rural land, but may be balanced by an increased urban tax base.
COMPREHENSIVE PLANA document adopted by elected county officials (normally a county planning board and county commissioners) that serves as a policy guide for future physical, social, and economic development within the county. The inclusion of agriculture and open space elements, delineation of urban and rural service areas, and provisions for county and city inter-governmental agreements, can be useful for accomplishing the objective of preserving open space. An adopted plan that is
comprehensive in scope, gives legal support when implementing specific open space preservation techniques. The effectiveness of a Comprehensive Plan varies with the degree to which the plan is actually referred to as policy decisions are made and the timing of periodic revisions of the plan to reflect changing local conditions.
Public Cost: Variable with the strategies and techniques a county implements.
DEVELOPMENT RIGHTSA county may acquire the development rights for parcels of land in order to protect a conservation interest, scenic view, historic site, or to provide for a greenbelt between communities. The development rights might be acquired for a several acre site or for several thousand acres, depending on the scope of the public interest. Techniques for acquisition of development rights include:
- Donation of development rights. A farmer or rancher receives income tax benefits when development rights are donated to a non-profit conservation trust. The agricul-

tural use of the land continues and the county receives permanent protection of open space.
- Purchase of development rights (less than fee interest) for a parcel of land through negotiation or eminent domain.
- Purchase of land (fee simple interest) and either resale or lease of the land with restrictions which assure uses compatible with the protection of open space. Purchase may be through negotiation or eminent domain.
A successful county program for acquiring development rights requires a comprehensive identification of lands for which future open space protection is in the public interest, aggressive promotional efforts which match technique and individual land owner, and funding sources such as a county sales tax or state conservation trust funds.
Public Cost: Low (for donation of development rights) to
high (for large scale purchase of development rights).
FARMLAND CONSERVANCYA local quasi-governmental authority is empowered by state enabling legislation to intervene in any sale of land previously designated as important farmland. The land may then be purchased at market value by the local authority, and the land resold with restrictions which assure continued farming of the land.
Public Cost: Moderate to High.
PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENTAn indirect subsidy may be provided to the owners of property that is used for ranching or farming purposes. Land is taxed on the basis of its use-value as ranch or farmland, rather than at its fair market value. Two types of differential property tax assessment laws have been adopted by states: 1) Preferential laws
assess land on the basis of its use-value, and there are no penalties if the land is later sold for urban development.

Farmers and developers alike welcome the lower taxes, but this technique does not deter selling and may encourage land speculation. 2) Deferred taxation laws also tax land on the basis of its use-value as ranch or farm land, but if the land is converted or sold for other uses the owner is required to pay all or some portion of the taxes which were excused. The more stringent the restrictions, the less participation in deferred tax programs.
Public Cost: Low. Loss of rural tax revenues, but may be offset by increased urban tax revenues in some counties.
ZONINGA county may demarcate areas for agricultural use. This technique is highly feasible and its effectiveness increases with distance from urban communities. In rapidly urbanizing counties, the effectiveness of agricultural zoning is diminished because zone categories can be changed as development pressures increase. A county may strengthen the effectiveness of zoning by requiring that all zoning changes be compatible with an adopted county Comprehensive Plan. Agricultural zoning is used by some counties to encourage incremental urban growth. Agricultural zones on the edge of an urban area are planned as short-term zoning designations, waiting for urban services and urban development to reach an area. Leapfrog urban development is discouraged through this use of agricultural zoning. The minimum lot size permitted in an agricultural zone is the critical factor influencing the effectiveness of agricultural zoning. When lot sizes of 5 or 10 acres are permitted, low density suburban development is encouraged and true open space between cities is lost.
Public Cost: No costs over and above normal administrative costs.

Techniques exist that could be used by Front Range cities and counties to protect open space. Many of these techniques have proven track records in other regions of the U.S. and could be carried out in the Front Range region at little public expense. Others require more public expenditure and higher levels of taxpayer support. The art of protecting open space in the region begins with public concern and awareness. Techniques can then be selected and tailored to match with needs of each city or county.

With the valuable assistance of Sam Mamett and the Colorado Municipal League, a survey questionnaire was mailed to the planning directors of twenty-seven cities in the Front Range region.
The questionnaire was designed to inventory and evaluate the effectiveness of techniques currently being used to both make room for population growth and retain open space.
Part one of the questionnaire looks at open space. Strategies listed range from purchase of large scale greenbelts, to small scale building set backs and height limitations. Each planner was asked to indicate which of the strategies are currently used by the city, and then to evaluate the effectiveness of those techniques.
Part two is an inventory of techniques that facilitate infill development, raise housing densities, and encourage contiguous development. Again, a range of possible techniques was listed, with the planner indicating which are currently being used, and the effectiveness of each.
Part three asks for an estimate of new housing densities, and asks the open ended question"what would it take to significantly increase infill housing in your city?"

Because of the diversity among cities in location, topography, population, and socio-economic characteristicsnot all strategies are relevant to every city. Denver techniques and Castle Rock techniques may be very different. For this reason, an effort is made to include in the questionnaire a range of potential approaches.
The survey seeks to gather as much data as possible within the parameters of a two page mailed questionnaire. This limited somewhat the number of techniques surveyed, and ruled out even brief narrative explanations for each of the techniques. Planners responding to the survey used their own interpretation of what implementing each technique might mean. The survey is also open-ended in assigning numerical values to the effectiveness of the techniques. Each planner was asked to rate on a scale of 1-5 the effectiveness of each of the techniques currently used by the cityone being least effective and 5 highly effective.
Consideration was given to developing standardized criteria for evaluating the local effectiveness of strategies. This might provide valuable research, but would also be time consuming and costly, and had the drawback of asking 27 planners to work through a lengthy manual of criteria and fill in local statistics. In addition, a good planner knows almost intuitively what the local trends are and what is working and not working.
The purpose of the survey was to look at trends, find out what cities are using what techniques, and gain an overall understanding for what approaches are likely to be effective in the Front Range. The questionnaire developed meets these objectives.

Arvada Aurora i Boulder o 3" Brighton Broomfield nS in Colo. Spgs -n o Denver a c+ Englewood Ft. Coll. £ CD Cities Are CD r- 4-> TD >> > 4-> O CD CD O r- TD >> £ CD ^ 03 CD CD C <4 S- S- ro ro CD CD 1 1 Longmont Sr Lsville Loveland Pueblo Thornton Westmi nster Wheat Ridge
Agr Preservation X X
Land Purchases X X X X X X X X X X X
Condemnation for
Open Spa< :e X X X X X
City-County Agree. X X X X X X X X X X
Annexation Policy X X X X X X X X X X X X
Trans. Dev. Rights X X X X X
Pur. Dev. . Rights X
Conservation Esmt. X X
Scenic Easements X
Developer Open-
Space Set-Asides X X X X X X X X X X X X
PUD Open Space X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Building Setbacks X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Bldg. Ht. , Limits X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Mod-High Density
Zoning X X X X X X X X X X
Mixed Use
Zoning (F lousing) X X X X X X X X
Second Units X X
CIP for ] infill X X X X X X x ; X X X
Infill Fee Inc. X X X
Dev. Stds ;. Flex. X X X X
Infill Cfi ity Fin. X X X
Infill Fed. Fin. X X X X X X X X
City Govjt ;. Advocacy X X X X X X X X X X X X
Trend: F ligher
Density 5 >ma 11 er 0U X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Not Available: Golden, Green Mountain Falls, Littleton, Manitou Springs, Monument, Northglenn, Parker.

Techniques for Preserving Open SpaceIncluding Fan and Ranch Land, and Other Natural Open Space
The survey asked what strategies are currently used by the city to encourage preservation of open spacesuch as agricultural lands and open space separating cities and scenic views along highways.
City-County Agreements Delineating Urban and Rural Development Areas
Eight cities reported city-county agreements delineating urban and rural development areas. Two additional cities were considering such agreements. This approach generally takes the form of a city adopting a policy of providing water and sewer services only for areas within the city's boundaries. This may also be extended out to specified future annexation areas. City zoning techniques encourage new development to occur at specified urban densities.
At the same time, a county adopts agricultural zoning and subdivision policies which allow for rural residential subdivision only at very low densities35 or more acres may be required for a single residential unit. This technique requires a city willing to adopt a plan for future annexation and future provision of services, and a county willing to adopt and hold to very low density agricultural zoning and subdivision regulations. A county agrees to say to a new development proposal: "This is zoned for agriculture35 acres is the minimum lot size." At the same time, the city follows the agreed upon annexation policy in determining whether a parcel of land will be annexed and developed at urban densities.

With the exception of Pueblo, all of the cities reporting a form of such agreements are located in the northern one-half of the Front Range region. This approach for retaining agricultural lands and open space seems to be least workable in cities and counties which have large concentrations of existing urban development in unincorporated areas, such as in parts of Arapahoe, Jefferson, and El Paso Counties.
Among the cities using this technique, the median effectiveness rating was 3.5.
Eleven cities have adopted annexation policies delineating urban growth areas for future annexation. To be effective in retaining open space and encouraging infill development, the counties must play a tandem role. Several cities reported a frustration of adopting what they feel to be sound growth policies, and a county then changes zoning to allow development in adjacent unincorporated areas.
The median of the effectiveness ratings given by the eleven cities that have annexation policies was 4.0.
Transfer of Development Rights
Three cities reported programs for retention of open space through use of transfer of development rights (TDR). Denver's program is targeted to retain the scale of historic structures and districts in the citywhich can be thought of as a unique and specialized form of urban open space. The nature of a recently adopted Englewood TDR program was not specified in the survey returned. Because of Englewood's location in the Denver Metropolitan Area, it is assumed the new program targets small scale urban open spaces. Finally, the city of Louisville reported

use of a TDR approach for retaining open space, giving it an effectiveness rating of 3.0.
An ambitious TDR program is presently under consideration by Ft. Collins, Loveland, and Larimer County. The proposal would retain a large agricultural greenbelt between the cities, with development rights going to designated receiving areas located in the two cities and in the county. This program, developed with the consultation of Colorado Open Lands, has potential for creating a "win-win" approach to retention of agricultural land and open space. Other cities are watching closely to see if this could become a model for other areas in the Front Range.
Acquisition of Development Rights for Agricultural Lands, Viewsheds, Wildlife Habitats, Conservation Lands
None of the cities reported city purchase of development rights for
open space. The questionnaire did not ask directly about donation of
development rights. It would be useful to find out if the cities are
prepared to receive the donation of development rightsa technique that
can occasionally provide tax relief to a land owner.
None of the cities reported strategies to create scenic easements
(a form of acquisition of development rights). Only Louisville reported
use of techniques to acquire conservation easements.
Fee Simple Interest in Land for Open Space
Including Purchase of Land, Landbanking, and Parks Acquisition
Twelve cities reported purchase of land for open space and parks. Boulder's purchase of large scale agricultural lands to create a greenbelt around that city stands out as the most ambitious open space

acquisition program in the region. Other cities reported smaller scale acquisition of lands for future parks and open space. Five cities said they would be willing to use eminent domain powers to purchase open space.
Among cities using various strategies to purchase fee simple interest in land for future open space, the median effectiveness rating reported was 4.0, indicating this is felt to be an effective technique.
Developer Set Asides for Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Lands
Fourteen cities reported requirements for developers to set aside land for public open space and parks. This technique may take several forms: 1) A percentage of land area on the site is dedicated to the
city and set aside for park development or to protect environmentally critical parcels of land on site; or 2) A payment in lieu of land is paid by the developer and the city then uses the money for purchase of public open space off site. The formula for fixing the amount to be paid by the developer may be based on either land area or dwelling units within a subdivision or Planned Unit Development. When there are provisions requiring a city to use these funds only for the purchase of open space (rather than park maintenance or development) this approach is strengthened as a tool for protecting open space.
Among cities using this technique, the median effectiveness rating was 4.0, indicating that this is perceived to be a moderately effective strategy.
A related approach is PUD private open space requirements. Fifteen cities reported PUD open space requirements, and rated the effectiveness

of this technique at 4.0. All PUD ordinances require provision of open space. When 40% or more of a PUD is required to be landscaped and when a city carefully negotiates the specific location of this open spacethe effectiveness of this tool increases. The proposed greenbelt between Ft. Collins and Loveland uses PUD and subdivision open space requirements to enlarge and enhance the actual open area between those cities. Another application of this technique is in protecting scenic vistas along highways by retaining open space in relationship to viewsheds and locating development in a manner which does not detract from the viewshed.
Building Height Limitations and Building Setbacks
To protect scenic views, twelve cities reported use of building height limitations and fourteen cities use building setbacks. Uniform height limitations and setbacks throughout a city do nothing to retain scenic views. Targeting is the critical factor. Denver's Mountain View Ordinance is a good example of effective targeting. The concept is one that recognizes that a 100 story building may have no negative impact on the viewshed of one site, while at another site a two story structure might entirely destroy the scenic vista. Similarly, at one site in a city no setback might be appropriate, while at another site a 1,000 foot setback might be needed to protect a viewshed.
Building height limitations were given an effectiveness rating of 3.0 in protecting scenic views. Building setbacks were rated 2.5.

Agricultural Preservation
Only two citiesLouisville and Boulderhave agricultural preservation programs. This may indicate that agricultural open space per se is not a priority among Front Range cities. It may mean cities can play only a minor role in preserving agricultural lands. Or perhaps the association just is not made between city policies and retention of agricultural land outside the city.
Techniques for Containing SprawlHousing Densities, Infill Housing, and Contiguous Development Strategies
The survey asked a series of questions about approaches used by the city to raise housing densities, promote infill housing, and encourage contiguous development"backdoor" strategies for retaining Front Range open space and agricultural lands.
All cities responding to the survey (with the exception of Louisville and Greenwood Village) reported a trend toward higher housing densities and smaller housing units. Each city was asked to estimate the average density of housing constructed within the last two years, and planned/approved new residential development.
Densities were requested in units per gross acres to gain an understanding of the overall impact of new Front Range housing. The intention was to look at new housing on a regional and neighborhood scaleto find out the gross density of new residential development, which includes not only lots and housing, but also the amount of land devoted to new streets, schools, and neighborhood parks. Gross

densities were requested, rather than net densitieswhich exclude land devoted to public uses. Gross density is always a lower number (usually by 25-30%) than the net density for the same area.
Average Gross Density of New Housing Reported by Front Range Cities
Less than 2.5 Units/Gross Acres: Greenwood Village
2.5 - 5.0 Units/Gross Acres: Colorado Springs, Broomfield, Louis-
ville, Loveland, Pueblo, Westminster, Wheat Ridge
5.1 7.5 Units/Gross Acres: Arvada, Brighton, Ft. Collins,
Greeley, Lafayette, Longmont
7.6 - 10.0 Units/Gross Acres: Boulder, Englewood, Thornton
More than 10.0 Units/Gross Acres: Aurora, Denver, Lakewood
These figures suggest new housing densities are still quite low in Front Range cities, even though all but two cities reported a trend of rising densities in recent years. 1-8 units per gross acre is the typical density for single family detached homes; 7-11 units per gross acre for duplexes; 12 25 units per gross acre for townhomes; 24 52 units per gross acre for walk-up apartments; 50 105 units per gross acre for elevator apartments. The average densities for new housing reported by the cities suggests single family detached homes continue to be popular, but housing types of a higher density are raising the average densities somewhat in most of the cities.
This trend toward higher densities could be attributed solely to economic and demographic factorssuch as high interest rates, land prices, smaller household configurations, and less household income

available for housing. The influence of city policies should not be overlooked. Some cities (Lakewood and Aurora are examples) reported trends to ''pull in the reins" on moderate-high density developmenteven though market trends are favorable for higher densities. Other cities reported incentives that seek to encourage higher densities. Along with demographic and economic trends, the policies being adopted by Front Range cities are acting to influence, modify, and either encourage or discourage higher housing densities.
Zoning Techniques
Theoretically, as average residential densities in the region rise, agricultural land and open space retained between cities should rise proportionately.
Zoning is the mechanism for controlling urban density. Average housing density could be raised by 25% by increasing permitted densities "across the board" in all zone districts in a city. Or, average density could be increased by "up zoning" in targeted areas. On the edge of a city on present agricultural landszoning techniques might also be adopted which permit a high density developmentin return for very large scale retention of agricultural lands.
Ten cities reported use of some type of moderate or high density zoning strategy to encourage infill and contiguous development. The median effectiveness rating for zoning density techniques was 3.0, indicating this is perceived as only moderately effective in guiding urban growth. Comments included:

- Our city has a real 'hang up' about approving densities higher than those already approved. (Aurora)
- Also leads to high land prices and speculation, which are counter-productive to residential infill development. (Denver)
- Virtually all infill for several years has been medium to high density multi-family, leading to a feeling that the trend should be reversed. (Lakewood)
- There is a strong community sentiment for keeping Louisville at a small scale.
- Height regulations limit density. (Wheat Ridge)
Eleven cities reported they are not using any approach that would increase zoning residential densities. Probably many of these cities have some existing medium or even high density housingbut this can be
interpreted as a general community and political sentiment that "low
density is good, high density is undesirable." The comments from Denver are important"upzoning" in some cities may be a disincentive to infill housing and higher densities. Two questions relating to this phenomenon
If very large areas of high density zoning were createdfor example all of Douglas County, half of the city of Denver, half of Colorado Springswould the market shift in such a way that the value of high density zoned land decreases and speculation be eliminated?
High density zoning seems to "work" when in close proximity to a park, open space, or a body of watersuch as Sloan's Lake and Cheesman Park in Denver and Cherry Creek Reservoir in Aurora. Could this not become a sort of principle for targeting high density zoning?

Mixed Use Zoning to Encourage Housing Redevelopment Along Commercial Streets
In almost every city in the Front Range there are major streets with large amounts of vacant and undeveloped lands. Sometimes these are streets that once served as the main connection between small cities: Highway 85 south out of Greeley; Santa Fe Boulevard from Denver south into Arapahoe County; Colfax Avenue in Aurora, Denver, and Lakewood; Highway 2-6-85 in Commerce City.
Generally, these "strips" have been reserved for commercial uses. But because they have not been able to compete with shopping malls, or because there are not enough nearby residents to support locally-oriented businesses, they have tended to attract auto-oriented enterprisesused car lots, drive-in theaters, fast food restaurants. Usually there are parcels of vacant land scattered among the commercial developments.
These commercial corridors are a major potential housing land resource. Such development could occur with little impact on existing residential areas and little displacement of existing businesses. The higher density could allow for more affordable housing development. The Writer Corporation's planned townhome development along Santa Fe Boulevard in Littleton is an excellent example of use of this strategy for infill housing.
Nine cities reported use of mixed use zoning to encourage housing development along commercial streets. Several cities had just adopted zoning ordinances for this purpose. A median effectiveness rating of

3.0 was assigned to this technique by the cities currently using this strategy.
Capital Improvements Planning to Encourage Infill and Contiguous Development
The level of water and sewer services provided and the construction
of new streets and bridges may be used to encourage infill housing
projects within a city, and contiguous growth on the edge of a city.
Nine cities reported a Capital Improvements Plan that serves these
objectives. The median effectiveness rating assigned by the cities to
this technique was 3.5.
Development Standards
Flexibility to Encourage Infill Housing
Small lots and difficult to develop sites may present obstacles for developing housing on "skipped over" parcels of land. Rigid standards may exclude manufactured housing and make illogical the moving of well-built older homes to infill sites. To overcome these obstacles, a city may adopt provisions for flexibility in zoning setbacks and open space requirements, and building codes to make feasible the location of new housing on small infill sites.
Four cities reported use of some form of flexibility in development standards to use vacant land more efficiently for housing. The median effectiveness rating reported for this technique was 2.5, indicating that as presently practiced, this technique may have only limited importance as an incentive.

Development Fee Incentives
By reducing In targeted areas the city fees for water and sewer hook-ups, and zoning and building code feesa city can improve the economic viability of infill projects. These development fees in some cities can add up to 10% or more of total construction costs for a single family detached or townhorae.
Three cities reported some form of development fee incentives to encourage infill housing starts. Brighton and Greeley have both sewer and water fee incentives or waivers in targeted areas. They give this technique a highly positive rating of 4.5 as a tool for encouraging infill housing.
The third city reporting use of a fee incentive approach was Englewood. The specific fee incentive was not reported.
Second Units on Existing Homesites
One way to make better use of existing developed residential land is to allow and encourage the development of second units that currently contain one single family home. New housing can be created by
partitioning a house, adding one or two rooms, by finishing a basement,
or by constructing a small separate building on the same lot. Such
units make housing affordable to owner and renter, make efficient use of energy, increase tax revenues for cities, and efficiently use city infrastructure. Concerns about possible changes in the appearance of a neighborhood can be avoided by simply applying the same design standards that anyone adding a room to a single family home must meet, and
requiring that the second unit be smaller than the original house.

Only Pueblo reported using this technique, though Denver and other cities likely also allow for this type of infill housing in certain limited situations. Pueblo rated the effectiveness of this technique at 4.0.
Financing for Infill Housing
City, county, state, and federal governments can provide low interest financing for new infill housing. When carefully targeted by a city to specific areas, this technique may tip the scales to make financially feasible the various approaches to infill housing. Financing programs can act as a catalyst for infill development.
Three cities reported the use of local financing programs for infill housing (presumably bond money), giving a median effectiveness rating of 3.0 to this technique. Eight cities reported use of federal monies (including CDBG and UDAG grants), and gave a median effectiveness rating of 3.0 for this strategy.
Sinnary of City Techniques
Front Range cities are engaged in efforts to retain agricultural and open space lands, and encourage infill and contiguous development. The only question isis it enough?
Thirteen cities said they advocate these goals. They are choosing to use a variety of techniques and are coming up with mixed results. Many strategies are still in the experimental stagewaiting to be fully

The hottest issue is density, which on a regional scale is at the heart of retaining natural open space and agricultural lands. The trade-offs between higher density and natural open space are not easy ones for Front Range cities. Some cities may be close to finding the creative approaches that are needed if the region is to both grow and retain natural open space.

Each county In the Front Range region was visited (with the exception of the City and County of Denver) for a survey interview with the county planning staff and a "windshield survey" of existing agricultural lands and natural open space. A Denver response was obtained from the survey of cities, and therefore was not included in the county study.
The questions included in the interviews with county planning staffs were similar to questions asked in the survey mailed to Front Range citieswith some additional emphasis on strategies for retaining farming and grazing lands. The interview method allowed for brief descriptive explanations of techniques, and provided valuable commentary from planners. For each technique, the county planner was asked whether it had been used. If so, the planner was asked to rate its effectiveness on a scale of 1-5. Many planners also told the story of how a particular technique evolved and the successes and failures with each.
The inventory of county strategies consisted of three parts. Part one was a series of questions concerning methods to retain farming and grazing lands. Part two consisted of questions relating to protection of wildlife habitats, scenic areas, and small scale open space. Because some counties have large unincorporated urban areas, part three looked

strategies to encourage infill development and raise residential
At the end of the survey, each planner was asked, "Do you believe agriculture will be a part of the county's economy in 25 years?" and "What would it take to retain open space in the countysuch as green-belts between cities, important wildlife habitats, and unobstructed views along highways?"

Techniques Front Range Counties Are Using
(U O
Adams o _£Z 03 Q. ro c Boulder Douglas El Paso Jeffersi Larimer Pueblo Weld
Cor ip. Plan Agr. Lands Element X X X X X
Agt Zoning Minimum 2.5 1.6 - 35 2- 35 5- 2.3 .5- 80-
Lo1 | Size (Acres) -35 160 35 10 -10 40 160
Agt *. Important in Year 2010 X X X X X X X
Urt )-Rur Dev Areas (City-County) X X X X X X
TDF 1 for Agr. Land X
County Tax to Purch. Open Sp. X
Comp. Plan Open Space Element X X X X X X X X X
Purch. of Land for Open Space X X X X X X
Putpch. Dev. Rights for Op. Sp. X
Conservation Easements X X X X X
Scenic Easements X X X
Subdiv. Review Open Sp. Ded. X X X X X X X X X
PUD Open Space Dedication X X X X X X X X X
Bu' ilding Setbacks X X X X X
Bui ilding Height Limits X X X X X X
Zoning for Mod.-High Density
Urban Development Area X X X X X X X
Development Standards Flex. X X X X
Infill Fee Incentives
Fi lancing Programs for Infill X X X
Clf > for Contiguous Dev. X X X X X X
Trend: Higher Density
Smaller D.U. X X X X X X X X

Techniques for Preserving Large Scale Open SpaceIncluding Fan and Ranch Lands, and Other Natural Open Space
Counties are the local governmental bodies that influence agricultural use in the Front Range region. As a rule of thumb, agricultural land north of the Denver Metropolitan Area is characterized by productive soils and a well developed irrigation system that supports row crops, vegetable truck farming, dairy farming, and livestock production. Pueblo County to the south has similar prime agricultural lands. Other counties to the south of Denver contain less productive soils, uneven terrain, and little irrigated farmland. Agriculture largely consists of dryland wheat farming and cattle grazing.
Both the more intense form of agriculture in the northern one-half of the region, and the less Intense form of the southern one-naif, provide benefits to urban residents. They range from the tangible benefit of fresh milk, produce, and eggs, to the more intangible, benefit of green open space around and between cities, uncluttered mountain views, habitats for wildlife, and air quality renewal.
The nine counties surveyed in the Front Range region hold a critical role in the retention of these agricultural and open space lands.
Agricultural Lands Preservation Element in County Comprehensive Plans
Five countiesAdams, Boulder, Larimer, Pueblo, and Weldreported having some type of agricultural lands preservation element within their Comprehensive Plan. Weld and Boulder Counties stand out as two counties

with extensive agricultural preservation elements. El Paso County, at the other extreme, has a land use plan that refers to agricultural lands as "agricultural and other unused land." In Douglas Countywith large areas of open ranch lands and strong urban development pressuresa controversial agricultural lands preservation element was pointedly eliminated by county commissioners several years ago.
County Comprehensive Plans are meaningful only when they are referred to as policies are considered by county commissioners. Yet the elements included within a county Comprehensive Plan are an important indicator of local priorities.
Agricultural Zoning/Rural Residential Density
Zoning can be an effective tool for retention of agricultural land and open space. The critical factors are:
- permitted rural residential density (number of acres required for each residential unit)
- county-city agreements delineating urban and rural development areas
- ease or difficulty in obtaining zoning changes
All counties indicated the use of some type of agricultural zoning. El Paso County is now in the process of zoning the eastern one-half of the county. Counties reported the following acreage requirements per residential unit in agricultural zones:

Adams Arapahoe Boulder Douglas El Paso
Acres per Dwelling Unit County-City Effectiveness Agreements!
2.5 35 3 Yes
1.6 160 5 No
17.5 35 5 Yes
2-35 1 No
35 (Recently Created) No
5-10 2 Yes
2.30 10 1 Yes
.5 40 2 Yes
80 160 5 Yes
Interviews with county planners found a variety of approaches to agricultural zoning. Weld and Boulder Counties seem to be especially effective in the use of zoning to protect agricultural lands. In counties with small acreage requirements for residential development, zoning techniques are ineffective in retaining farm and ranch lands.
Agricultural Distrlcts/Farmland Conservancy Districts
Urban service districts may be created to facilitate urban development by providing services such as water, sewer, and fire protection. Agricultural Districts and Farmland Conservancy Districts have the opposite intentionthey seek to discourage urban development and facilitate the continuation of agricultural production.
Within an Agricultural District, land is taxed only at its agricultural value, zoning allows for residential development only on very

large sites, and eminent domain powers are restricted so as to discourage urban services. Farmland Conservancy Districts have the added authority to intervene in any sale of land previously designated as important farm or ranch land when the buyer intends to convert agricultural land to urban development.
A group of Larimer County farmers are interested in forming an Agricultural District in order to protect the existing irrigation system and discourage extension of Ft. Collins urban services into a prime agricultural area. State enabling legislation would be required to create such districts in Colorado.
Purchase of Lands for Open Space
County purchase of fee-simple interest in agricultural lands does occur in the Front Range. The counties reporting some type of open space acquisition program are using approaches that fit their local context. Some programs retain agricultural use of the land, other approaches emphasize recreational uses and wildlife habitats.

County Focus
Adams Flood Control, Recreation, Trails
Boulder Urban Greenbelt, Agriculture, Compliment City of Boulder Open Space
Douglas Parks and Recreation
El Paso Parks and Recreation
Jefferson Preservation of Natural Environment, Recreation
Larimer Parks and Recreation
Pueblo Parks and Recreation
5 5
The most ambitious and successful county open space program is in Jefferson County, funded by a .5% sales tax that can only be used for open space acquisition. At one time the Jefferson County program leased land back for agricultural uses. Administrative costs and the demand for public access have led to ending lease back arrangements. In
Jefferson County, open space lands are acquired through gifts, bargain sales, negotiation, and condemnation.
The City of Boulder has another successful open space program to create a greenbelt around the city, with land leased back for agricultural uses. The County of Boulder plays a complementary and secondary role in purchase of lands for open space in the county.
Adams County is considering purchase of open space lands for flood control, recreation, and development of an extensive trail system along several county waterways.
Other counties have less extensive programs for purchasing land for future parks and recreational uses. Money for open space is the

constraint expressed by every county. Counties are looking to state lottery funds and developer fees in lieu of on-site dedication of open space.
Purchase of Development Rights
Larimer County used purchase of development rights to a very limited extent when acquiring Horsetooth Mountain Park to the west of Ft. Collins. Most of the park was purchased fee simple interest. No other county reported use of this technique.
The Space Command Center locating east of Colorado Springs is considering use of this technique to assure a large agricultural and open space buffer around that new complex.
Transfer of Development Rights
Larimer County has been holding public meetings to consider adoption of a Transfer of Development Rights program for the undeveloped agricultural areas between Loveland and Ft. Collins. Participation of the county and both of the cities would be necessary for the program to be implemented.
Several other counties expressed interest in adopting some type of TDR program to retain open space and agricultural lands.
Preferential Tax Assessment for Agricultural Lands
In all Colorado counties, land is taxed on the basis of its use value as ranch or farm land, rather than on the basis of actual market value. Colorado does not require a retroactive penalty payment if the

land is later converted to urban development. As a tool for retaining agricultural open space lands and limiting urban sprawl, preferential tax assessment is viewed as both a positive and negative influence. County planners interviewed saw the technique encouraging speculation in land on the edge or urban areas. At the same time, preferential tax assessment has allowed many farmers and ranchers to stay in business. In Pueblo County, this tax provision was reported to have kept a large amount of land in agriculture.
Agriculture to the Year 2010
Six of the nine counties projected a continuing importance of agriculture over the next 25 years. Douglas, El Paso, and Jefferson Counties see agriculture greatly decreasing in importance. County
planners cited a number of new techniques that are needed if farm and ranch lands are to be retained in the Front Range region:
-- More county control over special service districts.
- Money for purchase of major tracts of agricultural land.
A few strategic purchases could shape the development of the county.
- To discourage the break-up of ranch and farm landsstate legislation allowing county subdivision regulation of parcels of land 35 acres and larger. (Current subdivision regulation applies to parcels of land less than 35 acres in size.)
- State enabling legislation for TDR and formation of Agricultural Districts.
- State legislation making it more difficult to transfer agricultural water rights to municipalities. Cities that require water rights before annexation can take place, encourage conversion of agricultural lands.
- Agricultural zoning with larger lot sizes.

Techniques for Preserving Small-Scale Open SpaceIncluding Wildlife Habitats, Scenic Views, Parks and Recreation Areas
In counties experiencing rapid growth, that have chosen not to plan for large scale natural open space, it is still possible to retain important wildlife habitats and scenic areas, require open space buffering of new development, and provide a system of open space parks and recreation areas. The survey asked a series of questions about approaches used by the county to encourage retention of small-scale open space.
Acquisition of Conservation Easements and Scenic Easements
To retain an important wildlife habitat or to protect a scenic area, a county may acquire the development rights for land. The land continues in private ownership for grazing or recreational uses. Such conservation and scenic easements can be acquired through purchase (including eminent domain), by donation, or by requiring dedication in the subdivision review process.
In acquiring conservation and scenic easements, none of the counties reported purchase of development rights for critical areas. Rather, easements are acquired in the subdivision review process. The counties are beginning to take a careful look at important scenic and wildlife areas that would be impacted by new development, and requiring dedication of conservation or scenic easements for these lands.
Four counties reported use of a conservation easement technique, Douglas County has retained a large scenic and wildlife area located

within the Highlands Ranch development. Adams County is in the process of accepting a parcel of land from a gravel company that will become part of a wildlife and trail system. Larimer and Jefferson Counties reported donation of easements for wildlife habitat areas.
Larimer and El Paso Counties reported use of a scenic easement technique. Within the subdivision review process (Senate Bill 35), the counties require dedication of easements for important scenic areas. This is becoming an important technique in these two counties. Pueblo County has one scenic easement that was purchased through the efforts of the Pueblo Beautiful Association.
Building Height Limitations and Building Setbacks
All counties regulate building heights and setbacks. These techniques do little to protect scenic views, unless they are fine-tuned to the needs of specific sites and areas. Boulder and Douglas Counties are good examples of effective targeting.
Boulder County requires a 1,500 foot open space setback along Highway 36 and other major highways. Douglas County is developing subdivision and PUD regulations which would guide location and height of structures in such a way that roof lines on hilltops would not obstruct scenic views.
Subdivision and Planned Unit Development Open Space Requirements
All counties reported having PUD and Subdivision open space requirements regulating coverage of the site and requiring dedication of park lands. Particularly on large sites, these requirements have a

potential for protecting important viewsheds and natural wildlife areas.
- Boulder County uses a rural PUD approach that allows two dwelling units on a 35 acre site. The county requires submission of a plan for what will be done with the open space portion of the site. Often the land remains in farming.
- Douglas County has recently dropped a 30% open space requirement for new communities. Apparently the requirements were felt to be too limiting.
- El Paso County uses a sliding scale based on gross density and square footage per dwelling unit, to determine the amount of land dedicated to the county for parks and open space. For higher density development,
25% of the site is dedicated for parks and public open space. The County Park Board only accepts regional scale parks (400 acres or more). Consequently, most developers must pay the $600 per dwelling unit fee in lieu of dedication of park land on the site.
- Pueblo County uses a formula based on bedrooms per dwelling unit, to determine dedication of park lands within subdivisions.
- Larimer County requires 30% of each PUD be open space.
With the exception of Weld County, all Front Range counties are making good use of Senate Bill 35, granting counties the authority to require publicly dedicated open space and park lands within the subdivision review process. Weld County, with 80 160 acre minimum lot sizes, reported no new subdivisions and no need for these provisions. For areas of Weld County already subdivided but not developed, Senate Bill 35 provides no benefit.
Open Space Preservation Element in County Comprehensive Plans
All nine counties reported having an open space preservation element in their Comprehensive Plan. Adams, Boulder, El Paso, and

Jefferson Counties have particularly strong elements to designate significant areas for protection.
Techniques for Containing SprawlHousing Densities, Infill Housing, and Contiguous Development Strategies
Because many Front Range counties have large unincorporated areas that over the years have developed at urban densities, the survey asked a series of questions about attitudes toward increasing residential densities and adoption of policies that encourage infill housing and contiguous development.
The proliferation of special districts to serve urban development within the Front Range region has created large areas of unincorporated urban development that are virtually indistinguishable from neighboring suburban municipalities.
Some unincorporated urban development is found in all counties, but Adams, Arapahoe, Douglas, El Paso, and Jefferson Counties have the greatest concentration of urban special, service districts, and the greatest susceptibility to sprawl and "leap-frog" development. The special service districts are often similar to municipalities in providing water, sewer, and fire protection services. Street maintenance, parks, and police services may be provided by either the county or district. Planning and regulation of development remain county responsibilities.
In these areas, "backdoor" strategies for retaining Front Range agricultural lands and open spaceby increasing residential densities and encouraging infill and contiguous developmentrely on county

initiative. The average gross density of new housing in unincorporated county areas is below that of Front Range cities, but the difference is not great.
Average Gross Density of New Housing in Unincorporated Areas of Front Range Counties
Less than 2.5 Units/Gross Acres: Boulder, El Paso, Larimer, Pueblo,
2.5 5.0 Units/Gross Acres: Arapahoe, Douglas
5.1 7.5 Units/Gross Acres: Adams
(Jefferson County densities not available.)
Five counties reported a definite increase in residential densities for housing constructed within the last two years and for approved projects still in the development process. Boulder and Weld Counties with strong agricultural zoning and county-city development agreements reported little change in residential densities over the last several years. Pueblo County reported no changes in density of new housing likely explained by poor economic conditions in the county and relatively little new housing constructed over the past several years. Jefferson County, with large unincorporated urban areas, reported rising residential densities. The Jefferson County planner interviewed in the survey does not see this as a long term trendrather an indication of interest rates and affordability of housing.
Zoning Techniques
Rezoning to allow high density townhoraes and condominiums in unincorporated county areas received mixed reviews among Front Range

counties. Like Front Range cities, the counties encounter strong opposition to this infill technique from nearby single-family homeowners. Boulder and Weld Counties discourage any rezoning to permit higher densities, to maintain the integrity of agricultural zoning and county-city development agreements. In Boulder County, this technique would be considered only in areas subdivided before adoption of the current Comprehensive Plan and current zoning regulations.
Other Front Range counties reported some use of zoning techniques that increase residential densities and encourage infill development. In Adams County, this has been achieved in PUD provisions. In the southern part of unincorporated Jefferson County and in Larimer, Arapahoe, and Pueblo Countiesthis technique is used where utility services are already in place and when local opposition of homeowners can be mitigated in some manner.
Capital Improvements Planning
to Encourage Infill and Contiguous Development
In Jefferson County, the delay in construction of Colorado Highway C470 slowed development of that area and provided needed time for the county to purchase open space lands and plan for the future development of the area. In a similar manner, the timing of construction of county roads and bridges can be used to encourage infill and contiguous development. But because counties have no authority to provide critical water and sewer services, Capital Improvements Planning is a weak tool for guiding county growth.

Most of the Front Range Counties reported some type of Capital Improvements Planning or management by objective program. Candid comments included: "Capital improvements follow development" and "we do catch-up road improvements. The critical missing link for guiding growth is the inability of counties to provide water and sewer services. El Paso County is actively seeking state legislation that would allow counties to form a water and sewer authority.
Development Standards Flexibility to Encourage Infill Housing
Just as in Front Range cities, a degree of flexibility in zoning and building codes and fee incentives could be used as a technique to encourage development of "skipped over" parcels of land. For example, difficult to develop sites might receive special zoning consideration, or building codes might be changed to allow for manufactured homes.
Many counties reported efforts to streamline the development review process (resulting in cost savings to developers) and create more flexibility in density and open space zoning requirementspolicies that apply throughout the county. However, none of the counties had programs tailored specifically to the needs of infill projects.
"Windshield" surveys in most of the counties showed significant areas of vacant land interspersed with urban development. In the interviews, none of the counties seemed to perceive infill to be a priority. Rather, the undeveloped land is seen as a sort of temporary "bonus urban open space. The hodge-podge of overlapping special service district and county jurisdictions makes it difficult to do coherent and comprehensive planning for either open space or infill development.

Financing Programs for New Infill Housing
County bond money and federally funded housing programs could be targeted to encourage infill development in unincorporated county areas. Although all counties have small existing housing programs, there is no effort to target these programs to infill areas within their jurisdiction.
Mixed Use Zoning to Encourage
Housing Redevelopment Along Commercial Roads
In each of the Front Range counties, there are highways that once
served as links between cities. These highways often are lined with
small businesses that rely on the trade of passing motorists, with many
parcels of scattered vacant land. Highway 85 as it winds through Weld,
Adams, Denver, Arapahoe, Douglas, El Paso, and Pueblo Counties, is an
example of a highway with miles of low density strip commercial
activity. As highway 85 passes through unincorporated urban areas,
there is a major potential for redevelopment with higher density
housing. Such redevelopment with townhomes and condominiums could occur
with little impact on existing businesses.
Only Adams and Pueblo County reported current zoning flexibility
that would permit redevelopment of this type. None of the counties is
actively pursuing a redevelopment plan for this purpose.
County-City Agreements
Delineating Urban and Rural Development Areas
To encourage contiguous and incremental urban development, rather than "leap frog" development, Adams, Boulder, Larimer, Pueblo, and Weld

Counties have formal agreements delineating urban and rural develop-ment/service areas. Generally these agreements define future city annexation areas, city sewer and water service areas, and the residential densities allowed within county zoning.
Boulder and Weld Counties use this technique most effectively. The counties allow only very low density residential development (35 acre lots in Boulder County, 160 acre lots in Weld County) in the rural developraent/service area. When development is proposed outside city boundaries, the developer must seek annexation to the city. Exceptions to the policy are found only in areas that were subdivided before current zoning and county-city agreements were adopted.
Adams, Weld, and Pueblo Counties require reciprocal county and city review of any development (or water-sewer extension) proposal within the specified area. Several other counties reported informal county-city agreements.
El Paso County, with large areas of suburban unincorporated development, is proposing to create urban and rural planning areas within the county. The urban area of the county would have its own planning commission. In counties with large unincorporated urban areas, this approach might accomplish the objective of encouraging contiguous and planned incremental development.
Summary of County Techniques
In the absence of state or regional land use planning, Front Range counties are creating local strategies for retaining agricultural and

open space lands. Each is taking a different track:
Jefferson County is acquiring scenic, historical, and natural open space lands.
Boulder County is emphasizing county-city agreements and low density zoning to retain agricultural open space areas between and around urban communities.
Weld County is emphasizing retention of the county's large scale farm lands and is effectively using zoning and county-city development agreements.
Adams County is emphasizing acquisition of open space lands for wildlife habitats and an extensive trail system, and is utilizing county-city development agreements to guide urban growth.
Larimer County is currently using many techniques and is considering the Transfer of Development Rights approach for retaining agricultural open space between Ft. Collins and Loveland.
El Paso and Douglas County are emphasizing retention of important scenic and conservation areas through acquisition of easements and park lands in the subdivision review process.
Pueblo and Arapahoe Counties are using a variety of techniques, but do not have an approach that is particularly emphasized.
A number of Front Range Counties are pro-growth and place no emphasis in county policy on retaining agricultural lands or large scale open space between cities. These counties do, however, emphasize quality development and retention of small scale scenic and wildlife areas that will enhance the quality of the new urban environment.
In contrast to Front Range cities, residential densities do not seem to be an important issue to Front Range counties. The connection between urban density and retention of natural open space is not
accepted as an important planning issue at this time

at f o ret
The interviews with county planners showed a great variety of titudes, techniques, and strategies among Front Range counties. They a patchwork of approaches for making room for population growth and aining natural open space.

This study has explored the issues and trends affecting the retention of open space in the Colorado Front Range region over the next 25 years. If current urban density patterns continue, up to 750 square miles of today's natural open space will become city and suburb to make room for the region's population growth. The planning choices that will be made by the county, city, and state governments, will shape the region's retention of agricultural lands, scenic areas, and wildlife habitats.
The Future of Agricultural Lands
Counties and cities in the northern one-half of the Front Range generally have adopted growth management policies and are using a wide range of techniques to preserve large scale open space. The motives are to assure continuation of farming in the region, to protect natural scenic and wildlife areas, and to retain identifiable urban communities separated by open countryside. This study was surprised to find that nearly every technique used anywhere in the United States is either being used or considered by one or more of the cities and counties in the northern Front Range region. If current policies and planning

techniques continue and are strengthened, this region should be in reasonably good shape in the year 2010.
Counties and cities in the southern one-half of the Front Range are generally pro-growth and have not adopted growth management policies or techniques that encourage retention of agricultural lands. This was particularly found in Arapahoe, Douglas, and El Paso Counties. Pueblo County has more similarity to the northern counties in growth management philosophy.
The southern cities and counties are using none of the potential techniques that could be used to retain large scale open space for ranching, farming, scenic areas, or conservation lands. Urban development at this time is limited primarily by land topography and location of roads and highways. If current policies and trends continue over the next 25 years, this region should be heavily urbanized, with ranching and large scale open space found only where the highways have not been
built and where steep slopes make urban development impossible.
The Future of Scenic, Recreation, and Wildlife Areas
Cities and counties throughout the region place a priority on retention of scenic views and public park and recreation areas
generally small scale open space that enhances the quality of the urban
environment. In the subdivision and Planned Unit Development review processes, cities and counties are requiring dedication of land for parks and schools. Counties and cities with a strong open space element within their Comprehensive Plan and a willingness to require dedication of identified critical scenic and wildlife areasshould fare reasonably

well over the next 25 years. On the other hand, local governments with weak Comprehensive Plan open space elements and those unwilling to require sizable dedications of scenic and conservation easementswill likely end up with bits and pieces of park and natural lands in places where the public will derive only minor benefits.
The Future of Urban Infill and Residential Densities
This study found few of the cities or counties wrestling with the connection between regional open space and housing densities in the existing urban areas. This is a major "blind spot." One would expect at least the larger cities of the regionthose with more than 100,000 populationwould have Comprehensive Plans and implementation strategies that encourage infill housing and would be favorable to increasing residential densities. This is not the case. Aurora, Colorado Springs,
Denver, and Lakewood reported serious problems with urban infill and raising residential densities. The city and county of Boulder, in many ways pro-active in growth management and open space policies, is uncomfortable with measures that might significantly increase residential densities.
Ironically, residential densities are increasing throughout the region. This trend is not the result of any planning policy to retain regional open space or manage city sprawl. Rather, smaller housing units and higher density new development has occurred in response to the economic and demographic factors that shape the housing market.
The single family detached home of the 1950's and 1960's on a large suburban lot, is not likely to return to the Front Range. Current

market factors will likely continue over the next 25 years, resulting in more efficient use of land. The question iswill the cities and counties take advantage of this trend and develop strategies that encourage population growth within the existing urban communities?
There is no easy "fix" that will retain Front Range open space over the next 25 years. This study has found the successful existing programs to use combinations of land use guidance techniques and involve county, city, and private sector interests. The recommendations to local governments are intended as a general framework to be adapted to local contexts.
Planning for Agricultural Lands
To retain large scale open space lands in agricultural usage, many of the techniques being used by individual northern Front Range counties and cities can serve as a model for the region.
- Develop an agricultural preservation element within the county Comprehensive Plan.
- City and county jointly define urban growth areas and agricultural areas.
- Zone all important agricultural lands for low density residential development35 acre minimum lot sizes.
- Create agricultural special districts to protect farming and ranching interests.
- Adopt city-county agreements requiring annexation before subdivision and rezoning can take place.

- Where strong pressures exist for subdivision of agricultural lands, create a TDR program to direct growth away from agricultural lands and to designated urban growth areas.
- Develop a funding source for purchase of large parcels of open space lands. Where a TDR program is not feasible to preserve greenbelt agricultural areas around urban communities, or where public access is desirable, purchase of critical open land is necessary. Carefully planned land purchases could provide future parks and land for long-range transportation needs (parkways or rail corridors).
- Adopt stringent building setback requirements (1,500 -2,000 feet) along major highway corridors. These highway corridors would then remain in agricultural uses.
Planning for Parks, Scenic and Conservation Lands
To retain smaller scale parcels of Front Range open spacepark and recreational lands, scenic views, and wildlife areasit is recommended that the cities and counties adopt the following strategy.
- Develop an open space preservation element within city and county Comprehensive Plans. Identify specific scenic views and critical wildlife and natural areas for which protection is in the public interest.
- Where identified open space areas are largethe plan implementation techniques are the same as for retention of agricultural lands and greenbelts around cities (TDR, land purchases).
- Where identified open space areas are smaller scaleand where urban development is planned in the Comprehensive Planrequire dedication of identified scenic and conservation easements in the subdivision and PUD processes.
Where new development does not encroach on critical scenic or wildlife areas, developer payments in the place of land dedication can be used for purchase of park and conservation lands in other areas.
- Develop setback and building height regulations targeted to site specific viewsneds.

Planning for Urban Infill and Increased Residential Densities
To encourage infill development and increase residential densities in the urban communities of the Front Range, there is no clear pattern of techniques that are working. Recommendations to the cities (and counties with unincorporated urban areas) include:
- Conduct regional or local studies of infill and residential density issuesincluding fiscal impacts, land speculation, and relationship between urban density and regional open space.
- Develop an infill housing element within the city or county Comprehensive Plan.
- Implement techniques that look at density in juxtaposition
to urban open space. High density residential development seems to work when located close to a lake, riverfront, park, scenic natural area, or farm land. There is a need to plan high density development and open space as one planning process. Colorado Springs neighborhood opposition to infill housing may be an expression of the need for more parks and urban open space in that city. Lakewood and Aurora citizen concern about high density residential development in their cities may not be so much opposition to density per se as dislike for mile after mile of high density townhomes and condominiums. Denver high density residential zoning that acts as a
disincentive for new housing, may reflect a problem with the R-4 zoning district that allows for office use and results in land speculation. The lack of new high density residential development in Denver's R-4 zone may also reflect the absence of desirable open space in those areas of that city.
- Redevelop the miles of strip commercial areas along highways of the Front Range. U.S. Highway 85 from Greeley to Pueblo presents interesting possibilities for creation of a new Front Range urban form. Along this highway, urban level infrastructure is already in place in many areas, and potential park lands along the South Platte River and Plum Creek would seem to provide the needed juxtaposition with open space.
- Allow construction of attached second housing units on existing lots in single family zone districts.

Cities and counties that decide to encourage some form of infill development and increase residential densities in planned areas, can then put together their local package of flexibility-incentive techniques.
Getting There
This study has found uneven levels of planning among Front Range cities and counties. If the region is to both make room for population growth and retain natural open space, comprehensive planning and strong techniques for implementation are needed. The big question iscan local governments do it? Surveys and interviews with city and county officials found a number of obstacles:
- Counties lack state enabling legislation to gain control over the proliferation of urban special service districts. Particularly in the southern one-half of the region, counties and service districts act as quasi-municipalities, with neither capable of carrying out long range planning.
- State enabling legislation is needed to clarify the legality of the TDR technique as applied to agricultural lands. State enabling legislation is also needed to allow the formation of agricultural protection districts.
- Counties and cities throughout the region find it difficult to connect their local needs and priorities with their regional context. Inasmuch as it is common for a Front Range resident in a week's time to live, work, shop, recreate, and travel within a dozen cities and three or four countiesit is difficult to justify purely local planning for open space. Local policies affecting agriculture, residential densities, open space, and population growthimpact in subtle ways residents of cities and counties throughout the region.
This study recommends that either a state authority, or state-enabled regional authority be created to protect natural open space. This state or regional authority would have responsibility for:

- Identifying important farming and grazing lands, wildlife habitats, aquifer recharge areas, geological faults, wildlife areas, historic sites, and scenic views.
- Inventorying unused publicly owned lands suitable for urban development and negotiating land trades that would protect open space adjacent to urban areas. (Such lands might include the Lowry Field Bombing Range, Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Rocky Flats, and some identified National Forest and National Grassland areas.)
- Acquiring the most critically located landseither by purchase with state lottery funds to create a regional state park system, or negotiation of land trades.
- Aiding counties, cities, and state departments (including the Highway Department) in implementing open space and growth planning techniques.
It is recommended that counties and cities be mandated by state legislation to include in their Comprehensive Plans a plan for the protection of the identified important natural lands, and a plan for infill urban development. In order for urban levels of development to occur on important natural lands a developer and city or county would be required to: (1) demonstrate that no other suitable land is available; and (2)
show how the natural characteristics of the land will be protected.
If a state or regional authority for open space planning is not createdcities and counties will need to continue and strengthen their local initiatives.
Elected city and county officials know the issues. Their professional planners also know the issues, and the techniques that could be used. Public and private sector decision makers have participated in a remarkable study of Front Range issues and have made sound recommendations. What really is missing is lively public discussion, and a strong citizen lobby for the measures needed.

Whether open space planning becomes a regional responsibility or remains purely local, a lively public discussion and strong citizen's lobby for open space are needed. The discussion needs to examine the open space impact of a population growth exceeding one million new residents over the next 25 years. The discussion needs a positive approach that emphasizes quality of life and planning for both population growth and retention of open space. Governor Lamm's efforts at Front Range land use planning have (rightly or wrongly) been perceived as anti-growth. Residents seem to want both growth and prosperity, and open space.
The discussion needs a positive public rallying point. It is interesting to listen as Senator Bill Armstrong extols the virtues of the "Sodbuster Bill"a piece of legislation that probably does little to retain natural grasslands. Yet the senator has effectively created a rallying point around his "Sodbuster Bill" that raises images of protecting the natural Colorado environment. People respond.
The public discussion needs tangible programs to consider. Some examples might be a linear park along Interstate Highway 25 from Castle Rock to the U.S. Air Force Academy, a large buffalo and antelope natural grasslands preserve defining the eastern boundary of the city of Aurora (wherever the limits are eventually drawn), and a land transfer program to exchange developable state or federally owned land for privately owned land on the edge of cities.
The discussion needs a few gimmickssuch as a "save the Colorado Columbine" crusade, milk cartons on breakfast tables reminding residents they are drinking "Front Range Fresh" milk, and similar reminders on

super market potato sacks (Colorado Front Range Potatoes) and restaurant menus (Front Range Prime Rib of Beef). Jacket patches, similar to those earned for cross-country skiing, might become a fad for miles of Front Range trails hiked.
The public discussion needs to examine the important link between urban density and regional agriculture and open space. The San Francisco Bay Area study Room Enough does an excellent job of presenting the connection for that region. A similar study to look at density-open space trade-offs is needed for the Front Range.
Citizen participation in open space preservation has a potential for bringing together diverse interest groups to form a coalition of farmers, high tech industry (businesses that have located in Colorado for quality of environment reasons), conservation groups, and urban residents concerned for the future quality of life in the region.
Early in the century, Denver's Mayor Speer planned for urban open space in that city, creating an extensive system of parks and parkways. The good mayor's foresight was not immediately apparentit was the city's growth over the years that demonstrated the remarkably sound planning that had taken place decades earlier. The open ended question iswill the same thing happen with Colorado Front Range open space?


PHONE # _____
1. What strategies are currently used by your city to encourage preservation of strategic open space such as open space separating cities and scenic views along major highways?
City-County Agreements Delineating Urban and Rural Service Areas
Transfer of Development Rights
Purchase of Development Rights
Condemnation for Open Space
PUD Open Space Requirements
Building Setbacks to Protect Scenic Views
Building Height Limitations to Protect Scenic Views
Developer Set-asides on New Development for Park, Recreation, and Open Space
Land Banking Including Public Purchase of Lands for Future Park and Recreational Uses
Limited Access Roadways
Scenic Easements
Conservation Easements
Agricultural Preservation
Other Techniques:___________________________________
Ef fecti.veness_ Effectiveness
Ef fectiveness_ Effectiveness

2. What strategies are currently used by your city to encourage cluster development (rather than leapfrog new development) and infill development (within an existing service area)?
Residential Zoning for Moderate to High Densities Effectiveness
Briefly describe:________________________________________________________
Reduced Tap Fees Effectiveness
Reduced Sewer Fees Effectiveness
Waiver of Other Planning Related Fees Relaxing of Standards/Requirements to Effectiveness
Encourage Cluster or Infill Housing Mixed use Zoning to Encourage Housing Effectiveness
Redevelopment Along Commercial Streets Effectiveness
Second Units Within Existing Housing Bonus Floor Area Ratios (FAR) or Other Effectiveness
Density Incentives for Infill Development Capital Improvements Planning (streets, bridges, water, sewer) which encourage Infill Effectiveness
and Cluscer Development Effectiveness
City Government Advocacy LocaJL Government Financing Programs for - Effectiveness
Infill Housing Use (of Federal Monies (such as CDBG and UDAG Effectiveness
for [infill Housing Effectiveness
City Annexation Policy Othef Techniques: Effectiveness
3. Estimate the average density of housing constructed within the last 2 years, and planned/approved new residential development in your city.
Less than 2.5 Dwelling Units per Gross Acre _____________
2.5 - 5.0 Dwelling Units per Gross Acre _____
5.1 7.5 Dwelling Units per Gross Acre ___________
7.6 - 10.0 Dwelling Units per Gross Acre ___________
More than 10.0 Dwelling Units per Gross Acre

4. Do you see a trend toward higher residential densities and smaller housing units in your city? Yes______ No_______________I <
5. Do you see a trend toward higher residential densities and smaller housing units in your city? Yes No______
6. What would it take to significantly increase infill housing in your city?



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