If veteran activist Daniel Hayes can get a growth-limitation initiative on the November ballot, he’ll not only have to contend with Colorado business and municipal groups that are expected to oppose it, but also with gubernatorial candidates from both major parties.
Every significant candidate for Colorado governor has come out against the proposal already.
Last month, at a Colorado Association of Realtors forum, gubernatorial candidates were asked if they support or oppose Initiative 66, which seeks to cap new housing permits in each of the 10 largest Front Range counties to a 1 percent annual increase — a pace that would slow the current growth rate in each of those counties since 2011.
All eight of the candidates who attended or submitted answers for the event came out against the measure, and the communications director for U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who missed the forum, said Friday that the Boulder Democrat also is against it.
This rare show of unanimity among both Republican and Democratic candidates doesn’t necessarily spell doom for the measure, as Coloradans have passed constitutional amendments in the past that garnered little or no support from state political leaders.
But the opinions offered by the candidates seeking to succeed term-limited Gov. John Hickenlooper in the November election show that, despite a groundswell of anti-growth sentiment among some Colorado voters, potential state leaders favor ways of managing growth or addressing issues that lead to the slow-growth sentiment, such as increasing traffic congestion.
“It’s certainly a wake-up call, I think, to all of us about how people feel about what we’re dealing with as a city and a state,” said Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, who is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination. “We want to have serious conversations, … but limiting growth in such an arbitrary manner is not the solution.”
Initiative 66 is being steered by Hayes, a a Golden landlord and graduate-school student who has backed local slow-growth initiatives for a quarter-century. The Colorado Supreme Court recently cleared the way for Hayes to begin collecting the signatures he will need to get the measure on the statewide ballot.
In addition to capping the growth of housing units in 10 Front Range counties — Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer and Weld — the measure would allow other cities and counties to put such a growth-capping initiative onto their local ballots and would not allow for petitions to remove the cap until 2021 at the earliest.
Hayes, who led the successful fight for a similar cap in his home city in 1995, said he believes that limiting the proliferation of housing will ease the congestion on area roadways and will aid school systems struggling with a crush of students.
A November study from the Common Sense Policy Roundtable, the Colorado Association of Realtors, Colorado Concern and the Denver South Economic Development Partnership argued, however, that capping new housing units would drive up already escalating housing costs. It also said such a cap would reduce employment in the construction industry in Colorado and could spread growth into rural counties that are not required to abide by the 1 percent cap.
Several candidates referred to that study in citing their opposition to the proposal, and many of the gubernatorial contenders referred to the measure’s caps as “arbitrary.”
Several also offered alternate plans to deal with growth issues.
Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, a Democrat, said she would create a Cabinet-level Department of Housing that works with the private sector on issues like affordability.
Democratic businessman Noel Ginsburg said he would put together a commission to look at issues like water, transportation and land use and how they play into growth.
Both Coffman and former Colorado Treasurer Cary Kennedy, a Democrat, said they would work more closely with local government officials and private-sector leaders to address citizen concerns.
Former state Rep. Victor Mitchell, a Republican, said he would not look to limit growth but instead would look to roll back regulations in order to create more affordable housing. One particular change he would make, he said, would be to allow any builder to receive a building permit by going to an accredited architect rather than by having to go to local-government offices.
Several other officials gave less defined plans but expressed a common theme that Coloradans’ concerns about growth can be addressed through better comprehensive planning.
“Yes, we want to grow. We want to grow in a way that is planned,” said former Democratic state Sen. Michael Johnston.
2017 Largest Homebuilders
Ranked by Dollar volume of homes completed in the Denver area in 2016
Rank Business name Dollar volume of homes completed in the Denver area in 2016 1 Richmond American Homes of Colorado Inc. $573,313,535 2 Lennar – Colorado $441,881,818 3 Ryland Homes $366,000,000 View This List