Strategic Growth Concerns Raised
The Teller County commissioners certainly can’t be accused of non-involvement with state issues, with the continual goal of waving the rural Colorado banner and emphasizing local control.
At the same time, the commissioners have expressed a desire to make sure Teller gets its share of the state’s growing revenue pie and received necessary highway improvements.
Compared to previous boards, the current cadre of elected leaders hasn’t hesitated to jump into the fray regarding such hot-bed issues as gun control, affordable housing, highway improvements, environmental overreach, broadband coverage, infrastructure, assessment hikes and much more. All three commissioners have made frequent appearances at the state capitol to lobby for rural interests that often collide with the majority lawmakers. Despite facing tough odds on some of these issues, the commissioners say they want a seat at the table and realize the need for making bipartisan moves.
Apparently, this trend will continue.
Early last week, Teller County commissioner Dan Williams, who was involved in a previous ambitious bid for a state-wide package for affordable housing, partook in a press conference in Denver. He is now part a bipartisan group, spearheaded by Governor Jared Polis and other key leaders, aimed at grappling with strategic growth, housing and future planning at the state level.
He has been involved with key state stakeholders largely because of his role as a previous county planner and due to his strong military/veteran background.
In a prepared statement, Williams noted, “ strategic growth must be deliberate, measured and aligned with resources and local government input. State level agencies involved in growth must be synchronized and efficient and sensitive to the unique needs of 64 counties and hundreds of municipalities. I appreciate the Governor (Jared Polis) and his staff reaching out to stakeholders and local government leaders for input and best practices ideas.
“The strategic growth goals as outlined provide the necessary framework for state agencies and local governments to share ideas and common goals, enabling us to work together. I look forward to bringing a local and rural perspective to the goals and to partnering with agencies and other communities in the development of solutions that will benefit all Coloradoans.”
Williams outlined a detailed list of strategic growth goals and directives he wants to work towards achieving with his involvement in the new state group that addresses big city needs, while protecting the interests of rural areas.
He has supported the governor’s goal of streamlining many development processes and agencies, but stressed the importance of preserving the rural character of much of Colorado, with a big emphasis on local control and bracing the state from devising a one-size fits all approach to significant growth issues.
In an email to TMJ News, Williams said, “An important part of the overall effort to achieve strategic growth in Colorado is helping the fast growing urban areas of the state to use resources efficiently, from water, to transportation funding, to agriculture. The state recognizes that over time, urban areas that grow inefficiently can impact the availability of these resources for rural areas, as needs grow faster than resources do. They are hoping to strike the right balance in describing the different needs and contexts around the state. The state desires to play a better role in aligning their state agency processes, programs, and funding streams to support communities and counties more efficiently.”
One of the big goals advocated by Williams and his peers deals with the push for affordable housing.
In some ways, state leaders are trying to regroup following the defeat of a major legislative bid for an affordable housing initiative at the tail end of the 2023 session that got met with much opposition and encountered a swift death. Opposition was especially strong from leaders of big municipal areas, like former Colorado :Springs Mayor John Suthers.
This would have taken local zoning decisions out of the hands of local leaders regarding many multi-family projects in identified growth corridors. State leaders are now exploring a different approach to this touchy subject that often generates plenty of opinions and ideas, but definite problems when it comes to concrete, specific solutions that appease all sides.
Besides Williams’ involvement with this new group, Commission Charman Erik Stone has spearheaded an effort to loosen the legal restrictions against condo and town home development by lobbying for changes to the construction/defect laws.
The 2024 legislative session doesn’t get underway until January, but the groundwork is now getting set for what potential bills and actions Teller leaders plan to pursue or oppose.