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Publish Date: 4/13/2005

Boulder/Weld officials talk growth
Urban sprawl, transportation issues key topics


PLATTEVILLE — As Boulder County Commissioner Tom Mayer crossed the demarcation line between his jurisdiction and Weld County early Tuesday evening, he noticed a stream of cars traveling toward the bedroom communities east of Interstate 25.

He shared that image with his colleagues at a meeting between the ideologically opposed Boulder and Weld county commissions, who met Tuesday to discuss common and not-so-common ground.

Transportation needs and urban sprawl took center stage at the two and a half hour dinner meeting, at which Weld County Commissioner Glenn Vaad pointed out that job growth in Boulder County has helped created urban sprawl in his county.

“Those people are working over there, but they can afford to live here,” Vaad said. “We haven’t invited them to come. We’re doing the best we can. Shutting the door isn’t the answer. Then they’ll live in Morgan County and traverse Weld County.”

Some 17,000 homes are slated to be built along the interstate in unincorporated southwest Weld County, where population estimates top out at 240,000 people.

Many of those future residents could work in metropolitan Denver or in Boulder County, and according to Weld and Boulder county commissioners, that daily migration will create challenges for officials striving to balance jobs and housing.

It will also create difficulties for transportation planners who will need to find ways for future residents to travel, by vehicle, on foot or bike.

Vaad said the counties may turn to revenue sharing to build roads between the two counties.

“It’s clear those east-west corridors that connect Boulder County and Weld County need to be addressed one way or another,” Boulder County Commissioner Will Toor said.

The Boulder County commissioners stressed the relevance of alternative transportation and trail connections.

“I do believe in a decade, $2.20 per gallon of gas is going to seem cheap,” Mayer said.

Later he added: “We’re transitioning to a very different time.”

Weld County leaders acknowledged the importance of alternative transportation, but said travel by rail in their county is a long way off and that creating trail connections between jurisdictions is often difficult to bring to fruition.

Weld County Commissioner Mike Geile noted that a strategic road plan for his jurisdiction is “relatively silent on mass transit” options.

As the meeting heated up, the commissioners also talked about open space and preservation of “high-quality farm land.”

“One of the things I was hoping we’d find common ground on is agricultural land preservation,” Boulder County Commissioner Ben Pearlman said.

About 22,000 acres of Boulder County’s open space is leased to farmers.

That land was bought with open space tax money to preserve it from development and to keep it in production.

Weld County residents overwhelmingly turned down an open space tax in 2000 and Geile said for the time being Weld County is “kind of out of the game of open space.”

Weld County officials said they support the protection of farm land and open space, when people have the money to buy it.

“The very best agriculture land had water on it, which oftentimes is worth more than the land,” Vaad said.

Jenn Ooton can be reached at 303-684-5295, or by e-mail at jooton@times-call.com.

 

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