Report: Costs Of Sprawl High: Smart Growth Choices Can Save Money, Water, Quality Of Life

Environment Colorado

According to a report released today, Colorado’s sprawling development has led to higher costs for fire protection and other infrastructure costs, strained water resources, destroyed agricultural lands and open space, caused increased traffic congestion, and otherwise reduced the quality of life for many Coloradans. Tools such as Metro Vision and the Denver regional urban growth boundary can lower those costs.

“The cost of sprawl is too high a price to pay. Making smart choices about how we grow can protect our environment, quality of life, and pocketbooks,” said Ann Livingston, Land Use Attorney for Environment Colorado.

The Costs of Sprawl: Fiscal, Environmental, and Quality of Life Impacts of Low Density Development in the Denver Region reveals the high costs of sprawl. The report found that the following costs could be avoided by avoiding sprawling development patterns:

• Infrastructure—such as water and sewer lines, schools, roads, and fire and police protection services—can cost two to three times more in low-density subdivisions than in traditional, more compact communities.

• Water availability: Compact, planned development may use up to 35 percent less water than low-density sprawling development.

• Water quality: Runoff from sprawling development threatens 60 sub-watersheds in the metro region. About 25 percent could be protected through more compact forms of development.

• Farmland and open space: Compact development could save 60 percent of the farmland that would be lost to development over the next two decades.

• Traffic congestion: Smart growth policies could save the Denver-Boulder-Greeley region $4 billion in road and highway construction costs over 25 years.

“By choosing to build a vital urban center with transit options, Englewood is leading the way to smarter growth choices. We’re proud to be trendsetters,” said Englewood Mayor Beverly Bradshaw, while standing in front of CityCenter Englewood, a large, mixed-use redevelopment project.

The report authors also recommended the following:
• The Denver Regional Council of Governments should help protect the region from the costly impacts of sprawl by retaining the existing 747 square-mile urban growth boundary and applying smart growth principles to future development in the region.

• The revised Metro Vision plan should take further steps to encourage infill development, urban centers, compact development, environmental quality, and transportation alternatives within the current boundary.

“Sprawl continues to be one of the most important issues facing Colorado and the Denver region. Cooperative efforts like Metro Vision provide the opportunity to turn the tide on sprawling development,” said Elise Jones of the Colorado Environmental Coalition (CEC). CEC is a coalition of organizations and individuals committed to protecting Colorado’s unique natural heritage.