Colorado voters will not have the chance to decide in November whether or not to limit residential growth along the Front Range, as the author of a proposed ordinance to do just said he will not try to collect signatures to get his proposal on the statewide ballot.
Golden activist Daniel Hayes told the Denver Business Journal in an email Wednesday that the signature-gathering firm he was set to hire told him that a legal battle over the language of Initiative 66 concluded too late, leaving too little time to gather the signatures necessary to get it in front of voters this fall. He said that he was disappointed but will remain engaged in battles over issues like school bonding measures, which he feels are nothing more than growth subsidies to build schools for new homes.
“I think a recession is just around the corner, and this overbuilt mess we have will collapse like yesterday’s carnival,” Hayes said in the email. “66 would raise wages and improve quality of life for CO citizens.”
Hayes’ statements came in response to an inquiry about a poll run by Coloradans for Responsible Reform, a business-led group that had re-formed this year specifically to fight the growth-limitation measure. The poll, done by Hill Research Consultants of Alabama, showed only 36 percent of voters supported the limitation, with another 50 percent opposed and 14 percent undecided.
Initiative 66 would have limited the seven counties in the Denver metro area, as well as El Paso, Larimer and Weld counties, to growing their permitted number of housing units by no more than 1 percent each year and would have banned local citizens from petitioning to remove the cap until 2021 at the earliest. It also would have allowed other cities and counties to ask voters to approve similar regulations and established statutory requirements on the number of voters needed to launch such local elections.
CFRR — which was led by groups such as the Colorado Association of Home Builders and Housing Colorado — argued that the proposal would cap growth artificially in low-unemployment counties currently booming from an influx of new jobs, and would have driven up already skyrocketing housing prices by limiting new supply on the market. Stand-alone homes and apartments each would have counted as one unit against the 1 percent growth cap.
The organization funded the poll just as it was gearing up to hire staff and ramp up its fundraising in advance of the November election. However, Ted Leighty, CEO of the home builders association and CFRR chairman, said Wednesday after being told of Hayes’ statements that the organization no longer plans to scale up, though it will keep watching to ensure he actually withdraws the initiative.
“Our polls show that Colorado voters did not see Initiative 66 as an idea that had any kind of legitimacy,” Leighty said. “I think the poll shows that [not running the initiative] is his best move.”
Anti-growth or slow-growth sentiment has been growing in the area in recent years, fueled by increasing congestion on Denver-area roads and the fast-rising cost of housing reflecting the influx of well-paid new residents. The average cost of a Denver-area home in May reached $540,624 — a record for the region and an 11 percent increase from one year ago, according to the Denver Metro Association of Realtors.
In November, voters in several suburbs, particularly Lakewood and Greenwood Village, elected majorities to their city councils that favored some limitations on the growth of their cities. Lakewood officials previously had suggested the idea of a residential-growth cap and a temporary moratorium on new housing.
Leighty said that with Initiative 66 appearing to be off the table, officials should redouble their efforts to improve infrastructure, particularly when it comes to transportation.
Two proposed funding measures for transportation could be on the November ballot — an initiative from the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce to raise sales tax by 0.62 cents in order to raise enough to sell $6 billion in bonds for roads and transit, and an Independence Institute measure that would require the Legislature to set aside $350 million each year from the general fund to repay $3.5 billion in bonds, largely for state highways.