Ten Most Sprawl-Threatened Large Cities
Number Six: Denver

In Colorado, ten acres of land are being converted to sprawl every hour.

Land area defining the Denver metropolitan region increased by 66 percent between 1990 and 1996, making it the second fastest growing area in its size class (in square miles), second only to Kansas City. If each of the Denver area's counties follow its current comprehensive plan for growth, Denver's urbanized area would swell to 1,150 square miles, an area larger than the cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, and Long Beach combined (Denver Post). In addition, commercial and residential construction is rapidly chewing up large tracts of open space within the confines of the urban area.

Although population is on an upward track (up 15 percent from 1990 to 1996), it has not kept up with the rate at which land is being claimed for development. As a result, the Denver metro area is the third worst area in the country for low density expansion and wasteful land use.

The number of people moving to the Denver area is expected to grow by 33 percent by the year 2020. This will place a heavy burden on Denver's transportation system, where traffic is already stacking up and commuting times have increased significantly.

Unbridled growth is having a significant impact on the area's agriculture. New subdivisions and other products of sprawl are sweeping through farmland at a rate of 90,000 acres on average per year. (Denver Post) Expanding population centers are also putting pressure on drinking water supplies and shrinking critical aquifers.

Known for its quality of life, access to nature, and beautiful mountain views, Denver is taking steps to mitigate the impacts of sprawl. The Denver Regional Council of Governments has adopted an ambitious long-range plan for the area's growth, which calls for open space to protect prime agricultural and rural lands.

In addition, state Sen. Pat Pascoe introduced the Colorado Responsible Growth Act this year. The bill would have directed growth in every city or town in Colorado with more than 2,500 to certain areas. The bill was defeated, but Sen. Pascoe is expected to introduce the bill again in the next legislature.

With ten acres being converted to sprawl every hour (Colorado Public Interest Group), many believe Colorado is turning into the next California. Polls indicate that 76 percent think the area is growing too fast, and sprawl is becoming a major campaign issue in state and local elections.

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