DENVER-In a vote that reaffirmed the importance of real estate expansion here, Amendment 24, a growth control initiative, has been dealt a crushing blow by Colorado voters in what is claimed to have been the most expensive campaign battle for change in the state’s 90-year history.

The Coloradans for Responsible Reform had rallied the support of developers, homebuilders and realtors. The opposition camp had raised a record amount – about $5.7 million – to defeat a proposal that it claimed would stifle growth and stunt the state’s economy. In comparison, the similarly named but diometrically opposed Coloradans for Responsible Growth had accrued about a $1 million in contributions from residents and environmentalists nationwide.

The advocates had the initiative placed on the ballot in August after a package of growth-control legislation failed muster before the 2000 General Assembly. Elected officials have been faulted for falling short in dealing with issues such as transportation and housing, particularly affordable housing. Gov. Bill Owens has vowed to get another package of growth-control measures introduced in the 2001 General Assembly.

Through the years, growth issues have garnered as much attention as education concerns in statewide opinion polls. But this one, opponents have claimed, would have triggered an avalanche of lawsuits from developers and citizens trying to get projects approved. Amendment 24 would have required a citizens’ vote on proposed developments.