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DENVER-The high cost of providing and maintaining infrastructure for sprawling developments hurts taxpayers and contributes to the fiscal crisis around the state, according to a new study by the Denver-based Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center.

Research from around the state shows that Colorado communities could save billions of dollars in infrastructure costs by promoting smart growth, according to the nonprofit, advocacy group. “Sprawl is putting a financial chokehold on our cash strapped cities and counties,” says report author, Will Coyne, land use advocate for Environment Colorado.

The cost to provide public infrastructure and services for a specific population in new sprawling development is higher than to service that same population in a smart growth or infill development, he says. Sprawling and “leapfrog” developments (those built far away from the current urban area) tend to be dispersed across the land, requiring longer public roads and water and sewer lines to provide service. Such developments often impose increased costs on police and fire departments and schools.

At the same time, sprawling development does not generate enough tax revenue to cover the costs it incurs on communities to provide new infrastructure and public services. Research by Colorado State University found that inColorado, “dispersed rural residential development costs county governments and schools $1.65 in service expenditures for every dollar of tax revenue generated.”

“In this fiscal climate, cities and counties have to look for ways to reduce the costs of servicing new development without lowering quality to existing residents,” says Daphne Greenwood, an economist with the Center for Colorado Policy Studies at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.”A growing body of evidence points to smart growth as a way to do that,” she says.

Also, a Federal Transit Administration report conducted by the Transit Cooperative Research Program estimates that smart growth would save the Denver-Boulder-Greeley area $4 billion in road and highway construction over 25 years–a savings of 21%.

The Denver Regional Council of Governments research conducted inthe planning process for the Metro Vision 2020 update found that sprawling development would cost Denver regional governments $4.3 billion more in infrastructure costs than compact smart growth through 2020.

Similarly, DRCOG found that a 12-square-mile expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary around the city to accommodate additional sprawling growth would costtaxpayers $293 million, $30 million of which would be subsidized by the region as a whole.

The University of Colorado at Denver researchers determined that future sprawling development in rural Delta, Mesa, Montrose and Ouray counties would cost taxpayers and local governments $80 million more than smart growth development between 2000 and 2025.New research from the Center for Colorado Policy at the Universityof Colorado Springs points to infill development and increased residential densities as an important factor contributing to the substantial savings in infrastructure costs in Colorado Springs between 1980 and 2000.

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