November 9, 2016
The College of Architecture and Planning and its urban and regional planning program hosted a panel in early November on the Future of Colorado: Major Implications of State, Regional and Local Decisions on Planning Issues. The panel featured three speakers—Doug Anderson, environmental planner, CH2M; David (DK) Kemp, senior transportation planner, City of Boulder; and MURP Assistant Professor Ken Schroeppel—and discussed questions related to housing, transportation, socioeconomics, and energy and the environment.
Housing: What tactics or incentives can public officials employ to encourage the construction of more affordable housing and reduce development costs?
The panel discussed the issue of affordable living as a means to tackle housing issues, which could include combining housing and transportation costs, in addition to unbundling, or completely removing, municipal parking requirements. The panel also looked at the potential importance of increased density provisions, and used Boulder, Colorado as an example to suggest the need to counter current growth boundaries and height limitations. Other topics addressed regarding housing included housing cooperatives, accessory dwelling units and tiny homes, all as alternative forms of “affordable housing.”
Transportation: With less money dedicated to transportation improvements, how could the state alternatively address traffic congestion? Will FasTracks, Bustang, or other transportation services help reduce road traffic or is some other strategy needed?
The panel deliberated numerous topics, including the converting underused railroad tracks for future passenger rail, as well as the need for better pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure as a way to encourage less drivers on the road. Other discussion included the advent of driverless cars, including that while it is currently unknown what their consequences to traffic congestion will be, the panel’s consensus was that driverless cars would likely reduce the frequency of commuting. Final topics of debate included the possibility of telecommuting more option to address traffic issues, and the impact the Colorado Department of Transportation could have by coordinating with municipalities on regional land use designations.
Socio-Economics: In what capacity should planners contribute to the needs of small towns and suburbs from an economic standpoint? From a cultural standpoint? How do you see changing demographics shaping the future of cities, suburbs and small towns in Colorado?
While numerous topics were discussed, the largest takeaway from this portion of the panel discussion was that professional planners to need better listen to the concerns of citizens, such as business owners, residents and customers. Ken Schroeppel provided an explanation of the pyramid method for community engagement, in which substantive, procedural and psychological needs must be met, in addition to urging attendees to look up the Google Earth street view of small towns across America to better understand the problems they are experiencing. Similarly, the panel also talked about the need for new economic development and policy measures that would help small towns transition to new industries. This was also echoed by the idea that planners have been neglecting infrastructure maintenance in rural American towns, and that plans should be put into place to update or re-purpose aging infrastructure.
Energy and the Environment: How can planners use practices such as open space preservation, conservation easements, and land acquisition to prevent further decimation of the natural environment and encourage more sustainable forms of energy?
Doug Anderson began this portion of the panel discussion by stating that encouragement of sustainable forms of energy is not always complementary with good land use practices, such as clearing a significant number of acres for solar panels or wind farms, when in actuality, this does not help to preserve the natural features of the land. However, the panel did consider that practices such as the transfer of development rights may be useful for preserving natural spaces via conservation easement designations.