An examination of new regionalism, smart growth, and federalism in the Denver Metropolitan Area

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Walker, Brett Robert

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Smart growth tools address a diverse range of specific concerns, including historic preservation, farmland protection, habitat conservation, flexible architectural design, and expedited land development. Smart growth unites the traditionally separate and competing growth promotion and growth control measures into a single growth accommodation approach. In addition to these important concepts, Henry R. Richmond posits that smart growth must now be explained within the context of “new urbanism” and “new regionalism.” What smart growth tries to accomplish is thus development with implied improvements in quality of life and environmental protection rather than mere urban growth or economic expansion per se. An important obstacle to smart growth measures is that growth problems rarely respect political boundaries. Scattered development patterns, as well as the traffic congestion, environmental degradation, fiscal stresses, and other problems that often accompany them, tend to be regional in nature, extending beyond the boundaries of any one locality. Accordingly, many growth problems are better addressed through regional solutions that federal, state and local smart growth measures my not provide. The general premise of “new regionalism” is that the economic health of the city and its outlying areas are inseparably intertwined, and that without regional planning and programs, individual jurisdictions in a single region compete with one another for limited resources and economic investment. New regionalists typically advocate from one of these three competing positions: greater economic prosperity, increased environmental protection, or improved social equity. Consequently, many politicians, advocates and activists are calling for the implementation of integrated policies that address the interrelatedness of all regional challenges, including housing, transportation, water, sewage, and other regional physical infrastructure systems. Denver evidences a suite of tensions between the promise and outcomes of planning with a wider, regional applicability. On the one hand, there is a progressiveness that embraces regional governance, growth management, economic vitality and quality infrastructure. But on the other hand, there is the reality of city sprawl, competitive local government relationships, and a convergence of interest between citizen choice and development industry behavior. This report will illustrate three issues regarding effective and efficient regional planning implementation at local, state and federal levels in the context of regional planning efforts in the Denver Metro Area. First, why does infill development and economic revitalization not only benefit the central city but the region as a whole? Secondly, how do land-use assignments and development design, like Smart Growth and New Urbanism, encourage regional planning efforts towards integrated mass transit? Finally, How does government fragmentation and overlap contribute to the lack of regional consensus and efficient planning?



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