Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan: buy open space yourself, don’t tax others

If you want open space, buy it. Don’t tax others.

Billboards tarnish the Flatirons while houses climb the foothills to meet them. This is what “city planners believe the Flatirons could look like today if the city had not enacted restrictive land-use policies,” reported the Daily Camera. Boulder’s Department of Community Planning and Sustainability spent your tax dollars on such images to convince residents that only its authoritarian land-use restrictions can prevent such a dystopian scene.

Not so. For over a hundred years private land trusts have preserved open space — not with government force — but through voluntary cooperation and donations.  The Land Trust Alliance lists 34 local Colorado land trusts.  “Land trusts have protected over 1.57 million acres in Colorado, more than 80% of all conserved land,” reports the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts. This is four times the acreage that local Colorado governments restrict through forced open space policies.

Leonard May of PLAN-Boulder County refers to those with a “philosophical objection to (government and) restrictions” to whom he “can’t explain” the benefits of open space. He ignores the difference between preserving open space through land trusts versus doing so through legal restrictions.

Land trusts depend on voluntary cooperation, taking responsibility for promoting one’s own values, and respecting the rights of others to pursue theirs. Compare this with government-enforced open space, which forces everyone, willing or not, to fund it. It’s elitist legislation that effectively excludes poor residents from town by propping up homeowners’ property values.

The Boulder Daily Camera printed this article on December 4, 2010.

For more on open spacing and planning, see the work of Randal O’Toole and R.J. Smith.

Photo credit: The Daily Camera article on the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan.

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