William Coyne is a Land Use Advocate for the Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center, December 2003, “The Fiscal Cost of Sprawl”, http://www.impactfees.com/publications%20pdf/fiscalcostofsprawl12_03.pdf
THE high cost of providing and maintaining infrastructure for sprawling development hurts taxpayers and contributes to the fiscal crises facing many Colorado local governments. Sprawling development does not generate enough tax revenue to cover the costs it incurs on local municipalities to provide new infrastructure and public services. Local governments and their taxpayersend up footing the bill to provide public services to sprawling developments. Research by Colorado State University found that in Colorado, “dispersed rural residential development costs county governments and schools $1.65 in service expenditures for every dollar of tax revenue generated.” Additionally, 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. 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 also impose higher costs on police and fire departments and schools. Research from around Colorado demonstrates the high fiscal cost of sprawl relative to compact development: • Research conducted by the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) in the planning process for the Metro Vision 2020 update found that sprawling development would cost Denver-area governments $4.3 billion more in infrastructure costs than compact smart growth through 2020. • DRCOG found that a 12-square-mile expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary around Denver to accommodate additional sprawling growth would cost taxpayers $293 million dollars, $30 million of which would be subsidized by the region as a whole. • University of Colorado at Denver researchers determined that future sprawling development in 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 Studies at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs points to infill development and increased residential densities as important factors contributing to the substantial savings in infrastructure costs in Colorado Springs between 1980 and 2000. • 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 percent. The costs of building and servicing infrastructure for new sprawling development is ultimately subsidized by the whole community. Local government generally bills the cost of new services and infrastructure on an average basis, rather than an incremental basis. That is, new costs are spread evenly among all taxpayers rather than charged only to those who generate the costs. This is, in effect, a subsidy from the whole community to new development. Existing residents, who were sufficiently served by the established infrastructure, must pay a share of the costly new infrastructure required to meet the expected demand of newcomers.