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But when we look at who wins and who loses, the regular citizens oftentimes lose. Ohlson, somehow simultaneously fast-talking and thoughtful, moved to Fort Collins in to attend graduate school at CSU.

The Colorado city’s unwieldy expansion offers a cautionary tale for similar Western locales.

He was first elected to the seven-seat City Council a decade later and served a stint as mayor a few years after that. Stanley and Ohlson are married, having met at a grassroots meeting Citizens for a Livable Larimer County , in the early s.

The s were a difficult time for Colorado as a whole — the state experienced two separate recessions , losing almost 50, jobs in the process — but Fort Collins, insulated much like Bozeman by its university, not only dodged the worst of the storm, but continued to think about what the city would look like when the clouds cleared. The GMA was a good, and necessary, response — outlining exactly how far the city could grow, while ensuring it would never become a homogeneous mass encompassing nearby Loveland and Timnath. Then came the open space programs, the first iteration of which passed in in the form of a.

31 Things That Will Make You Love Fort Collins

The open space effort had the unintended side effect of creating a buffer around the city, acting in tandem with the GMA to effectively inhibit development. Now all you have is 12 crowded lanes rather than four.

But more than the incentives, Ohlson takes issue with the way local governments in places like Fort Collins and Bozeman continue to sell themselves to the outside world in the face of vocal opposition from their constituents. You do all those things and there are still going to be growth pressures. Getting growth to pay for itself, though a popular maxim, is easier said than done. Fort Collins prides itself on its tough but fair impact fees, and though residents pay less in property taxes than their Bozeman counterparts, the Colorado city has the funding advantage of a 7 percent sales tax, nearly 4 percent of which is collected by the city itself and used for everything from roads to the aforementioned open space program.

According to Fort Collins Councilmember Ross Cunniff, the first questions Bozeman, or any growing city, should ask itself are who is benefiting from growth and who is paying for it? If we get 10, new people, I want them to pay their fair share of what the rest of us have been paying for decades.

These quandaries are made all the more difficult by the fact that many of the newcomers, migrating from much more expensive locales such as the Bay Area or New York City, can bear the increases in cost of living. In his mind, leaving critical planning documents such as the land use code up to human interpretation, rather than creating them to be strictly prescriptive, is where Fort Collins went wrong and represents an area Bozeman could learn from.

Stringent building codes, sign codes, forward-thinking subdivision requirements and transportation plans are all well and good, Cunniff says, but at the end of the day, many of the intricacies are simply extensions of the ongoing tug of war: To grow or not to grow. So where does that leave Bozeman, a city well along the same path Fort Collins has already tread? Work on making the community a good place to live for the people who live there now. As in the Gallatin Valley, there are those in Fort Collins who defend the approach the city has taken over the last 40 years.

If you have a desirable place to live, your alternative is to make it more of a dump. Local leaders and residents did a lot right, both in terms of timing and execution, and yet the city still turned out a sprawling hodgepodge that only a few would deem an undeniable success story. For Bozeman, conservative estimates put the number at roughly 20 years.

Those factors are hard to go against.

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