Ouch! $66.6 Million for Boulder County Open Space in 2009

That’s right, while everyone else is cutting back in tough economic times, the enviro-crazed Boulder County commissioners have designated $66.6 million toward open space expenditures in the 2009 county budget.

Much of this money is going to service the massive open space bond debt that has accumulated over decades, now some $200 million. Another $12 million is discreetly earmarked to come from the General Fund–as if the millions of dollars the county takes in from three open space sales taxes isn’t enough.

While I’ve railed against local open space programs for years, I am not some kind of anti-environmental heretic. I enjoy greenery and scenery as much as the next guy, and I could live with a single, small county sales tax if it went solely for parks, greenways, and select nature areas.

But let’s face it, Boulder County is using its open space extravaganza as a political weapon to stop growth. We’re at 90,000+ acres of county open space and counting. To show how obsessed the commissioners have become with the open space program, last month they spent $1 million for a parcel in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area of all places. What, were they afraid of a Wal-Mart going up in the high mountain wilderness?

I’ve always argued that it’s not government’s business in the first place to be using taxpayer money to buy private lands to stop development. It reeks of enviro-socialism, not the free enterprise system on which this country has historically prospered.

The city of Boulder, champion of liberal open space programs since the 1960s, serves as a direct example of why this artificial engineering of the landscape doesn’t work.

Development has been so restricted in Boulder that home prices have soared to easily the highest in the Denver metro area. The average sale price of a home in Boulder remains near $500,000, even in the current housing slump. How is the quality of life enhanced if a typical family can’t afford to buy a home? Traffic is also terrible in Boulder because so many workers can’t afford to live there and are commuting in and out. The local enviros shoot themselves in the foot, so to speak, with the resultant greater carbon footprint.

There is also the matter of the negative impact of high sales taxes on local economies. Longmonters currently pay four different open space sales taxes (three to Boulder County) adding up to a huge 0.65%. Total sales tax in Longmont has soared to over 8.0% in the last couple of years. Remember, you pay this total on every retail purchase, restaurant meal, and phone bill. No wonder people are attracted to tax-free Internet sales–and city coffers suffer.

Piece by piece, tax by tax, it’s time to start dismantling the colossal open space machine that has a vise grip on the natural flow of the Boulder County economy–and may yet lead to its financial ruin.

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