Running Out of Room in the Rocky Mountains

Good afternoon.

People often ask why land and home prices are so high across Colorado and Utah, especially in the remote mountain resort communities in these areas. These same people think real estate brokers and developers are the reason prices skyrocket in mountain resort towns like Crested Butte. Our industry is often accused of pace-setting the prices of homes and land.  Boy o boy, to think if brokers and developers had that kind of power how things might be!

Today’s article from the National Association of Realtors points to the bottom line when it comes to the value of property in places like Crested Butte, Colorado. Referred to by one consultant as "well defined density", the Rocky Mountain states and it’s mountain communities are simply running out of available living spaces and developable land.

For example, most of the land around Crested Butte is locked up by the Federal government including the Bureau of Land Management, the National Forest Service, designated Wilderness. Additionally, big land trusts, huge ranches and large properties with conservation easements suck up much of the wide open spaces. This density and scarcity has caused the incredible run-up in land and real property values in places like Telluride, Aspen, Vail and Beaver Creek and Park City and now in Crested Butte. Of course, it wasn’t until  the Mueller family showed up in town with their money and marketing that everyone took notice. Once Crested Butte was popular it became brutally evident that there aren’t many homes available for sale or land for development.

Land runs out, people’s desire to live in pristine, natural environments doesn’t ever end. If you are wondering about investing in the Rocky Mountains or a small town like Crested Butte read this article.

Channing Boucher

Rocky Mountain Region Running Out of Land

(June 12, 2006) —   A “perfect storm” of demographic shifts, rapid growth, and scarce public funds is creating formidable development challenges for communities in the Rocky Mountain region.

That’s according to Christopher Duerksen, managing director of Clarion Associates, a national land use and real estate consulting firm in Denver. He was the keynote speaker during the Urban Land Institute’s Spring Council Forum last month in Salt Lake City.

Factors, quite different than those in the East, shape development in the Rocky Mountain region, Duerksen says. Among the forces at work: a high degree of federal land ownership leaves little private land for development, the economy has shifted from one driven primarily by mining, ranching, and farming to one driven by tourism and the high-tech industry, a dry and hot climate (the area includes both the coldest and hottest places in the United States), and constant water shortages.

Western states are experiencing some of the fastest-growing price appreciation in the nation, but wages haven’t kept pace with housing costs, he says. “One answer to this is well-designed density,” he said, noting that denser housing fits well with the current trend toward the preservation of open space.

Also, growing pressure from public officials to build more sustainable communities will result in design and development techniques and patterns that are “far different than what we’ve seen in the past,” he said.

Con Howe, former planning director for the City of Los Angles, is the director of the newly created Center for Balanced Development in the West.

“Salt Lake City was a terrific location for the conference because, within a 20-minute drive, you could see all the necessary elements of a smart growth strategy in a fast-growing Western city: urban revitalization (converted lofts and the Gateway, a mixed use development within walking distance of the conference), suburban infill, and new green planned communities, such as Daybreak,” Howe said.

By Camilla McLaughlin for REALTOR® Magazine Online

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