‘New day’ for Daybreak in Erie

ERIE — The long-delayed Daybreak housing development in Erie is once more proceeding according to plan — specifically, the town’s comprehensive plan, which has been actively equipping infrastructure improvements for the 965-acre project for nearly 15 years in anticipation of future growth.

In late April, the board of trustees approved the final plat for four filings to develop 250 single-family homes on 305 acres located between Erie’s historic downtown and its new high school on County Road 5.

Boulder-based developer Community Development Group, or CDG, which also produced the Erie Commons development, is leading the new venture. CDG expects to break ground on Daybreak, formerly known as Bridgewater, within the next 30 days.

“We now get to be an overnight success after 14 years of hard work,” said Chuck Bellock, CDG’s president and chief executive. “It’s a new day. We’ve worked cooperatively and collaboratively with Erie to bring forward the kind of growth that the town can take pride in.”

The first phase of the projects will build 724 homes through three filings over the next two years. The annexation agreement that cleared the way for the creation of Daybreak allows for a total of 2,880 residential units, and CDG’s leadership anticipates the project should be fully built out over the course of the next eight to 12 years. Some analysts have projected Daybreak could boost Erie’s current population of 21,000 residents by up to 10,000. However, Bellock anticipates that number being closer to 7,000.

Delivering water

Those kinds of numbers normally would make city planners skittish about the infrastructure necessary to support that level of growth, particularly in terms of water, which is notoriously scarce in Colorado — not to mention a region where water rights can be as contentious as the California water wars that inspired the film “Chinatown.”

Water industry resources consultant Dr. Neil Grigg of Colorado State University says it is common for developers such as CDG to pay handsomely for the kinds of water infrastructure enjoyed by Erie residents.

“You have two issues,” Grigg said. “You have to get the water itself, paying attention to the volume of water, the timing of getting it, its availability and storage. Then you have to build and maintain the infrastructure to treat and distribute it, and those costs have to be passed along, either to the developer or the residents. The problem in Colorado is scarce water — whether that water is even available in the first place. If it is, the developer traditionally has to put up funds or water in place of funds, which is recovered as people purchase homes.”

Fortunately for Daybreak, water is an issue that Erie’s planners have been anticipating for as long as the project has been in gestation. Erie’s primary source of water is the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, which delivers water from Carter Lake in Berthoud to the water treatment facility in Erie The town also will participate in the Windy Gap Firming Project, which will divert river water to Lake Granby and subsequently to the Eastern Slope for delivery to municipalities such as Erie, as well as the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which proposes to deliver 40,000 acre feet of water supply to 15 northern Front Range partners.

Infrastructure plans

Other improvements include pipelines to deliver raw water from local reservoirs with minimal evaporation, an improved water treatment plant, and the construction of a 1,000-acre-foot reuse reservoir to provide reclaimed water for use in parks and open space.

“Our community has planned for a population of 40,600 residents,” said Fred Diehl, assistant to Erie’s town administrator A.J. Krieger. “We know how much water we need to meet the build-out demands of Daybreak and our community as a whole. We can meet our current and future demands through a combination of our current water portfolio and our participation in these innovative water initiatives.”

The leadership of CDG expressed an admiration for Erie’s vision for serving the residents of Daybreak, but the company’s investment — which could total $110 million worth of permits alone — also is a major driver for the necessary infrastructure.

“Erie has demonstrated great foresight in anticipating future growth,” Bellock said. “The town has acquired substantial amounts of water rights to accommodate that growth, and they are charging developers for it. We are reimbursing the town a very significant amount of money in the form of permits and taps as well as reuse water rights.”

Variety of homes

Meanwhile, CDG also plans a significant amount of diversity in its home offerings, including smaller homes on smaller lots, patio homes, cluster homes, condominiums and age-targeted options. For Bellock, Daybreak is the culmination of nearly 40 years of experience in this industry.

“CDG has always pursued difficult entitlements in growth-restricted jurisdictions,” he said. “Over a long period of time, we have been able to gain these entitlements by providing these municipalities a template for smart growth that is beneficial to residents but also to the town as a whole.”

Both parties to the new development say that community connectivity is one of the core elements of Daybreak. Pedestrian and vehicular bridges will connect Daybreak to downtown while new roads connect it to the east. CDG will also improve two miles of Erie Parkway to provide a transition from commercial segments along Interstate 25 to the residential atmosphere of Daybreak.

Other planned amenities include 40 percent open space, new neighborhood and community parks, and an extensive trail system available for use by all members of the community.

“The residents keep coming,” Diehl said. “What separated Erie from many of our neighbors during the economic downturn was that the home construction continued here, always at a rate of 100 permits per year or more. We’re going to continue to see interest from people who want to live in Erie and the builders who want to accommodate them.”

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