ARCHIVED  October 1, 1995

On the home front

Interstate 25 may look like four lanes of concrete teeming with traffic.

But the main north-south artery through Colorado has emerged as a major dividing line separating growth-weary communities from towns starved for development.

To the west, communities gird for battle:

” In Mead, new annexations now face a general election.

” In Berthoud, pro- and slow-growth factions will face off in an April election that could result in a 2 percent annual cap on residential growth.

” In Fort Collins, developers are waiting to see how a newly configured city council acts on the issue of growth.

On the other side of the highway, developers, some perceiving an anti-growth climate in the larger Larimer and Boulder County communities, have come knocking, and long-ignored towns such as Severance, Johnstown, Milliken, Platteville and Fort Lupton have answered with a resounding welcome.

“Whew, did I ever find that out,´ said Dottie Weber, chief executive officer for the Home Builders Association of Northern Colorado.

For the first five months of the year, the Home Builders Association reported that new-home starts were down by 2 percent in Weld County, compared with a 26 percent decline in Larimer County.

With the association for 15 years now, Weber was used to small Weld County towns reporting four or five, maybe 10, building permits in a year. Those figures skyrocketed during the first six months of this year.

Johnstown recorded 52 permits in the first half of the year, Milliken handed out 16, Evans reported 50, Severance had 10, and Fort Lupton reportedly has already issued as many permits as it did in all of 1994.

“I was very, very surprised,” Weber said. “I knew there was a lot of new activity out there, but until I got the numbers and compared them to previous years, I didn’t realize how much activity there was.”

Tim Roth, a Brighton-based developer who is about to begin grading a 38-acre subdivision north of Mead, said the draw to Weld is cost.

“We can cater to the average family,” he said. “A lot of these homes out in the country, if you don’t make $150,000 a year each of you, you can’t afford it. Weld County hasn’t outpriced its market.”

In Mead, Roth explains, buyers will get “quality without big expense.”

Though Fort Lupton was slow to recover from the recession, the city expects to double in 1995 the number of building permits issued in 1994, said economic-development coordinator Tom Skoglund.

“Annexation requests are coming to the city, and we’re adding on to the existing residential developments,” Skoglund said. “I wouldn’t say there’s been a tremendous boom, but there could be with this golf-course project coming in.”

Bonds will be sold this month to fund construction of Fort Lupton’s first golf course, developed by Blue Tee Golf.

The residential component of the development calls for at least 550 housing units surrounding the 18-hole course, which will be situated on Colorado Highway 52, between the edge of town and Aims Community College.

“It will probably be the most-affordable golf-course homes in Northern Colorado,” Skoglund said.

There are some tradeoffs for affordable small-town life.

At the moment, Severance is little more than a crossroads. It’s so small that the largest employer is the famous Rocky Mountain oyster joint, Bruce’s Bar.

In the last six months, thanks to the 80-home Lake View subdivision, the town’s population has doubled to about 200. And with that population boost, expectations for city services have increased.

“It’s been a difficult transition, to say the least,” Mayor Keith Kline said. “The old-timers are resigned to the fact that we’re growing, but they’re not all real happy. The younger people are looking forward to the growth. Severance offers no services at this time, no police protection, no street maintenance, stuff that people expect from communities.”

But the threat of relatively slow fire and rescue response, the promise that kids will be bused to a neighboring community for school and the fact that residents will have to commute to work hasn’t slowed interest in Severance.

Three new subdivisions planned for the outskirts of Severance should boost the town’s $120,000 budget, which would clear the way for projects such as street paving and purchasing the town’s water lines from the North Weld Water District.

Settler’s Landing, on the west side of town, is a development of 20 homes on 2.5-acre lots, ranging from $158,000 to $200,000. Just south of Settler’s Landing, plans are afoot for another 200-acre development running a mile south to Weld County Road 72.

Longmont sod farmer Jim Doke has acquired a 210-acre parcel near the southeast corner of Weld County Roads 23 and 74, where he plans to build 375 houses. During the startup phase, development will be completed on about 110 acres. Doke said he hopes to have 10 houses up before the snow falls. The homes are expected to be in the $120,000 to $140,000 range.

“It’s a hot housing market up there,” Doke said. “People want to live out in the country, and there’s a good, cooperative attitude. We think we can build high-quality houses reasonably.”

In Windsor, the cooperative attitude translated to a boom that has priced some home builders out of the market but with the prospect of a 3,007-acre annexation on the table, shows no signs of slowing.

“We did a subdivision in Windsor right before the boom – we were just looking for affordable lots,´ said Realtor Jan Haynes. “By the time we finished the 82 homes in Windsor, lots were going up like crazy.”

Haynes, a Coldwell Banker Everitt & Williams Real Estate agent, now markets Lake View and Settler’s Landing in Severance.

Mayor Kline hopes that Severance follows in Windsor’s footsteps, attracting a healthy job base for its residents.

“The town’s got to grow a little bit more,” Kline said. “Business doesn’t want to go where their employees have to drive 35 miles to work. Ultimately, we’d like to attract some light industry, similar to what Windsor has, like a metal container corporation or wood products. Something that’s not real damaging on the environment and doesn’t require a lot of municipal services, but does provide a good work base.”

Appearances are important, Berthoud town administrator Anna Lenahan said.

She attributes the factional state of her Larimer County town to the fact that new residential development is noticeable on the southwest side of town, where rooftops float like caps on the cornfields.

As of early September, Berthoud had issued 56 building permits, two of those for duplexes. But future developments already under consideration may be fanning the fire.

The town is considering three subdivisions. One would include 187 single-family homes, one 280 single-family homes with commercial, and a third a golf-course community comprised of about 250 homes, Lenahan said.

The town’s comprehensive plan already limits growth to 2 percent to 3 percent over a 10-year period and places 100 percent of infrastructure costs on the developer.

But some residents, nevertheless, fear that the small-town atmosphere is threatened and want to cap residential growth at 2 percent annually.

Growing pains, especially in tiny towns, are to be expected, reflects Erie town manager Leon Wurl. But at least today’s boom towns don’t face the skepticism Wurl battled when he tried to jump-start Louisville’s economy in the early ’80s.

“We don’t have to look for any developers, unlike back in Louisville, where the whole thing was untried,” Wurl said. “They weren’t sure a person enticed to Boulder would be willing to go live outside Boulder. Certainly, that’s been proven not to be the case.

“We’re past that hurdle, and so, we’re not untried,” he added.

Interstate 25 may look like four lanes of concrete teeming with traffic.

But the main north-south artery through Colorado has emerged as a major dividing line separating growth-weary communities from towns starved for development.

To the west, communities gird for battle:

” In Mead, new annexations now face a general election.

” In Berthoud, pro- and slow-growth factions will face off in an April election that could result in a 2 percent annual cap on residential growth.

” In Fort Collins, developers are waiting to see how a newly configured city council acts on the issue of growth.

On the other side of the highway, developers,…

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