ARCHIVED  April 6, 2001

Fort Lupton tries to maintain balance

Forces of growth swirl around the south Weld town

While growth explodes around it, the southern Weld County city of Fort Lupton is striving to keep its balance.

Until the mid-’90s, Fort Lupton grew relatively slowly, nourished by an economy based on agriculture and the volatile oil and gas industry. The town’s population didn’t pass 5,000 until 1990.

But in the last half dozen years, things started to change dramatically in southwest Weld County, as a prosperous state and national economy fueled unprecedented growth in the region.

While other nearby towns — Brighton, Frederick, Firestone, Dacono and others — aggressively sought to expand, Fort Lupton has taken a more measured approach to the growth swirling around it. Not that it’s been neglected by growth, recording a growth rate of more than 31 percent in the 1990s.

Growth under control

“We have growth but it’s at a pace where we don’t have to rush into decisions of building schools or expanding our services,´ said Dave Jacovetta, Chamber of Commerce president. “That way, you have better control over the major issues — how the city will handle the growth.”

John Dent, president of the Fort Lupton Development Corp., agrees that the town is not hurtling itself headlong into the competition for growth.

“We have had growth, but not as tremendous as surrounding areas like Brighton and the Tri-Town (Frederick-Firestone-Dacono) area,” Dent said. “We’re frankly more interested in commercial and industrial growth than residential.”

To that end, Fort Lupton is marketing its north end as a site for an industrial park that could bring in good jobs and more city tax income.

Geographically, Fort Lupton is well-positioned to offer industry and other employers quick access to transportation and sales markets. A railroad line cuts through the town’s east side and U.S. Highway 85 also runs north and south through the town’s west side. Less than 10 miles away to the west is Interstate 25 and the E-470 toll road will soon connect the area with Denver.

“When E-470 is completed just south of Brighton, that will provide even better access to Denver,´ said Dent.

Local economy strong

Economically, Fort Lupton is doing well after the doldrums of the early 1990s.

“It’s on the upswing from previous decades, especially in the last couple of years,´ said Jacovetta. “We have a lot of small businesses in town and they’re not complaining as much as in the past. The economy is good now and the future looks good.”

Indeed, a new Safeway grocery store — the town’s first “real” supermarket — is scheduled to open later this year and new housing is popping up on the town’s east side. A rejuvenation of the oil and gas industry in recent months is also boosting the town’s spirits.

Joe Martinez, a car salesman at the town’s one car dealer — Purifoy Chevrolet — said business so far in 2001 has been very good.

“We’re doing well,” he said. “Last month (February) we were one of four dealers in the Denver metro area that reached our goal. It was kind of a feather in our cap.”

Brian Funderburk, town administrator, said one thing that’s also helped Fort Lupton in recent years has been improvements in its water system. In the early 1990s, the town was advised by the federal Environmental Protection Agency that its well-water system was too high in nitrates.

As a result, Fort Lupton and the town of Hudson joined forces to fund a new water treatment facility that came on line in 1997. With a new pipeline bringing Colorado-Big Thompson water into the area, the town was able to provide its residents with a blend of 80 percent Big-T water and 20 percent ground water that meets EPA water-quality requirements.

Housing to increase

While new housing growth has been relatively slow, Funderburk notes that hundreds of new homes are on the horizon in the next several years. A six-phase project called Coyote Creek is under way that will result in 632 new homes on the town’s east side, a small rise that overlooks the town and provides a spectacular view of the Rocky Mountains to the west.

Funderburk said the development will include luxury homes, median-priced homes and some lower-priced houses next to the city’s Coyote Creek golf course.

“It’s one of the few places in this area where you can have a home for less than $200,000 and live next to a golf course,” he said. “It really is a nice location.”

Denny Mintle, associate broker at Dinkel and Associates Century 21 real estate company, said the town is currently limited in the directions it can grow. Growth to the south is restricted by a lack of sewer and water infrastructure and to the west by the South Platte River and its flood plain.

The north side of town also has its limitations, he noted.

“As you go north, you have to pump sewage uphill,” he said. “So that hasn’t developed because of the expense to develop lift stations.”

Future bedroom town?

With local employers like Nichols Aluminum, Colorado Railcar Manufacturing and the BMC West Truss Plant, residents can find work in their hometown. But Mintle said he sees Fort Lupton becoming more of a “bedroom town” for people who work elsewhere.

“I think most (new residents) are coming out of Denver because the housing is cheaper here,” he said.

But Funderburk isn’t so sure about that. x09

“There are a lot of people who do work in town,” he said. “Hopefully, (Fort Lupton won’t turn into a bedroom town) if we can add some industrial and commercial growth and build our employment base, and right now that looks pretty good.”

But some worry that Fort Lupton may soon lose its small-town atmosphere if growth keeps up its pressure for new industry and housing.

“Growth is fine and we need it and we can’t stop it,´ said Martinez, a former Chamber of Commerce president. “But if we can maintain the small-town atmosphere, where neighbor helps neighbor, we don’t want to lose that. And so far it’s been doing well.”

Forces of growth swirl around the south Weld town

While growth explodes around it, the southern Weld County city of Fort Lupton is striving to keep its balance.

Until the mid-’90s, Fort Lupton grew relatively slowly, nourished by an economy based on agriculture and the volatile oil and gas industry. The town’s population didn’t pass 5,000 until 1990.

But in the last half dozen years, things started to change dramatically in southwest Weld County, as a prosperous state and national economy fueled unprecedented growth in the region.

While other nearby towns — Brighton, Frederick, Firestone, Dacono and others — aggressively sought to expand,…

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