Growth Discussion from a Resident

Charles,
When I see “smart growth” on your website it scares me, because what I see happening in Castle Rock does not look smart or healthy. I’ve only been in Castle Rock for one year, and in Colorado for two, so complaining about growth feels hypocritical, but I moved to Castle Rock for the small town feeling, and because it felt like a great place to raise my two sons. I would like to see it remain a small town and not turn into another Parker or Highlands Ranch. In the one year I’ve lived here I’ve seen everything explode in growth. Traffic is worse, and the natural area that we fell in love with here is disappearing, and all natural areas that are not parks are threatened.  I’m originally from Atlanta, and I saw every community for 50 miles plagued by traffic and soulless strip malls (my 17 miles commute took 1.5 hours). Most of those cities around Atlanta lost their appeal. The Atlanta area started to explode in growth in the 1990s, and I see it coming to the Denver area now.



 
I saw somewhere online that the Castle Rock growth plan is for 100,000 people by 2030. To me, and to every average citizen of CR I’ve spoken with, that sort of growth is highly undesirable. There is a fear that Castle Rock will die without new growth, but we are close enough to Denver and the DTC that this won’t happen. We have enough people to support the fun downtown area, but more will only overload the downtown.

I’m looking for a candidate who will fight new neighborhoods and more stores and chains. I know this sounds hypocritical coming from a newcomer, who is part of the explosive growth, but what I’ve seen in even one year is shocking. If it continues I’ll move after my kids finish high school, and many others will leave Castle Rock as it loses its soul. It is people making generations of lives in a place that make it a community and a home, not people moving in and out because they found a house close to work. We don’t need another Highlands Ranch. Castle Rock is special, and I want it to stay that way.

My 1st Response:

I would love to say that Growth in Castle Rock will be
slowing or stopping, and that we have devised new ways to pay for our
services.  Growth is inevitable for a variety of reasons.  Forgive me
if you know all this, I certainly did not when I moved to town 20 years
ago.  I’ve spent the last 10 years actively volunteering in the town to
learn about a lot of the issues you have described in your email because I also
have 2 young children and I am concerned about the future of the town. 

A set of number I like to reference to highlight how
growth has been an issue for decades

Historical population
Census Pop.
1970 1,531 32.9%
1980 3,921 156.1%
1990 8,708 122.1%
2000 20,224 132.2%
2010 48,231 138.5%
Est
2017
62,276 29.1%
Est 2020 72,000  
Est 2025 81,000  
Est 2030 90,000  
Est 2050 130,000  
“Full build out”

Castle Rock has sold all the land, most of it 40+
years ago to private landholders.  When the property is sold there are
typically a variety of zoning rights bestowed.  Even parks, schools and
designated open spaces are now reliant on developers to design them and then
give them back to the town after development.

When developers start to develop their plans, they
rely on zoning to set the basic parameters, but then must utilize a site
development plan (SDP) to show how they will develop the land.  Some developers
are surprisingly aware of the importance of open space and ridgelines, and they
know that maintaining these enhances their own community sales, others listen
to community input and make changes to their developments, and very few
developers just try to pack as many units as allowed.

The town generates revenue in three main ways, use
fees, sales tax and impact fees.  Use fees are typically self-contained
and the revenues they generate fund that enterprise function.  These are
primarily Water and Recreation Center/Miller Activity Center admissions. 
Sales tax revenues fund Fire, Police, Parks (new parks and maintenance) and
Public Works (roads).  Development Fees pay for capital projects (not
water related) and building/safety inspections (please excuse the over
simplifications).

To direct and control the growth is why I developed my
Smart Growth platform.  The objective behind Smart Growth is to channel
design guidelines and regulations in a way that maintains or enhances the
small-town character.  We also need tighter controls for annexation, and
for neighboring areas that do not meet our guidelines for design or water
usage, we should not provide them services.

There are other ways to reduce growth, such as the
Town buying land itself, however these approaches have not been popular in the
past due to the need to increase revenues to support such a plan.  If you
have other ideas on how specifically to reduce or channel growth I would
certainly welcome a conversation around them.

Items like congestion and transportation are part of
growth, but it’s exacerbated in Castle Rock due to the lack of primary
employers, the over reliance on retail minimum wage jobs, and lack of a
transportation plan that addresses the metrics that matter. 

I hope this help explain how I will be addressing
growth. 

Resident
Response:

Thank you for your response. You can share it if you like. My
next comments are meant with respect. Sometimes that doesn’t come through
online. The ~100% to ~150% jumps in growth for decades prior remind me of
when I worked in Web analytics and we would laugh when we saw a site’s leads go
up 200%, when all that happened was that the leads went from 1 to 2. Growing
from 1,500 people to 8,000 is expected and doesn’t change a town much (although
I’m sure those who were here when it had 1,500 might disagree with me). Healthy
growth is expected, and good, I feel, but moving from the size of our town now
to 100,000 makes me fear that we’ll become another Colorado Springs at worst,
or Highlands Ranch at best. 

I appreciate your efforts to control how growth is managed. It
seems that many who bought land 40 years ago for say $100,000 would be happy to
sell that now for its current value. I have heard of SPLOST taxes. I hate
taxes, but one cent added to each dollar can go a long way toward buying public
land, and might be something that Castle Rock residents could stomach if it
saves their town. Possibly a developer fee — they are rolling in the coin
right now — that goes toward a fund that buys public land. I know developers
are adding green space, but it’s not much, and we could use more places like
the Gateway Mesa Open Space. 

I agree with you that we don’t have many employers here that
offer anything other than lower paying jobs. If we could attract an aerospace
or start-ups that would bring in more higher paying jobs, and could use space
we already have developed, that would change that. Georgia is now third in the
world for movie and TV productions due to tax credits. Those work. Walking around
Atlanta now feels like Hollywood with all the celebrity sightings, and often
they take old sites like dead malls and turn them into movie studios. The film
industry is one thing Georgia has done right.   

I appreciate you taking the time to respond, and explaining the
landscape to me. I’m not sure if it eases my fears, and the fears of other
people in Castle Rock. I think we want to see something strong, that is simple
and quick to grasp, that we can believe will save our town from becoming another
Highlands Ranch or Parker. Again, I write this respectfully, and I’m pestering
you on this because I have a feeling you are the person who can lead Castle
Rock into a good future where we are the outlier in the Denver area, and a
place that people want to live because it’s not just another collection of
neighborhoods, but a real community.

My
Response 9/19/2018

First,
I want to thank you for engaging in this dialogue, I learn a lot from each
interaction like this.

The
% growth figures can be humorous, frightening or confusing. I simply took that graph
from the Castle Rock EDC and didn’t want to over edit.

I
think conversations on public land buy backs, or gift back are appropriate.  The fine balance is between respecting the
individual property holders and what they want for their investment on one
side, with the resident’s desires on the other side. 

We
have been too far on the developer side for too long and it shows with a lot of
the look and feel, particularly outside of Downtown.  The Town has raised impact fees assessed on
developers to help pay for select services, and that approach has created a
different struggle. As the fees go up, the developers want to use more of the
land to maximize their ROI. 

We
need to reign that back to the center and have a balanced approach that works
for all of us.  And the only way to do
that is to be honest about our needs and priorities, and those are reflected
best in the elected officials we choose to represent us.

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