Chris Lowe believes the town he manages has been quite adept at its balancing act.
As Monument’s town manager, part of his job is constantly figuring out how to handle growth along the Front Range, while striving to maintain its small-town identity.
“This area is extremely attractive to folks right now,” he said. “And it’s a great business environment. But people want that small-town feel, and we want to grow at a pace that doesn’t endanger that.”
RISE IN RESIDENTIAL
Monument Mayor Pro Tem Don Wilson was elected in April, bringing a background in facilities management and public works for Douglas County.
Wilson is one of three new trustees and a new mayor to be seated this year.
His focus has been completing the community’s comprehensive plan, which was last updated more than a decade ago.
“We’re looking in the direction of little growth outward and more rezoning and better use of the land we currently have,” Wilson said.
The town also is trying to balance its growth with the desires of its residents.
“Some residents want their creature comforts while others do not want a single blade of grass to change,” said Terri Hayes, president and CEO of the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Corporation & Visitor Center. “Finding a middle ground is the challenge they face currently.”
The plan will be completed by the end of February, Hayes said.
According to Wilson, residential development has been the area’s fastest-growing segment.
Classic Homes, for example, has three developments in different stages, according to Kim Sandoval, Classic’s director of marketing.
The Forest Lakes development is on the western side of Interstate 25 on Baptist Road. Homes there began to sell in February and about 65 contracts have been signed, Sandoval said, adding the development will include more than 250 homes over several phases.
Promontory Pointe north of Baptist Road, another Classic development, is reaching buildout, said Sandoval, who added about five lots remain. That inventory of more than 260 homes sold slightly faster than projected, she said.
Sanctuary Pointe, going up near Black Forest, is the newest Classic development in the northern part of the county. That development (which will also include Saddletree designs) will comprise 85 houses during the first phase of construction. When complete, the development will cover 140 acres, Sandoval said.
“The properties have been very well received based on their location. They are close to [Interstate] 25 and shopping,” Sandoval said. “With all three, we’re seeing a lot of [buyers] from Denver and Castle Rock and Aurora. They’re finding it’s a pretty easy commute for them.”
LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH
Monument will be examining commercial growth as part of its comprehensive plan, Wilson said, adding that commercial zones will be better designed to accommodate separate industrial and retail uses.
“I don’t think there’s enough definition in certain areas as far as commercial goes,” he said.
The town has seen significant commercial growth at Jackson Creek Parkway’s Monument Marketplace during the past decade. Most of its commercial growth today is anchored around the development, Lowe said.
New commercial ventures near Monument Marketplace include a 7-Eleven, Brakes Plus, Advance Auto Parts, a Tractor Supply Company and a self-storage facility. New eateries, including a Qdoba, are also under construction.
“To many that might not seem like a big deal, but it shows that franchises and corporate companies are looking closer at our population numbers and, for some, we are now meeting their requirements,” Hayes said. “Small, independent businesses are enjoying our growth also.”
Lowe said commercial development is more important than residential because the town is so heavily reliant on sales tax.
“The more commercial development we have … the more able we are to invest in infrastructure,” he said, adding there’s still “plenty of room” for commercial development.
“If [you] look at our zoning map of the I-25 corridor, both to the east and west we have areas with significant acreage for industrial and commercial development,” he said.
Economic development has been more focused on growing companies already in the Tri-Lakes region, rather than attracting new ones, Lowe said.
“We’re trying to help the businesses already here,” he said. “It’s a philosophy of loving the ones you’re with — making sure they’re getting everything they need to grow their business.”
MAKE IT COMPETITIVE
“Monument certainly has seen growth over the past five years,” Hayes said. “We do not have concerns about the growth yet, but we recognize the need to plan for the near future because we don’t see this trend stopping. It is very important for the town to guide the growth rather than have the growth guide it.”
Investing in infrastructure, including roads, is one of the biggest challenges facing Monument, Lowe said.
“Roads are a problem, and we have to continue to invest in them,” he said. “If we defer maintenance, it only becomes more expensive.”
Lowe said he projects a 12 percent increase in costs each year road maintenance is postponed.
“I’m trying to make a concerted effort to attack streets and roads falling into the category of disrepair,” he said. “I think we’re doing a pretty good job and, luckily, if sales tax continues to grow, we can continue to invest.”
But topping the list of challenges will be acquiring water, especially a renewable source.
The town has a small water utility with about $2 million in annual expenditures.
“If we continue to have this residential growth along this corridor, it’s going to put stress on that system,” Lowe said.
“There’s 200,000 gallons a day going over the dam at Monument Lake that we are not recovering. We have water engineers and lawyers talking about recovering that and not letting it go downstream,” he said.
Another significant challenge is addressing these issues with a number of nascent policymakers.
Following Monument’s battle with Florida-based Colonial Management Group and their planned downtown methadone clinic, nearly half the board of trustees changed. Rafael Dominguez, the town’s former mayor, also left his position mid-term to pursue alternate employment. Jeffrey Kaiser, the town’s new mayor, was appointed this year.
Due to new town leadership, Lowe said collaboration and communication have been limited. Town staff and trustees participated in a one-day retreat with a facilitator to discuss the town’s vision, Lowe said.
“Other than that one day, the board has not gotten together for a more in-depth conversation,” he said. “At the retreat, one thing repeated by numerous board members was the need to do this more often. In the next year, I’ll be spending time with the new board to discuss things that are important to our vision.”
The sooner the better, he said.
“Residential growth, especially, is ready to explode,” Lowe said. “Developers are up and running and new customers are starting to fire up.
“Growth here is very strong,” he continued. “The challenge is to make sure we manage it in a way that protects what people like about Monument — large lots, nice neighborhoods, walking paths and good parks — the amenities every bedroom community needs to make it competitive.”