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Douglas County

Sterling Ranch ready for future

Governor, senator among officials at groundbreaking event


Gov. John Hickenlooper took in the view and gestured toward the foothills.

"Boy, if you live out here, it's hard to imagine you would not be powerfully inclined to get outside every chance you get," he said.

Hickenlooper was among the dozens of public officials and business leaders who gathered in northwest Douglas County June 6 for a groundbreaking event for Sterling Ranch. The 3,400-acre, mixed-use development, if everything goes as planned, will be home to more than 30,000 people after a roughly 20-year build-out.

To get to the site, a swath of open land marked by a large canopy, the dignitaries passed cows grazing in pastures and traveled a bumpy, unpaved road. Sterling Ranch's journey, meanwhile, was a 12-year process that saw hundreds of community meetings, countless hours of planning and collaboration, several votes by county commissioners and a couple of legal challenges.

For Harold Smethills, founder and managing director of Sterling Ranch, the trip was worth it.

"I'm proud of everybody," he said. "It's amazing what can happen when you work together."

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma; U.S. Reps. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, and Ken Buck, R-Windsor; and former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens joined Hickenlooper and numerous state lawmakers, past and present, in showing their support for the project.

"I have seen (Sterling Ranch leadership) make every effort at every turn to do things the right way," said state Sen. Chris Holbert, R-Parker. "I think even people who oppose it will find aspects they can appreciate."

The development, west of Santa Fe Drive and just south of Chatfield Reservoir, has drawn opposition from residents of a nearby neighborhood. The Chatfield Community Association challenged the county's approval of Sterling Ranch in court, saying the project did not have proof of an adequate water supply. A judge ruled in favor of Sterling Ranch last year.

Smethills said the goal is to "build Colorado's first 21st century community," and one of the aspects he is most proud of is its approach to water.

A few years ago, the development was chosen as the state's first site for a rainwater-harvesting pilot project. Integrating that with stormwater management will be a "game changer," Smethills said. Sterling Ranch officials say the development will use only a third of the water a similar project would use.

In addition to more than 12,000 homes, plans call for the construction of, among other things, roads, schools, medical facilities, retail outlets, parks and recreational facilities. A third of the site will be kept open space and there will be 30 miles of trails.

Hickenlooper said the development will be attractive to the many people moving to Colorado, drawn by jobs and the outdoor lifestyle.

Gardner, who served the area's congressional district before being elected to the Senate last year, offered a vision of the future.

"You can almost hear the voices of those kids who will be playing on the swing sets."


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