Editorial: Sterling Ranch merits approval, again

A Colorado Community Media editorial

Posted

Sterling Ranch has been a developing story for years.

More than a decade ago, managing director Harold Smethills and his wife, Diane, began crafting their vision for developing 3,400 acres of land in northwest Douglas County. In 2009, they filed a planned-development application with Douglas County. In 2011, the project gained the county's approval — but only after numerous public hearings and convincing commissioners they had a plan to satisfy concerns raised over traffic, density and water.

Then, in 2012, a lawsuit by the Chatfield Community Association led to a district court judge's ruling that the $4.4 billion project did not have sufficient water to break ground. Early this year, Sterling Ranch officials submitted a filing to the county stating that they had secured enough water to meet the requirements.

If that weren't enough, the state Legislature was busy this spring clarifying the very law the judge leaned on for his ruling. The legislators' modification makes it clear that developers need only to prove adequate water at each phase of construction, not for the entire buildout.

The latest development in this story is set for July 10. That's when county commissioners will once again be asked to approve the Sterling Ranch project.

We have no reason to believe commissioners who sided with Sterling Ranch on the water issue more than two years ago won't do so again. They certainly should.

Sterling Ranch's planning has been water-savvy from the beginning. Owing to techniques like rainwater harvesting, the development is expected to consume only a third of the water a similar project might. In addition, the development will bring a source of water for neighbors whose wells are running dry.

But the 12,000-home project's benefits go beyond water-consciousness.

Consider some positive economic ramifications, as found by the firm Development Research Partners in a 2010 analysis:

• Sterling Ranch is expected to create about 1,000 construction-related jobs per year throughout the entirety of the buildout process, which is estimated to last 20 years or more. Then there are the permanent jobs: at least 9,000 of them.

• The economic benefit of construction activity is projected to be more than $400 million. At buildout, the community will be a driver of at least another $400 million of economic activity each year.

And there are more reasons to like the project. Among them:

• Sterling Ranch will bring new schools to the area, which will be utilized by children from neighboring areas like Roxborough.

• Nearly 40 percent of the sustainable community will be set aside for open space, wildlife and parks. It will also feature more than 30 miles of trails.

• It will include health care facilities, retailers and sports complexes that will be a convenience for residents and neighboring communities.

• Sterling Ranch has devised an emergency-management plan, one lauded by the South Metro Fire Rescue District, and the construction of new roads will facilitate traffic into and out of the development.

• Its density is not out of line with other communities in northern Douglas County.

Perhaps as important as anything is that thriving Douglas County, which has become a prime location for employers and their workforce, is in need of more places to live if it is to continue to grow. Highlands Ranch, for example, is near buildout.

The time has come for this story to include the development of Sterling Ranch.