Critics are lining up against the idea of building an expanded Colorado Christian University campus on what is currently Highlands Ranch open space. …
This item is available in full to subscribers.
If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.
Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.
If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.
Critics are lining up against the idea of building an expanded
Colorado Christian University campus on what is currently Highlands
Ranch open space.
In the few weeks since university president Bill Armstrong
announced the preliminary proposal to buy the property, a group
called Save Highlands Ranch Open Space has been formed and is
collecting signatures in opposition to the plan.
The campus would be modelled on the sprawling and tree-lined
Pepperdine University in southern California, according to
Armstrong, a former U.S. senator from Colorado.
Under the CCU proposal, the university would vacate its 30-acre
campus in Lakewood and purchase a 100-acre parcel of open space
that was recently acquired by the Highlands Ranch Community
Association as part of a long-term land deal.
The Highlands Ranch parcel, adjacent to Monarch Boulevard, is
south of Rock Canyon High School. It has been valued at between
$10,000 and $12,000 an acre.
Leaders of the opposition group say the HRCA’s board of
directors should consider far more than the value of the property
when it votes on the proposed sale to an outside interest.
“This is Highlands Ranch property. We love it,” organizer Nikki
Schubert said. “We want it to stay open and they want to sell it
off to a private university. It’s not in keeping with what people
were told about this property.”
The land in question has only recently been returned to the
community association per a deal reached in 1988. As Highlands
Ranch was building out, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners,
Shea Properties and the HRCA set aside 8,200 acres as open
Only 1,200 acres of that land, including the proposed site for
CCU, have been zoned for limited development that includes such
uses as schools and parks.
Shea, which developed Highlands Ranch two decades ago, was
required to eventually convey the open-space land back to the HRCA,
which it did in May. The developer would still receive 50 percent
of any proceeds from selling the land and has said it would donate
its share to CCU if the sale goes through.
Although some speculate that Shea would build the new campus,
CCU spokesman Ron Benton says the money from Shea would be a gift
to the university with no strings attached.
“It’s not a quid pro quo at all,” he said.
Shea did not return calls seeking comment.
Opponents of the proposed land deal argue that any development
on the land should be for a “community purpose.” They point to a
2002 survey that said 65 percent of Highlands Ranch residents want
to keep the land in question as open space.
Rick Dinsmore, an HRCA board member who will eventually vote on
the proposal, believes the residents of Highlands Ranch have spoken
on the matter and specifically rejected the idea of a college
campus occupying the land.
According to the seven-year-old survey, 20 percent of residents
would either “like” or “strongly like” a college campus on the open
space. Fifty-seven percent “disliked” or “strongly disliked” the
According to Dinsmore, there is virtually no community support
for a bustling university occupying roughly one-twelfth of the open
space that has been zoned for development in Highlands Ranch.
“I have not received one e-mail supporting CCU and we’re
receiving an inordinate amount of e-mail,” he said. “I’m swamped
with information that says leave that as open space and I’ve got to
Opposition to CCU locating on the property runs the gamut — from
concerns about wildlife habitat and property values to the fact
that CCU, as a religious institution, would not pay property taxes
on its 100 acres. Some also fear that the arrival of CCU would open
the floodgates to more unwanted development.
The university’s tax-exempt status in unincorporated Highlands
Ranch would mean Douglas County taxpayers would be responsible for
what opponents say is the inevitable expansion of two-lane Monarch
Boulevard into four lanes if the university of 1,500 students moves
“Monarch is already jam-packed during rush hour,” Schubert said.
“We also believe the road expansion would create adverse wildlife
issues in this critical ecosystem. Just up the street, literally,
are these beautiful ranges of open space and we value them.”
Benton disputes such concerns and emphasizes the positive role
that the university would play in Highlands Ranch as a community
resource. He questions whether Monarch Boulevard would need to be
expanded for the institution.
“That’s a red herring that a number of people are throwing out
there. There’s no guarantee that’s going to happen” he said.
Benton says the community should wait for an official traffic
study before jumping to conclusions. He stresses that traffic
leaving and entering the campus would be more limited than many
critics realize because 70 percent of CCU’s students would live in
As for CCU’s tax-exempt status, Benton downplays the
significance and says the university’s presence would be a boon to
“The middle school and the high school right down the street are
tax-exempt. That’s normal,” he said. “We’re falling into a category
that was set not by ourselves, but by the federal government years
ago. Furthermore, a number of people moving into the community
would be paying taxes.”
The public would also be invited to share use of the campus’
sports fields and attend its cultural and musical events, Benton
The Highlands Ranch property is one of two locations under
consideration by CCU. The school could also renovate its current
location, according to Benton. He would not disclose the second
potential new site.
A series of public forums on the Highlands Ranch proposal has
been scheduled. The next two forums, on Jan. 5 and Jan. 7, will
take place at 7 p.m. at the Recreation Center at Southridge, 4800
MacArthur Ranch Road.
The university has asked for a decision to be made on its
proposal by late January, but Dinsmore thinks that is unlikely to
“It’s clearly going to be an uphill battle for CCU and Shea,” he
said. “They’re really going to have to pull out the stops.”
Other items that may interest you
We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.