Dave and Leslie Samson had been married five years and were looking to transition from a two-story home in Denver to a ranch-style home they could call their own.
After touring several areas, disappointed with either the layout or the community, they decided to look at spec homes in Sterling Ranch. They fell in love with one in the master-planned community in northwest Douglas County.
The Samsons, both in their late 50s, are the 29th homeowners to live in the development, which is on a 20-year buildout schedule that is expected to end with 12,000 homes and 33,000 residents. Earlier this year, they moved into their one-story home with large hallways, spacious rooms and a basement for additional space.
They have a neighbor on one side of their home and their backyard faces a pocket park. They have a view of Mount Evans.
“It's a small lot but we are not crowded,” Dave Samson said. “I just think this is going to be a very good place for us as we get older.”
Sterling Ranch sits west of Santa Fe Drive and south of Chatfield Reservoir, just east of the Roxborough community and next to Roxborough State Park. Paved roads weave through pockets of homes with a variety of layouts and designs, surrounded by unfinished homes and construction equipment.
Founders Harold and Diane Smethills purchased the land in 2004. The $4.4 billion multigenerational, eco-friendly development is planned to encompass 3,400 acres of homes, schools, churches, shopping, recreation, trails and the latest in technology.
This summer, Sterling Ranch welcomed its 100th family and hit half a billion dollars in development investment. Another 200 homes are in various stages of construction. Homes start in the mid $400,000s and many are listed in the $500,000 to $700,000 range on the development's website. Some high-end options go into the millions.
“There is just a lot of enthusiasm and momentum,” Harold Smethills said.
Fast internet is crucial
In the summer of 2015, construction of the development's water and electrical infrastructures began. Two years ago, the first model homes broke ground in one of eight villages, or community areas comprising a variety of home styles, from modern to traditional, one-story to multi-level.
The first village, called Providence, will have nearly 800 single-family homes, 85 acres of open space, one school, a church, a civic center, a recreation center and a fiber optic network.
Residents have access to one of the fastest internet speeds available in the U.S., CenturyLink's 1-gigabit service. Homes and businesses are also interconnected by a virtual touch-screen that controls technology and energy usage.
“The key is the gigabit speed, and that is working beautifully for us,” Smethills said. “A large number of homeowners work from home because of the bandwith.”
Dave Samson, who works in IT, is enjoying the ease of adjusting his sprinklers from his cell phone. But the virtual system has been somewhat difficult to navigate, he said.
“We have all TVs connected and almost never have any performance issues,” he said. “The system itself is a little complicated. We haven't tried the automated light system yet.”
The Smethillses have encountered challenges along the way.
In 2011, Sterling Ranch drew opposition from residents of Chatfield, a small community of 65 people that sits near the development's northwest border. The Chatfield Community Association filed a lawsuit against Douglas County’s approval of Sterling Ranch, arguing the project did not have proof of a sufficient water supply. The residents also worried about the negative impact on their rural way of life.
But the Smethillses have continued to put water, energy and quality of life at the forefront of their planning process.
Sterling Ranch is the state's first rainwater harvesting community. A storm management system will collect rainwater from commercial buildings and street gutters to store in tanks and retention ponds. About 40 percent will be used for irrigation.
As the development progresses, Titan Road, a choppy two-lane road that connects the development to Santa Fe Drive, will be expanded to four lanes to fix what Harold Smethills calls a “roller-coaster speedway." The portion of the road from Sante Fe to the development's first neighborhood has already been expanded.
For every home built in Sterling Ranch, $3,000 goes to county roads that need repairs.
“That's $37 million in new money that will be going to Douglas County,” Harold Smethills said. “The essence of good land planning is solving community problems. The infrastructure in northwest Douglas County is in terrible shape.”
Home sweet home
Despite heaps of construction surrounding them, the Samsons are pleased with their new home. They sit on their back patio and greet people walking by. Their neighbors are a mix — young couples, working professionals, families and singles.
They look forward to a civic center opening later this year and a recreation center and pool that is expected to open next year. The extra space in the basement will be used during visits from their children and grandchildren, they said.
They commended Harold and Diane Smethills for their planning process.
“They are very thoughtful and they care about the community and the nature around us,” said Leslie Samson. “They just want to be good stewards of the land they own.”
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