You don't have to look far in the town of Castle Rock to see a construction zone, but all the growth has given way to growing pains.
"It has grown sevenfold in the last 25 years. Sevenfold," said Sid Brooks, a Castle Rock resident who is part of the group Citizens for Responsible Development. "There’s been kind of a race to development without thinking it through."
Many in Castle Rock are frustrated by traffic congestion and constant construction, as the town has gone from about 8,000 people in 1990 to almost 60,000 today.
"Right now, the city council is rubber stamping any developer proposal," said Bill Placke, an attorney who used to be on the town's Planning Commission but resigned last year in frustration. "We’re not anti-development. We just think the town needs to focus more on commercial office development along the I-25 corridor where people can live in Castle Rock and work in Castle Rock."
Now, Placke is proposing a ballot initiative that would require any annexation of more than five acres go to a vote of the people, specifically targeting three large proposed annexations that would add 4,000 housing units in the town.
In Colorado, Greenwood Village is currently the only community that requires a vote for residential annexations, Placke said, but it is an approach many communities concerned about lack of control are considering.
Town staff, however, said the proposed initiative would not prevent development and growth, but would limit the town's input.
Citing Highlands Ranch as an example, Tara Vargish, Castle Rock's Assistant Director of Development Services, said if the town can't annex the land, urban-density development can continue anyway.
"If it's annexed into the town of Castle Rock, then the town can work with the developer to help mitigate the impact," said Vargish. "We want to be a part of that discussion. If the property develops within a town’s jurisdiction, then we can work with those developers to get the fees and the improvements that are needed."
Vargish said the town has a Master Plan for managing growth responsibly and that leaders want feedback from residents.
The Castle Mayor and Town Council, though, are limited in what they can discuss about the annexations because it is a quasi-judicial process.
In a statement to Denver7, Mayor Paul Donahue addressed concerns about growth in Castle Rock:
"We know people want to move here. We also hear our residents say they are concerned about the future of Castle Rock and want to make sure we continue to thrive. That’s why we are working so diligently with Town staff to effectively manage the growth we know will occur. Annexation is a piece of that, and we see the benefits."
Placke said he plans to present his initiative in the March 8 town council meeting, and if the council will not consider an ordinance requiring a vote of the people for annexations, he will start collecting signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.
Here is a summary of the initiative:
Summary of Citizen Initiated Ordinance 2016-B which is the subject of this petition.
The proposed Citizen Initiated Ordinance 2016-B amends Chapter 20.02 of the Castle Rock Municipal Code as follows. Town Council must evaluate the proposed zoning and development plan for the property concurrently with the annexation request. Public notice of annexation hearings must be combined with the notices for zoning and development plan review. An annexation, zoning and development plan approved by final vote of the Town Council involving property of five acres or more must also be approved by a majority of the voters at a special election. A voter-approved zoning and development plan may not be later modified in any manner that increases the residential or commercial area, increases the number of residential units or commercial square footage, or decreases the area designated for public parks, open space, schools or other public spaces. Two special elections per year may be called to consider approval of an annexation, zoning and development plan. The cost of the special election must be paid by the persons requesting the annexation. Amendment to or repeal of Section 20.02.040 of the Castle Rock Municipal Code requires voter approval by 50% or more of the registered voters at a special election called for that purpose with at least 180 days prior notice. In the full text of the proposed measure, words to be deleted from Castle Rock Municipal Code are stricken; words to be added are underlined.