LARKSPUR, Colorado – The tiny town of Larkspur is in for some big changes. A local developer has broken ground on a new truck stop and travel center on I-25 at the edge of town.
“There’s about a 20-mile corridor here that has absolutely zero services. So this is right in the center of that corridor and I just said that this would be a great location for a travel center,” developer Tim Dumler said.
But before construction gets underway, voters will head to the ballot box for a special election to determine the fate of part of that project.
Up for debate is a 3.3-acre slot of land that was once dedicated as an open space area. The land, which sits between I-25 and the private land where the truck stop will be built, was owned by the town.
The Larkspur town council unanimously approved a move to convert it into a planned development area. That is where Dumler wants to build the lots for three new restaurants, bringing more money into the community.
“Larkspur needs the money to support its infrastructure. It has an aging water and sewer system that they’re unable to keep up [cost-wise], and so it will definitely help in that regard,” Dumler said.
In exchange, another area in town will be protected from development.
“We’re trading a little bit of open space for 55-acres of completely protected, open space for endangered species and all the other wildlife,” Dumler said.
It’s a move the town manager says will help the town financially.
“Our economy relies on sales tax and the sales tax is limited or strictly based upon the limited number of businesses we have,” Matt Kimmer said. “So additional businesses such as additional restaurants and gas stations and whatever [else] will add it to our sales tax revenue and help support the town.”
Beyond the sales tax, Kimmer says the travel center would bring in new jobs for Larkspur residents.
“The growth of jobs would be astronomical as well. Right now, the largest employer is the town. We have 12 employees, half of them are part-time and half of them full-time,” Kimmer said.
But around town, opinion is divided. Neighbors living right across the street from one another have signs in their yards declaring their support for, or opposition to, the proposed land swap.
For people like Ryan Lombardo, whose family runs the only gas station in town, the issue hits close to home. He’s afraid the new center will run his corner store out of business.
“Being at the corner of the off-ramp, they’re going to do gas, restrooms and food, and if you get all that there, you can’t tell that there’s a town down here. So, people getting off the freeway are not going to visit Larkspur,” Lombardo said.
His family had plans to expand their store to a 7,000 square-foot market but delayed construction when it caught word that the travel center was being built.
“We kind of just have to take it day by day and wait until we get that final answer,” Lombardo said.
However, neither Lombardo nor his parents will be allowed to vote in the special election because they live in an unincorporated part of town.
Right across the street from the gas station, Larkspur resident Janet Boardman is all for the new travel center.
“That will be handy, having to restaurants or delis or whatever they are, it’ll just be nice,” Broadman said.
The town only has four restaurants, which Broadman says can get tiresome.
If voters decide against the restaurant portion of the project, Dumler says that open space will be converted into parking spaces.
“It’s a matter of whether we’re going to build three pad sites for restaurants or 80 truck parking spaces,” Dumler said.
So for the opposition, Friday’s vote may be more symbolic than anything in their final push to block big business from encroaching on their tiny town.