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Castle Rock growth: Developers pay fees, but residents say they pay the price

Our Colorado: Castle Rock added 3K people in 2017
Posted at 9:15 PM, Jul 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-18 00:40:27-04

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CASTLE ROCK, Colo. -- Three thousand people moved to Castle Rock last year. All you have to do is drive through town to notice construction sites, new housing developments, stores, and more popping up. But that leads to the question: Who pays for growth?

Big-time small-town growth

Since 2010, town officials say Castle Rock has seen growth that could be described as “booming.” They average about 2,200 new residents a year and sign off on more than 1,000 new building permits per year, according to Director of Development Services Bill Detweiler.

“Town is extremely busy,” he said.

Statistics from the Castle Rock Economic Development Council show that the town’s population grew by 19.5 percent from 2010 to 2016 and another 5.1 percent from 2016 to 2017. According to U.S. Census data, Castle Rock is the 7th fastest growing city in America.

Physically paying for it

Instead of diving into the long-debated issue of whether or not growth is a good thing, Denver7 wanted to ask the question about paying for growth.

“Growth pays for growth,” Detweiler said.

In Castle Rock, developers are charged with what is called “impact fees.” They’re a percentage of permit costs that pay for utility hookups and infrastructure.

“If you’re a resident of town you don’t pay any monies, any funds towards new development,” Detweiler added.

It’s done this way, so the town doesn’t have to dip into property tax revenues. Last year, the town collected $35 million in impact fees.

Where do they go?

While the majority of those fees go to aforementioned utilities and infrastructure, a percentage also goes toward other town improvements.

“This is our new Station 152 that’s slated for a grand opening on August 4th,” Fire Chief Norris Croom said, standing in front of a brand new, multimillion-dollar firehouse on the south side of town.

That fire station and equipment, totaling about $6.4 million, was paid for entirely from impact fees.

Other places those fees end up include parks, public safety, and some transportation as well.

Some residents say they 'pay'

Even without their property taxes specifically impacted, some homeowners in town are against the idea that “growth pays for growth.”

“We wouldn’t have to pay for it if they would just slow down and be reasonable,” Jeri Brown said.

Brown and her husband have been living in town for nearly 25 years and say she’s seen Castle Rock grow from a small town to a big city feel.

“Traffic, noise, losing open space, and quality of life,” she said were the negative impacts of growth.

And when presented with the idea of impact fees, she says residents still end up paying for growth with what they lose.

“We’re paying for it in losing open space and losing the topography and beauty of the town,” she said.

What’s next?

U.S. Census projections put Castle Rock’s population at 72,000 people by 2020. The Town Council has passed “entitlements” and platted out future developments since the 1980s and 90s, now much of that is coming to fruition. 

But the town’s Director of Development Services says the final say comes from outside demand.

“The town does not decide how fast we grow. The market determines how fast we grow,” Bill Detweiler said.

He says the town has “set the table” for development, but that ultimate growth is determined by how many people want to move south along I-25.