Developers want to build Stroh Road, create commerce corridor

Chris Michlewicz

A development group from Washington, D.C., hopes to create a bustling economic corridor that would pave the way for employment centers and new homes between Parker and Castle Rock.

John Lay, the former head of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, is representing a group that he says can secure federal and private funding to extend Stroh Road and turn it into a thriving hub of commerce. A study by Aurora-based THK Associates estimates that the $25 million to $30 million road project would ultimately lead to $7.2 billion in market value to the county, including $6.4 billion in residential real estate.

Lay, who first presented his ideas to the Parker Water and Sanitation District board of directors in December, also believes the inclusion of more users into the water district would spread the costs of paying off the bonds that funded the construction of Rueter-Hess Reservoir. It would also provide more financial leverage for purchasing water to fill the 70,000 acre-foot reservoir, which now contains less than 10,000 acre-feet of water.

“If people are concerned about the lack of water and high water bills, this is the most direct way to solve those problems,” Lay said.

The recent discussions are breathing new life into a proposal that local leaders thought had been permanently shelved. The establishment of Hess Road as an alternative route between Parker and Interstate 25 last year was regarded as the answer to the Parker Water and Sanitation District's opposition to the construction of Stroh Road.

Former PWSD district manager Frank Jaeger, who retired at the end of 2012, rebuffed a Douglas County-proposed road alignment that he said would have required the bridging of inlet channels into Rueter-Hess Reservoir. He feared that road chemicals and possible hazardous materials spills could compromise the integrity of the town's water supply.

Bridges would not be required with the proposed road alignment, says Lay, who has had informal discussions with the developers of The Canyons, a residential development planned on the east side of I-25. The group has also contacted leaders from the Town of Parker, who believe that any transportation corridor leading to I-25 would benefit the longterm economic vitality of the town.

However, there are several questions that still need to be answered, including determining how federal highway dollars get spent on a county road that is no longer on the Denver Regional Council of Government’s Transportation Improvement Plan. Parker’s town manager Randy Young wants to determine whether there have been discussions with major players who would be involved in such a massive undertaking, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Douglas County.

Lay, who is representing the plan on behalf of former U.S. Army General Paul Weaver and a group of private investors, says he is in the preliminary stages of scheduling more formal presentations to local leaders.

He believes the Parker Water and Sanitation District is logically the first place to start, but board member Bill Wasserman said Lay might be “putting the cart before the horse.” Wasserman says the process should begin with the town and county, where the land use plans are approved. A county spokeswoman deferred comment until a formal presentation is made to the commissioners.

PWSD board member Merlin Klotz said there is a "list of underlying issues" that the district cannot ignore. Many partner entities would need to sign off on potential changes that come with the plan, and much of the land being described is not technically within the district but rather is served by the PWSD by contract. Klotz also expressed doubts about the purported financial benefit to Parker Water and its customers.

There is a looming question of where exactly the federal money is coming from.

“We have asked for specificity on more than one occasion regarding where federal dollars have been allocated for this project, either as part of federal legislation or as a budget line item, and been provided no information despite these repeated requests,” Young said via email.

Despite the lack of clarity, there is still interest in the plan. Town leaders want to attract new businesses to Parker, and the need for additional rooftops is always a “top priority,” Young said. Ever since the Stroh Ranch property was annexed into the Town of Parker in 1984, long-range planners have anticipated another 25,000-30,000 in population.

“Therefore, we have been preparing for this level of development for the last 28 years,” Young said.

He pointed out that the housing and commercial development referenced by Lay is what has been long projected, even without the Stroh Road connection to I-25. If it can be demonstrated to the town that the connection accelerates those economic impacts, Young believes elected officials would be supportive.

The developers want to work quickly and hope officials will expedite the process.

“If there is not a willingness to consider the option, I represent folks that won’t beat their heads against the wall long term,” Lay said.

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