More than 100 local officials and community members gathered Aug. 24 for the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Independence community, which is being touted as Colorado's largest residential …
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More than 100 local officials and community members gathered Aug. 24 for the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Independence community, which is being touted as Colorado's largest residential conservation community by its developers, Craft Companies.
“As the first community of its kind in Colorado, we hope it will serve as a model for sustainable development moving forward, and that all Elbert county residents will directly benefit from our sustainable, low-impact development practices, in addition to the open space and diverse mix of home types,” said Tim Craft, company principal.
Homes could be available for purchase as early as summer of 2019, but a complete build-out of the project, which will include more than 900 single-family homes, might take up to 10 years to complete. Independence will include parks, a site for a school and more than 433 acres of open space that will be “preserved in a contiguous natural state to improve wildlife habitat, maintain the rural environment of the county and promote resident wellness,” according to Craft.
The project, located at Hilltop Road/County Road 158 and County Road five in the northwest corner of Elbert County, has been in the works for six years. According to Craft, it will provide much-needed housing in Elbert county, including for those who work in the community, such as teachers and first responders.
“Obviously the addition of any new housing is good for those individuals. The clustered design of this project, as an element of conservation community development, reduces the cost of infrastructure, as well as the ongoing maintenance cost of the roads, sidewalks and trails, thus providing for more attainability and less maintenance than traditionally available in Elbert County,” said Craft.
As a conservation community, Independence will treat and recycle water, curved streets will preserve community views and reduce vehicle speeds, and neighborhood pocket parks are designed to promote health and wellness within the community. Craft has projected that the project will generate approximately 4,000 local jobs, including carpenters, hydrologists and solar panel experts.
“We have been eagerly anticipating today's groundbreaking celebration since the Independence community was unanimously approved by the three-member board of Elbert County commissioners,” said Craft.
While more than 100 people attended the groundbreaking, hundreds of other residents in the county have cried foul over the development, and planning and commissioner meetings were filled to capacity with concerned citizens asking commissioners to deny the approval of Independence. Citizens cited concerns over water, land values, and the loss of a rural feel in the county. Residents have taken to social media, including the Elbert County Citizens Facebook page, to organize against county commissioners to fight proposed future large developments.
Susan Shick has been vocal with the commissioners regarding concerns about the sizable development, including traffic, water usage and light and noise pollution. “I object in principal to the proliferation of mega-sized developments that infringe on the rural characteristics of the county that drew the majority of its current residents to the area,” said Shick. She also expressed concern about the six special districts that will be utilized by Independence.
Carla Hagood said she is disappointed and frustrated with the approval of Independence, and fears lack of communication between county officials and residents will result in uncontrolled growth in the county that won't be beneficial.
“We have to find where the balance is,” sid Hagood. “It's sad. We need to fix our problem with communication with the local government.”
Commissioner Chris Richardson said the Independence development is being built on land that was approved for this type of development more than 10 years ago.
“This well-designed and thoughtful project, now being built on land initially approved for development over a decade ago, helps meet the state projections for population growth in our county in the upcoming years,” said Richardson. “The offsite improvements to County Road 158 and the extension of Delbert Road south of Singing Hills will help lower the impacts of traffic for current residents and provides better emergency response in this growing area of the county.”
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