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Publish Date: 5/2/2005

Businesses start to take hold in Tri-Towns

FIRESTONE — Rooftops lured Adams Bank and Trust to Firestone, and for good reason.

Branch President James Strovas said his bank, based in Ogalala, Neb., wanted to expand in northern Colorado. When company heads found out the number of homes going up in the Tri-Towns, they decided it was a good place to open a branch.

“We just felt it was an extremely expanding community that needed a hometown bank, and a good bank,” Strovas said.

Population estimates show that by 2010 or 2015, the Tri-Towns may be larger than Greeley.

Plus, there was only one bank in Firestone last year. So the company purchased land in August in front of Safeway in Firestone and began building.

Less than a year later, Adams Bank is not alone.

By summer’s end, five banks will likely have new buildings in Firestone and be open for business: Colorado Community Bank, First Bank, U.S. Alliance Credit Union, Adams Bank and Heritage Bank, which is already finished and running, according to the town of Firestone.

That’s not all for commercial development in Firestone. In fact, the northernmost Tri-Town is teeming with new business activity.

Ace Hardware just opened for business, as well as Blockbuster. Walgreens, at Firestone and Colorado boulevards, is near completion. A business called Arm Petroleum plans for a 10,000-square-foot strip mall near Colo. Highway 119 and Interstate 25.

Meanwhile, American Furniture Warehouse just submitted plans to build a half-million-square-foot showroom and warehouse at Colo. 119 and I-25.

That project will bring 300 jobs to the Carbon Valley and millions in sales-tax revenue for the town of Firestone.

Firestone Mayor Mike Simone said it’s all part of the plan to bring in services and jobs — and to create a needed revenue base for the town.

“You are successful for the sales tax you bring in,” he said.

Towns can’t survive on residential property tax alone. They need a growing sales tax base to be successful, Simone said.

Of the three Tri-Towns, Firestone has been the busiest for recent commercial development.

There are some notable exceptions.

In January, representatives from Furniture Row Co. submitted plans to Dacono for an 85,000-square-foot building at the northeast corner of I-25 and Weld County Road 8. The building will be home to Oak Express, Sofa Mart, Bedroom Expressions and Denver Mattress Co.

In Frederick, car dealership owner Kent Stevinson announced Thursday his plans to build a 72,000-square-foot Lexus dealership on I-25, hopefully by the summer 2006.

Frederick Mayor Eric Doering said his town has good land for commercial development, lining Colo. Highway 52 and I-25 frontage. But much of it is zoned as a planned unit development (PUD), which is not exactly commercial developer friendly, he said.

Doering said zoning PUDs were efficient ways to annex land but were not so efficient for business owners looking to develop large projects. PUDs don’t provide strict guidelines through the planning process, which can slow things down.

“One of the keys is that we have to have land that is ready to go, because commercial developers want land ready to go,” Doering said. “That’s where Firestone was poised, because they got the land annexed, then they got the landowners going through the zoning process.”

He said there’s a couple of landowners beginning the process to be rezoned, but it can be a lengthy process.

There is still good commercial growth in Frederick.

Along with Stevinson, Doering said Walgreens is still on board, as well as a truck dealership on I-25. There also are a few big business owners looking at Frederick this summer, though Doering wouldn’t elaborate.

And Frederick aims to fix its zoning dilemmas. The town is nearing completion of its comprehensive plan, which outlines development goals.

The next step after the plan is revising the town’s land-use code, which includes rezoning land that the comprehensive plan identifies as commercial.

The town also recently hired a full-time planner, Jennifer Hoffmann, who came from Longmont’s planning department.

On Thursday, Hoffman gathered town trustees and some planning commissioners to talk about ways to streamline the planning process.

“It was finding out about where the commissioners are in planning knowledge and if we are all headed in similar direction,” she said of the meeting.

Although Frederick may not be booming as much as Firestone for commercial development, Hoffman said she thinks the town will move forward.

“I think it’s actually going pretty well,” she said. “There are these hurdles, such as PUDs. But they are not unbearable; they can be overcome.”

Douglas Crowl can be reached at 303-684-5253, or by e-mail at dcrowl@times-call.com.


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