Weld County leaders want to quell fears that they are planning to convert all the land in a 75-square-mile section of southwest Weld County into a sea of homes.
Weld County officials say they are focusing on how to provide services to future residents along Interstate 25 in the southwest part of their jurisdiction.
The Weld County commissioners earlier this year announced they were seeking consultants to study future transportation and human services needs in that 75-square-mile area, which includes Mead, parts of Firestone and Frederick and the north part of Erie’s planning area.
But leaders in those towns interpret that to mean their Weld County counterparts will allow the entire 75 square miles, or 48,000 acres, to develop as urban.
But while county officials can expand a 15,000-acre swath of unincorporated land, known as the MUD for mixed-use development, to 48,000 acres, they say they don’t have any intentions to do that now.
“If we had a hidden agenda, we wouldn’t be doing the study,” county Commissioner Mike Geile said Monday. “In 10 years, I think we’re going to look back and we’re going to wish we had a road map in place; that’s why we’re stopping now (to do the study.)”
Paperwork sent to consultants refers to the study area from Weld County Road 42 south to Colo. Highway 52 and from WCR 1 to WCR 15 as the I-25 Mixed-Use Development Area.
That, coupled with information presented about the study at the I-25 mayors meeting two weeks ago, has left municipal leaders in southwest Weld County worried that their borders aren’t safe. They are calling the 75-square-mile study area the “super MUD.”
“We really thought we were going to have agricultural borders around the town,” Firestone Mayor Mike Simone said. “If the MUD expands, we could have high-density developments on our borders ... without any input from us.”
Simone said he doesn’t want the MUD to expand because county leaders haven’t done a good job managing existing urban developments.
“Del Camino is a perfect example of how urban development can be done wrong,” Simone said. “It’s an ugly area. The roads over there are very cluttered. It’s unsafe. It’s not attractive.”
Mead Mayor Richard Kraemer said Monday the county’s study is a great idea, but Weld County doesn’t have the money to pay for libraries, schools or law enforcement for urban development in the study area.
“How’s it going to be paid for?” he asked. “I think Weld County taxes are going to have to double to pay for 75 square miles of municipal facilities.”
Weld County leaders predict as many as 225,000 people will live in southwest Weld County in coming decades.
Kraemer said he doesn’t think Weld County can develop a sales-tax base to pay for services for the community it is building on Mead’s doorstep in unincorporated Weld County.
Weld County officials say the study will help them figure out how to pay for services.
County officials have directed consultants to provide a detailed fiscal and economic impact analysis for the area, and to review the county’s future role in delivering services.
County commissioners Glenn Vaad and Mike Geile said the study will also get input from town and community leaders about how to provide services.
“Our effort is to bring everyone to the table,” Vaad said. “We’re trying to represent the people who live in unincorporated Weld County who don’t have a voice otherwise.”
Erie Mayor Andrew Moore said he wants to avoid a situation that pits municipalities and the county against each other to determine how the southwest county develops. He said urban developments could overtax Erie’s schools and the library and recreation center.
“We do need a plan for southwest Weld County,” he said. “It all comes down to balanced growth. ... We will not have an economically viable community if we don’t do it in a balanced way.”
Moore said balanced developments include open space, trails, retailers, houses and community gathering places, such as libraries and recreation centers.
Consultants have until April 19 to submit proposals to the county, and according to Weld County planning director Monica Daniels-Mika, that list will be whittled down to the best applicants by the end of this month.
Jenn Ooton can be reached at 303-684-5295, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.