DACONO — It’s easy to spot the southernmost Tri-Town from a distance.
Just look for the sky-blue water tower with “Dacono” written across the top. It’s nestled among the modular and mobile homes that fill most of the city’s subdivisions.
You can see it from Frederick, Firestone, Interstate 25, eastern Longmont or just about anywhere that provides a long, flat view of southwest Weld County.
But now, Dacono could be considered a tale of two towers.
One is the old blue tower that’s a reminder of what Dacono is today, a city of about 3,700 people, most living in lower-income homes.
The other is the new tower now visible near one of the city’s southern borders, by Weld County Road 8, that marks the future of the city.
It sits on land near a handful of new homes in the Sweetgrass subdivision.
That tower, owned by Central Weld Water District, will one day help provide water to the estimated 8,600 people who are expected to live in Dacono in five years. In 15 years, 35,000 people could be living here, according to Weld Library District estimates.
And though work has yet to begin on much of the land where the homes will be built between the two towers, the wheels of progress are still turning in Dacono.
By next month the city will have 2,000 lots ready for house construction in at least seven subdivisions, city administrator Karen Cumbo said.
Sharpe Farms subdivision, just to the west of old-town Dacono, already has homes built and being sold by Woodcrest Homes and Richmond Homes. Ridgeland subdivision, right next door, should be ready to start selling homes this year, as well.
Woodcrest lists its homes from $233,450 to $261,450.
That was the right price range for Randy Gale, who bought a new home in Sharpe Farms in December.
“You can’t miss buying a house out here,” he said, standing in the doorway of his new two-story house.
Gale commutes to Fort Collins to work as a software engineer. He and his wife looked at houses in other communities, but thought Dacono offered the best price.
It’s this type of buyer that developers bank on, Cumbo said, people who want an affordable place to live and are willing to commute to work.
It’s especially true in some of the town’s southernmost developments, such as Sweetgrass, envisioned as tempting locations for Denver commuters, she said.
While Cumbo acknowledged that much of Dacono’s growth depends on the market dictating when the builders will begin work, Sweetgrass developer Community Development Group has made guarantees to the city. For the next 10 years, the company has agreed to purchase 100 building permits a year from Dacono for at least $1,500 a pop.
“It gives some comfort for both sides,” Cumbo said.
The city can expect payment and more assurance of the growth it’s planned, and Community Development Group knows it will get the permits, she said.
But as Dacono shifts from a small, rural community to a bedroom community of nice homes, new issues are presenting themselves.
For example, not all of the land between the two towers is open fields. Some of it has industrial uses that don’t fit into the city’s growth plans, including three auto salvage yards on county land but in Dacono’s growth boundaries.
Dacono Mayor Wade Carlson said the city won’t get involved with land-use issues concerning the salvage yards.
“But I will say, with the growth going on around there, they can only see what the probabilities might be,” he said.
Ken Miller owns Erie Auto Salvage on I-25 Frontage Road, just north of Sweetgrass and a site where a new Furniture Row retail store is planned. He owns about 3,000 cars lined up on 50 acres.
Miller sees the growth coming and knows it probably doesn’t include him.
“I think I’ll be crowded out because of my type of business,” he said.
Miller has no major qualms about being bought out, if that’s what happens, but he said he’d “just as soon work here until I’m 90.”
But at 66 years old and with 30 years in the business, Miller won’t protest against a life change.
That’s not the case for Roscoe Elliot, who wants to stick around. He’s owned Elliot’s Auto and Truck since 1956, which is 13 acres of auto salvage next to Sharpe Farms and Ridgeland.
Elliot said it would take “14 bushel baskets of dollar bills” to buy him out.
“I ain’t going to be any different,” he said about his business.
“This has been in the making for a long time,” Elliot said about the growth, but added that he was there first.
He said his new neighbors haven’t complained about his business, though the houses from Sharpe are becoming more prevalent right next to his property.
Land issue aside, as developers build the homes and people move in, Dacono will also have to start thinking about providing services, particularly schools.
Dacono has none, though the Fort Lupton School District has plans to build an elementary school in Sweetgrass.
But the land just west of Dacono’s existing subdivisions, where people are moving in right now, will likely not be served for a while, Cumbo said.
“I have 1,600 residential lots that (permits) are pulled and could build right now,” Cumbo said. “That’s an elementary school in itself.”
The St. Vrain Valley School District has one elementary school planned for the Tri-Towns, but when and where it will go has not been decided, said Scott Toillion, director of planning for the district.
He said schools get expanded and built when existing ones are over capacity.
Two of the three elementary schools in the Tri-Towns are at capacity, and one is below capacity, Toillion said.
“In most cases, we can’t be out in front of growth,” Toillion said.
Douglas Crowl can be reached at 303-684-5253, or by e-mail at email@example.com.