Northeast Fort Collins, Colo., is shifting rural emphasis
Open fields and farmland once stretched for miles and miles in northeast Fort Collins, Colo. Wild creatures like coyotes, foxes, deer and elk called the area home, an excellent place to raise their young and find abundant prey. Sprawling subdivisions were as rare as hens’ teeth.
Now it’s farmland that’s becoming rare, as uncommon as hens themselves. The vast scenery has changed, with one specific major transfiguration coming soon.
The Anheuser-Busch facility, on the west side of I-25 several miles south of Wellington, will have new neighbors beginning as soon as 2022. Lots of neighbors. On Feb. 18, 2020, the city of Fort Collins passed, by a majority vote of 6-1, a Planned Unit Development for 4,000 residential units on 860 acres.
Developer HF2M, a family company, is purchasing the site from its current owner, the Anheuser-Busch Foundation. The new community, called Montava, will feature neighborhoods comprised of 3,900 energy- and water-efficient homes (including affordable housing), public spaces and amenities, an 80-acre park, schools, trails, a 40-acre working farm, retail businesses and more.
TRAFFIC AND WATER
Everyone involved, including the 130 citizens attending the Feb. 18 meeting, agreed that Fort Collins has never before attempted this type and size of village-style development. And although the general consensus is that continuing urban development is inevitable in this and other parts of northern Colorado, traffic issues and water concerns at this point remain unresolved.
Widening of federally funded I-25 to better accommodate semi truck and other vehicle traffic traveling south to Denver and north to Cheyenne, Wyo., will help meet some of the future community’s needs. Local property-owner Nan Sollo expressed concern, however, that northeast Fort Collins’ rural roads can’t at this point handle the greater usage to likely be generated by Montava, its 4,000 homes and subsequent vehicles.
She noted that it will take nearly $900 million to bring roadways in the entire city up to par; $300 million of that sizable amount is in northeast Fort Collins.
As discussion about the expensive eventuality continues, virtually all owners of neighboring properties have voiced approval for the new community itself. Sollo has attended every meeting along the way to Montava’s recent approval.
She admitted, “I don’t like to go to bed at midnight, but people have to get involved.”
Sollo explained that there was never a doubt that the proposal would be approved. She simultaneously feels it was her community’s right to have a say in the places where they’ve invested their lives.
They appealed to the city and HF2M, through its representative Max Moss, to develop the site responsibly.
“You’ll get run over if you go against development in Fort Collins,” Sollo added, declaring, “Our only voice is to help shape good development. And Montava will be a terrific place.”
Ground-breaking for Montava’s streets and structures is slated for no earlier than 2022 but will continue on for years. Each of its 16 phases must be individually approved before implementation. The city already loves the grand plan for a vast, self-contained community designed to enhance rather than simply further-impact Fort Collins’ roads and casual lifestyle.
Moss explained how his company’s upcoming community was named. A brain-storming session combined “Mon,” which alludes to “mountain,” and “Tava,” the Ute word for “sun.” (The Utes were one of Colorado’s original peoples.)
Yet a more important issue than are mountains, sun, or even traffic flow is water flow. Colorado’s semi-arid climate has always been on the front lines of a difficult battle for drinking water and irrigation sources.
The land upon which Montava will be built is part of the East Larimer County Water District (ELCO) and Boxelder Sanitation District, which have higher rates for development than does Fort Collins Utilities. Since the Montava site is within Fort Collins city limits but not in Fort Collins Utilities’ service area, accommodations and/or compromises will likely need to be made. And all that is quite a complicated issue indeed.
Developer Moss addressed the pertinent H2O issue. He reported that his company has been looking at all possible avenues to address water challenges. But HF2M’s caveat was to obtain permission from the city to move forward with the development plan before continuing further work on problem-solving.
Moss believes there is presently no financial incentive to conserve water in Fort Collins. He said people who do conserve do so because they want to.
But Montava’s homes will be built — as is his own — for water-efficiency. Construction style will be the primary conservator; a critical matter not left merely to individual choice. Also, said Moss, only non-potable water will be used for the new community’s irrigation requirements.
Moss further explained that Fort Collins has a built-in water “cushion” to adequately meet the needs of its current population in the event of extended drought. He pointed to innovation and conservation to alleviate most waste, touting automation of every system as one way to accomplish that water-saving goal.
”You can’t stop growth,” Moss stated, “just determine how it will grow.” ❖
— Metzger is a freelance writer from Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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