Growing fast or growing smart: Westminster is running out of room

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 3/11/20

The more we learn, the more we realize how much we don’t know. I think Albert Einstein wisely stated something along this thought. I am experiencing an example of this as I continue to drill down …

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Growing fast or growing smart: Westminster is running out of room


The more we learn, the more we realize how much we don’t know. I think Albert Einstein wisely stated something along this thought.

I am experiencing an example of this as I continue to drill down on Westminster’s future. It has become clear that no one, including City Council or City Staff, have analyzed projecting the consequences of this extended development burst. But thanks to the cooperation of city staff in collecting the information, I have been able to put the future of Westminster’s remaining development opportunities more into focus.

It is an alarming picture even before you bring up the topic of water resources to quench the thirst of all the development occurring.

Fundamentally, new development in any city or county requires two basic ingredients — land and water resources. If a community doesn’t have both of these, it’s a non-starter. You may say that is fine, but I’ll show how it isn’t.

Forseeable future of stagnation

Let’s start with the bottom line outcome of this analysis: What if I were to tell you that by 2025, the city will likely only have 3% of it developable land left for new development or new open space — excluding the Pillar of Fire (The Uplands) land.

Yes, only 636 acres would be available! Some would say that is fine since there is less development left to occur but that is not a wise or forward thinking reaction. Any city or county needs to have a certain amount of growth to remain vibrant, energetic and competitive. No growth creates a stagnant condition, just look at what has happened to Northglenn, Wheatridge and Englewood.

The previous Westminster City Council and City Administration should be faulted for their “take all you want” approach, allowing the volume of development and degree of density that the community currently is experiencing. Although re-development opportunities will be available, the lack of attention and action to this issue will compromise Westminster’s economic vitality in the future.

With the current open ended approach, the City will run out of developable land and water in the forseeable future.

Communities and city governments
are here for the long haul

Those of us who have followed development trends know that residential, office and retail all have cyclical patterns. The metro Denver area has experienced several up and down cycles over the last 50 years. So why not get all the development while you can?

My response to that approach is to simply look at what has happened with unchecked growth in Westminster. Look where we are now.

Also, cities have tremendous staying power, so they don’t have to be in a hurry to build out the every developable lot of land. Builders come and go, but the community and city government will be here as far as the eye can imagine.

Pacing new development is smart growth

So what is the solution, or does anyone care?

I’ve said it before: The solution is to slow the new growth. The City Council should impose a pacing growth management plan that specifically spells out which developments are to be allowed to build and when. By spreading out the demand for more housing or more office or more high tech, the longer the overall community remains vibrant, energized and competitive.

Perhaps even more importantly, it buys time for the City to acquire more water resources to serve future demand generated by these new developments. It worked for 25 years in Westminster when water resources could not keep up.

Recently, I learned that the City took back the treated gray water (treated sewage effluent) from Hyland Hills Park and Recreation District that had been used to irrigate their golf course and that had caused them to have to drill new water well. This tells me that the situation with the City’s water supply and ability to irrigate all of its turf areas is changing. You would think the City Administration and City Council would see the merit of stretching out increasing water demands.

Here’s the methodology

So how did I come to the 3% conclusion?

I started with the city’s current listing of development proposals — which are either “Under Review,” “Approved” or “Under Construction.”

At my request, city staff calculated the acreage of each development and whether it was residential or non-residential land use. If all of these individual parcels are developed as proposed, it would consume 435.5 acres of the remaining available developable land in Westminster.

While the existing Comprehensive Land Use Plan states the land available for development to be 1,065 acres, a revised and more accurate figure determined by city staff is 1,071.8 acres.

Only 3% land left could
happen in five years

So, let’s do the math. There are 1,071.8 acres available for development, including some parcels which have partially been developed.

Subtracting 435.5 acres of current proposed development leaves 636.3 acres for the entire City of Westminster for future development. That collective amount of land is right at one square mile.

I am going to estimate that these developments are on track to be completed quickly, during the next four or five years, except for the Pillar of Fire development which has been represented to be built out over 10-20 years — assuming it is approved.

That leaves 636.3 acres (one square mile) left for all types of development — from all types of residential, retail, office, tech, light industry and new open space.

To put the remaining available land in perspective, Westminster’s city boundaries encompass 31.55 square miles. With only approximately one square mile left after the list of current developments are complete, only 3% of the land in Westminster will remain for new development.

That is shocking, in my opinion. No one from the City of Westminster has ever stated publicly that this is the projection. If City Staff knew it prior to my inquiries, they sure didn’t bother to tell the public. This is a case of benign neglect or attempt to keep the public in the dark.

Fun evening for a great cause

On a much lighter note, I want to call attention to the upcoming “Save a Child, Serve a Child Celebrity Roast” sponsored by the 7:10 Westminster Rotary Club to support CASA of Adams and Broomfield Counties.

Well-known former Columbine High School Principal Frank DeAngelis will be the “roastee” and the line-up of “roasters” is terrific!! They include former Jeffco Sheriff Ted Mink, former School District 50 Principal and former Westminster City Council member Chris Dittman, Bob Blaser and Hereford Percy. Gregg Moss will be Master of Ceremonies.

DeAngelis was Columbine Principal from 1996 until 2014. He served the school district in a variety of positions for over 35 years at Columbine.

The event is a great cause to raise funds to support abused or neglected children in Adams and Broomfield Counties. By having their own Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), the youth will be nurtured, supported and be the “voice” for the child in court. The event is March 28 — a Saturday — at the Stonebrook Manor. To RSVP for the event, please contact Chris Hovendon at or at 303-887-3933.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media. You can contact him at


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