Golden opportunities.

Position:Urban planning in Golden, Colorado


SPRAWLING RESIDENTIAL AND commercial projects are the financial workhorses of developers, but in a communities like Golden -- with what city planners call "geographical challenges" -- the horses may soon be working in a different pasture.

Bound by strict limits on residential growth of 1 percent per year and a dearth of available land, Golden has shifted its focus to revitalization.

"Golden had a period in the late '70s to early '90s where we participated in the urban-growth model," said Steve Glick, planning manager at the Golden Planning Department. "It's a new era. We won't do that anymore."

Esther Kettering, a vice president of Fuller and Co., the commercial real estate firm, and chair of the city's newly formed Economic Development Council, said one of the council's first goals is to hire a marketing consultant to help change public perception of Golden "from what was a sleepy little town on the outskirts of Denver to a place that's really happening."

Kettering, a self-proclaimed Golden cheerleader, says her little town is surprisingly diverse, with everything from heavy industrial projects to a variety of residential opportunities.

While growth restrictions may put an end to big developments, the last of Golden's major residential evolutions is still under way. Stonebridge, a 235-home development headed by The Genesee Co., will command about 45 of the 75 permits available in the city this year. Though growth restrictions were enacted in 1996, Genesee's project was already in the planning pipeline, and therefore allowed to proceed.

"In order to not have a lot of half-built projects, the city council promised to continue offering permits to (Genesee) until 2003," Glick said.

Others involved in the planning process said the city didn't want to trample on landowner's rights, a touchy subject in many Colorado communities.

"We believe that there are such things as land-use rights and that people should be able to use the land as they saw fit when they bought it," said Steve Becker, executive director of the Golden Urban Renewal Authority. "You have to balance quality of life with people actually living here."

Becker added that quality-of-life issues are behind Golden's opposition to Nike building an office complex atop South Table Mountain, and its contempt for an extension of C470 through town. While there are some who say the highway would increase traffic to downtown...

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