Tri-Lakes deals with fastest growth rate in Southern Colorado - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Tri-Lakes deals with fastest growth rate in Southern Colorado

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How much growth is too much, and how fast is too fast?  Monument and surrounding areas are learning quickly as the Tri-Lakes are the fastest-growing area of El Paso County and among the top 5 fastest-growing areas in all of Colorado.  But all that growth comes with consequences.

From schools to roads to sewer pipes, Monument and surrounding areas are feeling the strain of rising popularity as the Tri-Lakes is becoming the go-to place to live along the southern Front Range.

From 2000 to 2010, the town of Monument's population grew 181%, and that figure doesn't include bordering unincorporated areas like Woodmoor and Gleneagle.  Since then, it's up roughly another 30%.  Monument's Planning Director says the current population of around 7,000 inside the town limits won't stay that way for long.  "I think we could see an increase, assuming market forces remain what they are, it could even double over a decade," said Planning Director Larry Manning.

New subdivisions are going up fast on both sides of I-25 amid a rebounded economy and more affordable prices than points northward, a trend sure to continue with the eventual widening of I-25 between Monument and Castle Rock.  "We're actually getting people, instead of purchasing in Castle Rock and driving to at least south Denver, they're coming down to Monument," Manning said.  "And certainly the improvement of that section of I-25 is going to promote that, if not sustain it."

But the rapid growth is putting a strain on certain services.

"It's absolutely impacting us," said Cheryl Wangeman, assistant superintendent of Lewis-Palmer D-38 schools.  "For us, one of the most difficult things to do is go, 'Oh, wow, here's a new housing development. How many kids? And when are they coming in? And what age ranges are they going to be?'"  Area schools are full or nearly full, including Monument Academy Charter School, and now there is a waiting list to get in.  Sooner than later, voters will be asked to help pay to build some new schools.  "Our Board of Education is working hard right now to determine exactly when they're going to put something on the ballot and what that something is going to be," Wangeman said.

Roads are becoming strained, too.  Jackson Creek Parkway is still only two lanes between the Walmart north of Baptist Road and State Highway 105.  Widening will have to happen to safely accommodate all the extra cars, delivery trucks, and other traffic traveling that stretch, which runs by the Tri-Lakes YMCA and Lewis-Palmer High School  "We expect in about 2021 to just begin the planning process and design process on that widening," Manning said.

The Tri-Lakes Wastewater treatment facility is equipped to handle at least a doubling of the area population, if not more, but what's coming down the pipes and into the plant is different now with all the new growth and starting to cause problems.  "The concentration of waste coming here is higher because of all the low-flush toilets," said Bill Burks, executive director of the facility.  Water-conservation measures in new homes and businesses are building up solids in the sewer pipes due to the reduced amount of water to help it all flow, a potential messy problem waiting to happen.  "If there's any type of grease or anything like that that can cause it to stick to the side of the pipe, then it can just grow inside the pipe and block it off," Burks said.

Local residents seem to be willing to help fund some of the necessary improvements and upgrades.  In November, voters approved a mill levy override to fund pay raises and equipment upgrades for the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District.  "We don't want to play catch-up anymore," said department Chief Chris Truty.  "We want to be ahead of it.  And we're ready for the growth that's happening."

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