School and Park Move Forward Despite Tough Economic Times
Infrastructure of Lagae Ranch faces Challenges
The collaborative efforts of American Academy Charter School, the Castle Pines Parks Authority, HF Holdings, R.I. Management, and the City of Castle Pines North, along with possible financial assistance from the Castle Pines Metro District could expedite plans for a new park and school on Lagae Ranch.
by Terri Wiebold
During what is considered to be the worst economic market in several decades, the Lagae Ranch development in Castle Pines North (CPN) continues to move forward with the construction of a new school and park, thanks to possible financial assistance from the CPN Metro District.
The Metro District board of directors recently voted to spend nearly $1 million toward the construction of the infrastructure development for the western portion of Lagae Ranch. With this decision comes the necessary funding for the installation of water, sewer, and storm water pipelines along with the grading of the proposed park, and two civic sites. This work is required to
ensure the new park and school can move forward now, instead of years from now.
“If we didn’t take this move, then the school and park would not get built,” said Metro District Manager James McGrady. “It is our moral obligation to this community. We are the bridge to help kick start the Lagae development.”
As of press time, the Metro District staff was in negotiations with the developers regarding a potential reimbursement agreement which would include re-payment of all of the infrastructure expenses within approximately two to three years. According to McGrady, the Metro District would hold “first lien” under the agreement on six lots in the development including parcels for a church and a daycare facility. Proceeds from the sale of those parcels would be sufficient to repay the Metro District.
“The only way we [Metro District] will go forward is if we are in an indisputable position that the Metro District has sufficient security to cover every risk,” said John Hayes, legal counsel for the Metro District. “We had to make sure there was no risk to the taxpayer and ratepayer money whatsoever.”
Typically, a portion of the infrastructure construction is the financial responsibility of the developer of the land. However, with the current decline in home sales and bleak market conditions, the developer is not moving forward with the project at this time.
“Our investor, R.I. Management, who is one hundred percent owner of the property, told us to stop funding this project and put the development on hold a few months ago,” said Chris Fellows, principle of HF Holdings, LLC. “Current market conditions preclude any reasonable person from moving forward with development,” he continued, “but the school has a strict timeline and simply can’t wait until market conditions turn around.”
A new school for Castle Pines
HF Holdings, LLC donated a six-acre parcel of land on the Lagae Ranch to American Academy, a K-8 Douglas County public charter school. The school, which originally intended to call CPN home, has been operating from a temporary facility in Lone Tree for the past four years. The school’s lease runs out this summer, without the option to renew. The new 83,000 square foot school facility in CPN will be home to more than 700 students.
“American Academy is very grateful to the CPN Metro District for all they are doing to move the Lagae development forward quickly,” stated American Academy President Erin Kane. “Jim McGrady has bent over backwards to assist and counsel us, and we are very grateful to the Metro board of directors for agreeing to share in the infrastructure investment that will make moving forward possible.”
Local developer and CPN resident Darwin Horan also provided funds needed to pay the city to record the plat. His financial assistance will ensure the park and school continue to move forward quickly.
As for Horan’s check to the city, Kane stated, “Darwin Horan wrote that personal check specifically to ensure that American Academy could still open on schedule. Words cannot express our gratitude.”
What about a new park?
CPN residents have been saving money for a new park for the past eight years through the Castle Pines Parks Authority. Since 2002, CPN residents have paid $151.20 per year, per household, to the CPN Master Association to be transferred to the Castle Pines Parks Authority for future park development. That equates to a parks contribution of more than $1,000 per home during the past seven years.
To date, the Parks Authority has collected more than $3.8 million through homeowner and developer contributions. Now, Lagae Ranch will become home to a new 25-acre park – the largest in CPN.
The Castle Pines Parks Authority requested the Metro District’s assistance with the initial funding of the over-lot grading plan, which is being coordinated with American Academy to potentially reduce costs.
Funds for the infrastructure development of the park and the school will come from the Metro District’s park and recreations fund, which the former Metro District board of directors allocated in 2005.
The mutual signing of any reimbursement agreements between the Metro District and R.I. Management would ensure there is no delay in the opening of the school. As of press time, the agreement had not been signed.
Construction for American Academy is well underway. The school plans to open its doors September 21, 2009.
As for the park, once the initial groundwork is complete, the Parks Authority will move forward to work with Design Concepts to develop a final design. As of press time, the final completion date for the new park had not been announced.