The Falcon Community Builders for Classrooms has been partnering with Falcon School District 49 since 2005. Created out of a financial need to help the district keep up with the growth of the community, they have been working together ever since to make sure the needs of the students are addressed.
Builders building community through D 49
By Leslie Sheley
Sarah Brittain Jack, FCBC administrator, said the organization is the brainchild of Doug Stimple, chairman of the board of directors. “The district was growing leaps and bounds and the voters would not pass a levy or bond issue, so the district couldn’t keep up with the growth,” Jack said. “A lot of kids were being taught in modular buildings as there was no funding for additional classrooms.”
In 2003, they applied for a 501(c) (3) nonprofit status and contracted with builders who were active in the district. Jack said the builders agreed to sign a mutual donor agreement that imposes a voluntary impact fee on themselves, which is then donated to FCBC. This fee is calculated on a sliding scale based on what they are building. She said this approach is unique to the district and the area. She doesn’t know of another program like this in Colorado or the country.
They were able to start funding projects in 2005. Jack said, “The caveat is that money can only be spent on capital purchases, not on operations, maintenance, administration or teachers.”
FCBC is run by a board that meets quarterly to discuss proposed projects in D 49. It is composed of three builder members: Doug Stimple, Classic Homes; Brian Bahr; Challenger Homes; and Steve Neary, Copperleaf Homes, (he just resigned so he will be replaced); two members of the district administration: Brett Ridgway and Melissa Andrews; a member from the D 49 Board of Education, Kevin Butcher, and an elected official who represents the district, currently, Colorado County Commissioner Mark Waller.
One of their big projects through the years included finishing the second story wing of Vista Ridge High School. Jack said it had been framed out but the district didn’t have the resources to complete it. They also built an athletic complex on the grounds that included bleachers, turf, a press box and a scoreboard. She said throughout the years, they added turf and scoreboards at Falcon High School and Sand Creek High School. In 2019, they built a Careers and Construction building in conjunction with the Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs at Falcon Legacy Campus; and, in 2020, they currently have contractors paving the Meridian Ranch Elementary School parking lot, Jack said.
“We work hand in hand with District 49 to do what we can to back them up,” Jack said. “We have been around for 16 years, have raised $9 million and have three new projects on the table for 2021.” Jack said all the projects are out for bids, so she could not elaborate.
Kevin Butcher has been on the board for almost seven years. He is also a real estate agent and said the better the schools are, the better the community is and the easier it is to sell a home. “Developers and sometimes builders get a bad rap, and the truth is they know kids are the future of our city, and we want well-educated kids,” Butcher said. “The builders also appreciate the fact that when you build a house, there is usually a few years before a mill levy comes through and the cash flow from that new house or development kicks into the FCBC funds, which helps because there always seems to be a shortfall of money.” He said, for example, the Springs Ranch developer made sure his builders participated in the program. When the developers encourage the builders to participate, it works really well.
“As someone on the board of education, it’s nice to know other people in the community see the value of education and are willing to voluntarily contribute dreadfully large amounts of money to help with the physical things schools need,” Butcher said. “A lot of people think of developers and builders as evil, but in the district, we see them as great partners in education. We have a great community and people want to live here, and it’s a fine line to balance growth and funds.”
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Sterling Ranch, located on Vollmer Road about 2 miles from Black Forest Road, has been at least 12 years in the making. Plans date back to 2008.
Years later, Sterling Ranch comes to life
By Pete Gawda
Erin Ganaway is a planner with N.E.S. Inc, a landscape architecture firm that has been involved with Sterling Ranch since its inception. Ganaway said there are three factors that delayed development. The first is funding. The second is demand: In 2007-2009, a recession and the housing bubble put everything on the back burner. The third factor is process. It takes several years to get from raw land with no layout to approval for building, especially with large tracts of land such as Sterling Ranch, Ganaway said.
At total build-out, Sterling Ranch will have 5,225 lots on 1,444 acres; however, there is no timetable. It all depends on the demand for the lots. Sterling Ranch is divided into two sections, Homestead and Branding Iron, but there is no distinct division between the two. Both sections are designed to be developed together as one community.
As of mid-August, 299 lots had been sold to builders. The number of lots sold to a builder is dependent on demand for housing. The lots already sold have finished homes or homes under construction.
Currently, there are three well-known builders involved in selling lots and building houses in Sterling Ranch: Challenger Homes, Classic Homes and Vantage Homes.
Sterling Metropolitan District has an agreement with Meridian Metropolitan District that allows Sterling Ranch to use part of Meridian's share of wastewater treatment at Cherokee Metropolitan District's wastewater treatment plant. Sterling Metropolitan also supplies water to the subdivision through its own wells. Black Forest Fire Rescue is responsible for Sterling Ranch.
Sterling Ranch is located in two school districts, Falcon School District 49 and Academy School District 20.
A 30-acre community park is planned as well as 18 acres of individual neighborhood parks and 57 acres of open space and greenways, including trails. When they reach build-out, there will be 50 acres of commercial space.
In the near future, there will be easier access to Sterling Ranch with the planned extensions of Marksheffel Road and Briargate Parkway.