05/12/2011 10:43 am ET Updated Jul 12, 2011

Suburban Sprawl: Douglas County Green Lights Sterling Ranch Home Building

The planning for the creation of Sterling Ranch, an enormous new suburban neighborhood in Douglas County that has resulted in years of debate, environmental concern and protest got unanimous preliminary approval from Douglas County commissioners on Wednesday evening.

The sprawling new community will have a footprint of 3,400 acres just south of Chatfield Lake and cuts deep into the Chatfield State Park grasslands in the Chatfield Valley with a proposed 12,050 homes and apartments that will eventually be home to 31,000 people when finally completed in 2026, according to the Sterling Ranch Project website.

As CBSDenver reports, there were weeks of public hearings where Chatfield Basin residents voiced their opposition to this new development community on grounds that it would destroy the rural beauty that the existing community cherishes.

9News also reports that many of the opponents are concerned about the amount of traffic and congestion that will be ushered in with the eventual possibility of 30,000 new residents in an already populated area of south Denver. Sterling Ranch will be surrounded by Littleton, Highlands Ranch, Columbine and Roxborough Village.

But, Sterling Ranch developers have kept focused on sustainability and a concern for the impact on the local environment that has some people praising the new community, especially in regards to their progressive water-rights and usage plan.

The Denver Post reports that Sterling Ranch will be Colorado’s first rainwater harvesting site to off-set the amount of water needed for the community. Sterling Ranch developers have agreed to provide 10 percent of its own water to neighboring communities and, according to the development website, will only use 30 percent of the water required by Douglas County.

The developers are also vowing to retain 37 percent of the existing open space in the area, including wildlife corridors and the creation of public use parks as well as a layout of living spaces that resembles several small villages to lessen the impact of the existing natural beauty of the area.

From The Denver Post:

Commissioner Jill Repella, who served 10 years on the planning commission, said she had never seen an applicant submit more information and have more public testimony than Sterling Ranch.

Listen to the various public hearings and business meetings about the development of Sterling Ranch over the years at the Douglas County Online Audio Archive.