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Growth Management

The provisions made in the 1960s and early 1970s for Westminster's growth and development set the stage for potentially excessive population surges. In 1970-1971 the city’s land area was enlarged from 4.5 square miles to 28 square miles and between 1970 to 1980 the population more than doubled from 19,512 to 50,211, representing the most significant amount of growth in the city’s history.

Year

Population

1960

13,850

1970

19,512

1980

50,211

1990

74,625

2000

100,940

2010

106,144

2017

112,812


By 1977, the City Council realized the quality of life in Westminster, particularly the capacity to provide enough municipal services, could be jeopardized if the level of growth was not kept in line with the ability to provide necessary services. A temporary building moratorium was enacted in 1977 to allow sufficient time to plan for municipal services.

As a means of dealing with this unprecedented growth, the Growth Management Program was drafted in 1977 and adopted in 1978. The program called for allocating service commitments as a method of managing water and other key resources. The number of service commitments available each year was based on the city's ability and capacity to absorb new growth.

The "pay as you go" system of financing capital expansions is a by-product of the Growth Management Program, along with the strong emphasis placed on water conservation.

The Growth Management Program survived several major legal attacks and has been upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court. However, the city's blistering growth during the late 1980s and early 1990s forced the City Council to place a second moratorium on new building projects before growth could once again outstrip Westminster's ability to provide services. An updated template was needed to guide the city's tremendous growth.

The  first citywide Comprehensive Land Use Plan was adopted in 1997 and updated in 2004 to improve alignment between resources and land development. Related updates to align development and resources included:

  • Revised tap fee structure to reflect water usage
  • Revised landscape requirements for low-water using materials and creation of an inspection position to ensure landscape plan compliance
  • Linking water and parcels of land through geographic information systems (GIS).
  • Increased reporting to City Council on water supply and demand projections.

In 2013, the city adopted a new Comprehensive Plan that departed from previous planning practice of “maximized flexibility” to a new paradigm of “strategic growth” at specific locations, as indicated by a Land Use Diagram and the Goals and Policies contained in the document. Using this new policy of strategic growth and density allocation at key locations, the 2014 Water Supply Plan used the 2013 Comprehensive Plan to model projected development and growth. With the land uses outlined within the Comprehensive Plan, the Department of Public Works and Utilities (PWU) participates in the development process to ensure that appropriate infrastructure and services are available. PWU manages utility systems improvements, additional efficiency measures, tap fees and utility rates to support the city’s water and wastewater needs.

With this framework in place the Growth Management Program was updated in 2018 to remove the annual service competition and codified the city’s design standards and established criteria for adopting and amending the Comprehensive Plan.  Though the annual competition was typically allocating 500 to 600 service commitments each year, only 200 to 300 service commitments were actually awarded in recent years, thus making this process no longer relevant.  The revised standards include a policy that any land use change may not negatively impact the transportation system, drainage, water and sewer infrastructure, water supply, fire and police services, the parks and open space system, or the city’s general fund revenue. 

Since the Great Recession of 2008 the robust economy of the Colorado Front Range has provided for exceptional growth for both new development and redevelopment and regeneration of previously underutilized properties.  In Big Dry Creek sewer basin a 40 percent increase in sewer flows resulted in a need to address sewer capacity. After further study of the system’s capacity made it clear that additional steps were needed to protect public health, the City Council enacted a third moratorium on July 23, 2018 on new development applications within the Big Dry sewer basin that would increase demand on the interceptor servicing the basin. Upgrades to the sewer system has since been initiated to address the situation.