New Castle on a growth spurt |

New Castle on a growth spurt

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
The town of New Castle issued 188 single-family building permits last year and 34 so far in 2008. (Kelley Cox/Post Independent)

NEW CASTLE, Colo. ” Dale Gray remembers when kids walking around downtown New Castle with guns was no big deal.

“We could take our guns, walk downtown and up to the cemetery and nobody would think anything of it,” he said.

Gray, the fifth generation of his family in New Castle, was born in 1963 and has lived there pretty much his whole life. He remembers a smaller, quieter Main Street with one school on it, two general stores, one drug store and no Interstate 70. These days, I-70 averages about 24,000 vehicles a day traveling past New Castle, located West of Glenwood Springs.

Gray, who runs the Gray Builders Inc. homebuilding business, remembers watching people construct the highway in the early 1970s when he was about 10 years old. He said his parents’ generation could buy a home for less than $5,000. Hunting and being outdoors was a much more common part of life. The rural Colorado lifestyle became more urbanized.

Even though he’s built homes to accommodate some of the growth that’s occurred in New Castle and elsewhere since he grew up, Gray misses the quieter days.

“It’s not the New Castle I grew up in,” he said.

He spends a good deal of time in Alaska to work on a small land-development business and get outdoors and enjoy the wide open spaces. It reminds him of a different time.

“It was just quiet and peaceful,” he said.

New Castle was home to just 679 people in 1990; it reached a population of nearly 1,984 people by year 2000. Since then, it has just about doubled.

A community survey by RRC Associates of Boulder estimated the town’s population at 3,443 in 2007 and New Castle has maintained an average annual growth rate of 8.9 percent since 2000. Some wonder if New Castle hit 4,000 last summer.

“Per capita, it is the fastest growing town in Colorado,” said building official David Hunsicker.

In 2007, there were 188 building-permit applications for new single-family homes and 12 for new, multifamily homes, according to Tim Cain, planning technician and code administrator.

As a kid, Gray remembers maybe 180 students attending one school for first grade through eighth grade. Now, there are about 1,084 students enrolled at Kathryn Senor Elementary School and Riverside Middle School.

The elementary school is over capacity by about 50 students, and the Garfield School District Re-2 plans to complete a new Riverside Middle School by next school year. The older middle school will be renovated and turned into an elementary school.

“Growth is something that we’re really focused on in the New Castle area,” said Theresa Hamilton, Re-2 director of districtwide services.

Gray, who grew up on Main Street, says the big influx of new residents arrive in the past 10 to 15 years, but according to Hunsicker, the big growth has come roughly the past five years, and the past two have been particularly hectic.

“From 2005 to 2007 we experienced a tremendous number of building-permit applications,” Cain said. “It probably was one of the fastest periods of growth.”

Most of that occurred in the Castle Valley and Lakota Canyon Ranch subdivisions that weave their way around the hills north and east of downtown.

Lakota Canyon Ranch, annexed to the town in 1999, has permission to build 827 total units. Castle Valley, annexed in the late 1970s, is allowed a total of 1,400 units, according to Cain.

No detailed figures were available, but Hunsicker estimated Lakota Canyon Ranch has developed about 80 percent of its subdivision, while Castle Valley is about 75 percent developed.

Town officials said there’s often talk of more annexations and development outside the current city limits, but nothing new has been approved yet.

In town, Cain said a sketch plan has been submitted for what’s being called the New Castle Center. On the east end of town across from the City Market Plaza, the development would include a combination of commercial and residential, 17 duplexes and possibly a hotel and a bank.

New construction will go up in and around downtown as well.

“We’re trying to promote infill in the old part of town,” Mayor Frank Breslin said, adding the spot is close to bus transportation, and developing there could help reduce traffic congestion.

He said the town passed historic zoning that allows people to split certain lots into smaller lots to allow for the infill.

Gray may not be a huge fan of all the growth, but he still feels strong ties to his hometown.

“When you’re five generations family from one town, your roots get pretty deep,” he said.