Mar 26

[ARCHIVED] Let’s talk about growth: A message from the Mayor

The original item was published from March 26, 2018 10:08 AM to December 14, 2021 10:07 AM

Growth is a topic that is on everyone’s mind these days. From social media to traditional news, growth seems to be what everyone is talking about. Recently I’ve had several people reach out to me regarding how we as a Town approach growth in Parker.

First, let’s talk about growth in Parker at a basic level. To start, it is important to understand that 100 percent of vacant land in Parker is owned by someone and zoned for something. Likewise, the concept of open space is something that commonly is misunderstood. Even if a piece of land has nothing on, it likely isn’t open space. You can access a map of open space within the Town
here. Very little of the open land in Parker is owned by your Town government and designated as open space. Most of it is privately owned and zoned for specific types of development.

What is zoning?
This is a common question. Zoning is a legal designation from our land development code that tells property owners what type of use the land can have. Zoning does not dictate the actual specific final project on a piece of land, just the type of uses that can and can’t legally exist on the land. Examples of zoning include commercial (retail businesses), residential (homes, apartments, condos) and industrial.

Within zoning, there are basically three categories — use by right, use by special review and non-permitted use. Use by right means the owner of the land has the legal right to develop/use the property in the manner it is zoned for. The Town has no legal authority to say they can’t. The Town does have control over development standards, but they cannot infringe on the legal right of the private property owner to perform that use. For example, if a piece of land is zoned residential and the owner wants to build houses on that land then the Town cannot legally say “no.” The Town can dictate development standards, like how the development should look, how much open space/park land is required, etc., but can’t simply say “no” because someone does not want buildings on a currently vacant field.

A use by special review is similar to a use by right, but places extra layers of review and standards on a use. For example, a veterinary clinic is a use by special review because it could have noise impacts on surrounding areas. So in order to build a vet clinic, the applicant would be required to come in for a special public hearing to address the nine extra criteria listed in the use by special review. This gives the public and the Council extra details for the potential project.

The nine criteria include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Will be in harmony and compatible with the character of the surrounding areas and neighborhood;
• Will be consistent with the Town Master Plan;
• Will not result in an over-intensive use of land;
• Will not have a material adverse effect on community capital improvement programs;
• Will not require a level of community facilities and services greater than that which is available;
• Will not result in undue traffic congestion or traffic hazards;
• Will not cause significant air, water or noise pollution;
• Will be adequately landscaped, buffered and screened; and
• Will not otherwise be detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of the present or future inhabitants of the Town.

If the applicant can demonstrate that they meet or exceed the nine criteria then their project is treated as a use by right. In our veterinarian example, if the veterinarian can demonstrate that their project has extra sound proofing in the kennel area, or that it is far enough away from surrounding neighbors to not impact others in the area, then it would meet or exceed that criteria and be approved.

As for non-permitted use, that is something explicitly not allowed. For example retail marijuana sales is a non-permitted use anywhere in Parker. So even though a person might want to build a retail dispensary in a commercial zone, they would not be allowed since it is a non-permitted use.

Since all of Parker is zoned for something and owned by someone what role does Town Council have on growth?
The simple answer is … very little. The Town of Parker can’t make someone build something on their privately-owned land. Likewise if someone wants to build a permitted use on their privately-owned land, the Town Council can’t say no as long as the Town’s development code, our laws, is followed.

Development is mainly dictated by you — that’s right, you! Since 1981 when the Town officially became an incorporated municipality we have grown from several hundred citizens to over 52,000 citizens. If you weren’t one of the several hundred original residents of Parker, then you moved into someone else’s Town and called it your own. That’s cool, because Parker is an awesome place. With the number of people who want to call Parker home continuing to grow, you can bet homebuilders will keep building houses and businesses will continue to open in Parker. At the end of the day, the two primary factors that dictate growth are the economy at large and YOU! Ten years ago growth in Parker was very slow because, well, we were in a recession. Today, the economy is good and private owners are deciding to recoup their investments plus profit, thus moving forward with development of their private property.

But do we need another tire store or pizza restaurant or (fill in the blank) business?
That’s a great question and is one the Town can’t answer. The only ones who can answer that question are our citizens like you. If the citizens of Parker didn’t love their cars so much and didn’t own two, three or four per home, then tire shops wouldn’t want to build here because there wouldn’t be anyone to buy tires. However, we all love our cars and our cars need tires, so as long as we keep buying them, stores will be built to sell them. If a piece of land is zoned for commercial as a use by right and the owner of the land wants to build a tire shop on it, there is no mechanism for the Town Council to say no. It is the owner’s legal right to build any use approved in the property zoning.

Doesn’t the Town try to attract businesses?
Yes, we do. Providing our citizens with a thriving local economy is essential to the quality of life we all want. The Town has an Economic Development Division within the Community Development Department. We offer economic incentive programs to help encourage businesses to come to Parker as opposed to other areas. However, these programs are rigorous and not guaranteed. There is a stringent application process to ensure projects meet Parker’s needs and provide new or desired business in our community. In addition, these programs are not “out of pocket” money given away, but are based in what is called “share back” programs. That means, for example, if a business collects $100 in sales tax then a portion of that would be “shared back” once they pay the Town. Share backs are only for a limited amount of time or a limited dollar amount. Think of it as a coupon to attract a business here instead of somewhere else. Since most of the Town’s revenue comes from retail sales tax, it is paramount that a thriving business community exists here.

Why is growth good for Parker?
This is an easy question. It is much better to be in a thriving, growing community than a shrinking one. We all love the many Town-provided amenities, such as parks, recreation and cultural facilities, Town events and more! Those amenities and services are paid for, primarily, through sales tax generation in a thriving economy. If Parker didn’t allow businesses to be built here, or new residents to move here, we wouldn’t have the resources necessary to continue to build and maintain our great amenities and residents would have to go elsewhere to shop, play and meet their daily needs.

But what about all the apartments in Parker?
Residential growth is a conversation that is happening across Parker at dinner parties and coffee meetings, specifically apartments. Our Town Master Plan calls for a housing spectrum of 80 percent single family homes and 20 percent multi-family (apartments, condos, and townhomes). Right now, Parker is at about 82 percent single family homes and 18 percent multi-family. If every apartment complex under construction, approved for construction and contemplated for construction was immediately built we would be at about 80.5 percent single family homes and 19.5 percent multi-family.  Offering a spectrum of housing is important to the long term vitality and stability of any community, including Parker. A variety of housing options allows our residents to stay in Parker as they may have different housing needs at different points in their lives.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. My goal for this positing is simple, to educate and provide facts. Do you have additional questions about growth? You may send them to Town Digital Marketing Coordinator Ryne Dittmer at and we will be happy to answer them.

Mike Waid was re-elected as Parker's Mayor in November of 2016 and his current term will run through November 2020.