Copperleaf Community Lauded As Model For Smart Growth

In local planning conferences and workshops, including the most recent held by the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute, the Copperleaf community at E-470 and Quincy is touted over and over again as the example for smart growth. The developers of Copperleaf, South Quincy Residential Developers, Inc. had many successful communities under their belt. At Copperleaf, they wanted it to be special as it was the last large undeveloped parcel of land in unincorporated Arapahoe County, west of E-470. There is a total of 850 acres at Copperleaf.

Unbeknownst to the majority of the population is the lengthy amount of time that goes into planning a master-planned community. With the current trend towards a healthier, more active lifestyle, developers are seeking ways to incorporate more recreation into their communities. In the past, the inclusion of walking trails and perhaps a neighborhood park into a new home community was not always the case. More attention was paid towards higher density and getting the most profit from lot sales.

In a rare move, Copperleaf’s start was delayed so input could be gathered with the help of Norris Design, an acclaimed local land planning firm, from many public sectors –Arapahoe County, Tri-County Health Department, as well as the Cunningham Fire District, Arapahoe Parks and Recreation District, East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Cherry Creek School District.

Ron Hovland, Arapahoe County’s Planning Project Manager states, “We wanted Copperleaf to be a model for smart growth based on a plan created years ago by former Governor Romer. In order to get the design right, Romer’s plan called for early input from all parties. Hovland explains, “At the beginning of the process, goals from each sector were written down and gathered in what is termed a “design charrette.” At the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris back in the pre-1900’s, architectural students were requested to place their drawings in a charrette, or cart for review.” This same centuries-old exercise was utilized for Copperleaf’s overall plan. During the planning, when disagreements arose between the entities, the original goals were revisited over and over again.

Over a year and a half was spent behind the scenes in informal, non-traditional meetings to collect each agency’s goals for the community. In addition, over 25 meetings were held with communities neighboring Copperleaf. At one meeting that stands out in the minds of both Copperleaf president, Richard Frank, and project manager, Stephen Prokopiak, a woman spoke out about the lack of parks in her own community. This struck a chord with both Frank and Prokopiak. Because of her statement, they went far beyond the local land requirements and set aside an area for a larger than normal park as well as other recreational opportunities for Copperleaf’s residents.

This goal was endorsed by Tri-County Health. Serving Arapahoe, Douglas, and Adams Counties, Tri-County Health’s goal is to create a healthier overall environment for children. “At Copperleaf, children never have to cross a major thoroughfare to get to a park, points out Carol Maclennan, Environmental Health Policy Coordinator for Tri-County Health.

At Copperleaf, over 100 acres have been set aside for 10 neighborhood parks, over 10 miles of trails that connect to neighboring communities, preservation of wetlands, several new Cherry Creek school sites, sports fields, and a recreation complex that includes a competition-sized swimming pool, children’s pool with splash garden complete with water toys, and clubhouse for homeowners. Mixed land uses including retail centers were also incorporated into Copperleaf’s overall plan so residents don’t have to leave the area to go shopping.

To control traffic, roundabouts were incorporated into the plan, eliminating the need for stop lights at key intersections within Copperleaf. For additional safety, bike paths have been removed from streets with 10’ treed lawns. Prokopiak comments, “Bike paths are now placed adjacent to streets and are extra wide, 8’ – 10’, to allow plenty of room for multiple riders.”

Principal and partner of Norris Design, Diana Rael, commented, “The process paid off. We were able to create a community where all respective goals were met. It was a total learning process for everyone involved and embraced a new way of thinking for land planning.” Rael has been the speaker at the 3rd Annual Colorado Livable Communities, and the 5th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, as well as a well-respected author on articles relating to smart growth.

All agree it was the willingness and commitment from Copperleaf’s developer that makes this community unique. The trio of Rael, Maclennan, and Hovland have all been facilitators at numerous conferences and workshops on designing livable, healthy, and safe communities. At these conferences, Copperleaf is touted for successfully integrating ideas from a variety of sectors into the community design criteria for smart growth. Maclennan concludes, “At Copperleaf, the interests converged for the benefit of everyone, especially the consumer.”