Land planner foresees Grand Valley growth

Jeffery Fleming owns Colorado Land Advisor, a development, engineering and planning consulting firm with offices in Grand Junction. Fleming foresees continued growth in the Grand Valley with residential and business development as well as mixed-used projects combining the two. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Jeffery Fleming owns Colorado Land Advisor, a development, engineering and planning consulting firm with offices in Grand Junction. Fleming foresees continued growth in the Grand Valley with residential and business development as well as mixed-used projects combining the two. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

In serving clients with land development projects, Jeffery Fleming enjoys in one sense the ability to foresee the future in the Grand Valley.

What Fleming said he foresees is continued growth for at least the next two to three years. “Right now, things are going really well.”

That includes residential and business development as well as mixed-used projects combining the two.

Even as Fleming dispels what he calls urban myths that development brings increased traffic and crime along with overcrowding in schools, he favors higher density development over sprawling, low-density developments he considers unsustainable.

Fleming owns Colorado Land Advisors, a land development, civil engineering and urban planning consulting firm with offices in Grand Junction and Breckenridge. The firm employs seven people and offers a range of services related to land use planning and engineering.

The goal, Fleming said, is to help clients make the best use and most money out of their properties and projects.

Sometimes that involves turning constraints into assets, he said. He cited as an example a residential development on property featuring a natural drainage. Rather than cover that drainage, the project leaves the natural attributes intact and adds an adjacent walking trail. The result not only attracts wildlife, but also adds value to the lots, he said.

While the span varies with each project, the time from conception to design to government approval to construction can extend for years, Fleming said. Projects started two or three years ago are only now coming on the market. Similarly, projects in which the firm is now involved won’t be ready for construction for another year or two.

Generally speaking, business for Colorado Land Advisor has increased four fold over the past two years, Fleming said. Projects on which the firm has worked will bring a total of 186 single and multifamily lots to the market in 2018. More than 150 lots are already on the books to be delivered in 2019.

The trend portends continued growth for the next two to three years, Fleming said. The construction of the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas export terminal in Oregon and pipelines connecting Western Colorado supplies with Asian markets could affect the outlook, he said. So could the relocation of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management headquarters to Grand Junction.

Fleming attributed growth to what he sees as a combination of factors, among them a move diversified economy less dependent on the cyclical energy industry, the growth of Colorado Mesa University, pent-up demand, an attractive lifestyle and comparatively higher housing prices in Denver. Moreover, people who grew up in Western Colorado are moving back to the region, he said.

While some perceive that growth creates problems, Fleming said urban planners dispel urban myths. Some of the more commonly held myths involve concerns that development lowers property values in surrounding areas, creates more traffic and crime and burdens schools.

Fleming said development tends to increase the value of neighboring property and good planning and design improves traffic. Crime rates are usually lower in areas with higher populations in part because of the likelihood of more witnesses, he said. Because of the fact people are having fewer children, student populations likely will decline.

Still, growth could create problems in the Grand Valley if sprawling, low-density development continues to occur, Fleming said. That type of approach is unsustainable, he said, given the limited amount of land available and the higher costs associated with providing infrastructure and other services to growing areas populated by smaller populations to pay for them. That’s not to mention the effects of sprawling growth on vineyards, orchards and other agricultural operations in the Grand Valley.

The better approach, he said, is to keep development within city boundaries and take advantage of opportunities for infill development. “Keep the city in the city.”

Mixed-use development offers one of the most efficient uses of land, Fleming said, in combining residential and business development in one location.

One mixed-use project in which Colorado Land Advisors has been involved will combine condominiums, restaurants and retail outlets in a multi-story building proposed for a site near Fourth Street and Rood Avenue in downtown Grand Junction, Fleming said.

Such projects enable people to live, work and play in one area while concentrating required services and the tax base, he said. “Mixed use is really great. I’d love to do more of those kinds of projects.”

In serving clients with land development projects, Fleming said he hopes his firm can play a role in accommodating the coming growth in the Grand Valley and Western Colorado — and building better cities in the process.

Colorado Land Advisor operates offices at 300 Main St., Suite 308, in Grand Junction. For additional information, call 812-3288 or visit https://ColoradoLandAdvisor.com.