Next time you are sitting at a stoplight, take a second to analyze your surroundings. Take a look at the bus-stop bench, newspaper stands, street sign design, and placement of businesses — look at everything you see. All of these tiny details help establish the character of a city. Most people never stop to think about it, but somebody is tasked with determining what appropriate and acceptable development for the city is. In any typical city, that person is the city/urban planner and his/her team. They help determine appropriate architecture, design, and historical preservation, while keeping public, economic and political interests in mind.

I live in Highlands Ranch, a 31-year-old, planned-development community southwest of Denver. Contrary to popular belief, Highlands Ranch is not a city. It is considered "unincorporated Douglas County". For those of you that have been to "the Ranch", you know that it has a very specific look and feel. The community covenant, the Highlands Ranch Community Association (HRCA), places guidelines on house decoration/design, fencing, landscaping, etc.

Community covenants are not for everyone, but I take solace in the fact that my neighbors can't paint their home purple with pink polka dots. They can't plant a line of trees that will block the beautiful open space views for the rest of the neighborhood. They can't do crazy things that would detract from the value of nearby homes. What they can do, is maintain their home and yard and make tasteful upgrades and changes. They can utilize four recreation centers containing 329,000 sq.ft of facilities, hike and bike on miles of trails, admire the 8,200 acres of Backcountry, and take advantage of the hundreds of community and recreational events.

When I found out I was pregnant, Seth and I knew Highlands Ranch would be the perfect place to raise our son. We have loved every minute of it, and after a year, I decided I needed to become more involved in my community. This is where the city/urban planner piece comes into play. After doing some research, I found out that the Highlands Ranch Development Review Committee had an opening. This committee reviews subdivision plans, building colors and architectural design, pedestrian flow and a handful of other items that impact the overall character and functionality of the community. It is the equivalent of a city planning committee that "normal" cities employ.

The committee reports to the HRCA Board of Directors who reports to Douglas County. As far back as I can remember, I have always been involved in my community, and I knew this would be the perfect opportunity for me to continue my community service. After interviewing with the head of the committee and several other folks from the HRCA, I was officially appointed by the Board of Directors at their monthly meeting this past Tuesday. I am very excited to be a part of the Highlands Ranch "City Planning" team!

If a move on the housing front is one of your resolutions in the New Year, please don't hesitate to contact me for help in making it happen!

Nicole Nulton
New Era Realty

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