Severance looks to the future as record-setting growth comes to town |

Severance looks to the future as record-setting growth comes to town

Emily Wenger

Carlene Irion moved to Severance with her husband, Brad, 25 years ago because they wanted to raise their daughters surrounded by open fields.

They wanted their girls to help them care for chickens and pigs and learn the same responsibility Carlene remembers from growing up on a farm.

Severance seemed to be the perfect place for that.

It was a town of less than 200 residents, according to the Colorado State Demography Office, and Carlene could tick off the number of businesses in town on one hand when she moved in. There was Bruce's Bar, famous for its Rocky Mountain Oysters, a liquor store, the corner gas station — Ed's place — and a hair salon. Otherwise, it was all open fields, she said.

All that's changed. Severance exploded in the early 2000s, when the population first hit 1,000. Though growth slowed nearly to a halt during the Great Recession, it started picking up again in 2014. It's in another boom period now. This past year, a record number of homes joined the quiet town.

In 2016, the town's planning department saw 70 new homes. But in 2017, 255 homes sprouted up — more than tripling in one year.

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Perhaps the biggest sign the town is now much more than the fields where the Irions wanted to raise animals is the fact the Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District broke ground this week on the town's first high school, Severance High School.

At the groundbreaking ceremony Monday night, Carlene Irion pointed to the south, where her home sat about 2 miles down the road. Then she looked around the future site of Severance High School already crawling with construction equipment.

"Never in a million years would we have dreamed this was all going to be transforming into a school," she said.

People still come to Severance for the quiet, small-town feel, but it's not the same town the Irions moved to 25 years ago.

But they don't mind. Carlene Irion is a former Windsor-Severance school board member and her husband recently took her place on the board. They're proud of the way their town has grown and of the school district's work to keep up.

The homes remain cheaper than those in communities such as Windsor or Fort Collins, and many want the chance to be a part of something just starting to become great.

Jakob and Rebecca Sutton were one couple who wanted to join the quickly growing town This past year. Jakob said the two lived in a Fort Collins town home, but if they moved to Severance, they could have their own house.

They chose Severance for the low price of the property, Jakob said, but also because they were excited to be part of the quickly developing town. He's a big part of it, as he works for the town's planning department.

As requests for building permits continue to pour in, Jakob said he and Rebecca look forward to gaining new neighbors and to watching the quiet town evolve.

The growth shouldn't die down anytime soon. Though Assistant Town Manager Nicholas Wharton said he doesn't expect another percentage jump of the magnitude seen in 2017, he does expect the number of building permits to be similar in 2018.

It means the town will need to provide services for all those people living in those homes. Severance previously has relied on the Weld County Sheriff's Department, but the town will add its own police department this year. It will continue to use the sheriff, as the department staff will likely be a chief and one officer by the end of this year.

The Public Works Department also needs to expand, Wharton said, and a new building has been planned to house additional employees and equipment.

The department oversees all water, sewer, streets and parks, Wharton said. With so many new homes, the town has added miles of roads, sewer and water lines along with new parks, he said.

"To ensure we cover this growth, there will be additional employees needed to maintain these parks, allow for road maintenance from patching to plowing and general upkeep," he said.

The new building will give staff a place to plan and store the equipment such as the snow plows that continuously add to their list of roads to clear. Those plows are sometimes left out in the cold because the department doesn't have enough storage space.

The police department likely will be housed in the current public works building, the old Windsor Severance Fire Rescue station, which will be remodeled after public works makes its move.

Wharton also hopes the rapid growth of the town will bring opportunities for economic development, both to raise sales taxes and help keep residents from having to make the trip into Windsor for goods and services. When a Severance resident is asked about what they need, the phrase, "A grocery store would be nice" often comes up in conversation, and Wharton said the town is working to get one.

To help attract those resources, Michael Jenner, previously in the town's permitting department, has been named community development director.

"We're getting to the point with our population where commercial projects will be needed to ensure the long-term economic health of the area," Jenner said.

Families often have to leave Severance to buy goods because there just isn't much available. That means Severance continues to miss out on money that helps pay for services, such as sales taxes.

With children spending more time in the town due to the presence of Range View Elementary School and, soon, the new high school, Jenner said town offiicials also hope to provide more opportunities for families to spend time in their own town rather than watching them leave for places such as Windsor for something to do. They will expand Severance Days, the town's biggest festival of the year, add a new community park and look into providing more community events, Jenner said.

When Windsor-Severance Re-4 School Board President Tempy Bowman spoke at Monday night's groundbreaking ceremony along Weld 23, just south of Weld 74, he imagined the excitement of Friday night football.

Severance Mayor Don Brookshire also hopes the new high school — set for completion by the 2019-20 school year — will bring the community that prizes its kinship with neighbors even closer together. The town has more than quadrupled in size in Brookshire's 15 years of living in town, but friendliness and a sense of community is one thing he said hasn't changed with the growth.

He hopes the town will hold on to that sense of community, and said the new high school will help strengthen that feeling for residents.

Although Carlene has watched Severance grow to its more than 4,000 residents from the 200 who lived there when she first moved, she said she sees it as a good thing. It will bring opportunities to the town, she said, and she has enjoyed meeting new neighbors.

From the site of the future Severance High School, she smiled at the new homes visible just a short distance away and said she is excited to see what lies ahead for the booming town.

"I think the community out here is wonderful, and we're just blessed, we feel, to have made that purchase so many years ago," she said.

Learn more

The town of Severance continues to experience rapid growth. To learn more about the town and upcoming projects, go to