Home Sweet Clone

Twenty-year-old Highlands Ranch has grown into a mega-planned community of mythic proportions.

(Santangelo, the covenant cop, says her offices receives about ten neighbor-narcs per day).

Stevens argues that the covenants once permitted sculptures up to five feet high. The restrictions have since been lowered to three feet. Thus far, Stevens has successfully haggled the architectural committee to allow two of her five statues. But for Stevens, that's not good enough.

"I suppose some of them could come inside, but they're not going to," she says. "I will be happy to bring my sculptures inside when all of the jungle gyms have to come down. I think that's fair. Our five sculptures together do not total a fraction of one of those jungle gyms -- and without all the noise."

Stevens's covenant battle is an unusual case. Her fight isn't about the legality of a fence or weeds or parked boat. It's about art. And in a sense, both sides are right: Stevens should be allowed to have her sculptures, but the HRCA is also correct to target them. They are alien here. There's nothing Highlands Ranch about them.

"I've got the time, the energy and the money to fight this," Stevens says. "And I totally intend to."

Reporter

Tamra Monahan is a bit apprehensive as she slides into a booth at Dewey's American Grill. She's meeting a reporter for a story about Highlands Ranch. And she is a reporter who writes stories about Highlands Ranch. And, well...wait. Let's back up.

Monahan is the only full-time reporter for the Highlands Ranch Herald, a free weekly community newspaper distributed to HR residences. She has lived in Highlands Ranch for ten years and has exclusively covered the community for nearly two. She has the delicate task of objectively reporting on an image-conscious community.

How Monahan came to Highlands Ranch is a prototypical suburban-family story. She and her husband once lived in Washington Park. They walked everywhere, loved downtown culture. Then came kids -- one, two -- and downtown life suddenly seemed less appealing. Their house and yard were too small. There was crime in their neighborhood. The nearby schools were okay, but couldn't they find better?

The Monahans, married with children, hit the Great Priority Shift.

They believed the safest community, best housing prices and -- most important -- the best schools were in Highlands Ranch.

In reality, most Highlands Ranch schools are given an academic performance ranking of "high" in the Colorado School Accountabilty Reports. On average, their scores are far superior to those of schools in metro Denver, yet there are several elementary, middle and high schools in south suburban communities that outrank their Highlands Ranch counterparts. For example, the two HR high schools -- Thunderridge and Highlands Ranch -- are ranked "high," while nearby Heritage, Arapahoe and Cherry Creek high schools are ranked "excellent." So Highlands Ranch does have justifiable bragging rights about its schools, as long as it doesn't brag too close to home.

Monahan, however, has no complaints about the schools or her community, though she does admit to taking her kids on what she calls "urban trips" to avoid the Highlands Ranch weekday rut of Starbucks/work/recreation center/Olive Garden/Blockbuster/home. She doesn't make the trips for anything specific, but for something intangible.

"When living here, you have the tendency to feel disconnected," Monahan says. "It's very easy to stay out here. You've got your restaurants and movie theaters...but there's a difference. There's a difference going to Park Meadows and going to dinner -- which is good -- then hopping on the light rail, going down to Denver and walking around Larimer Square."

In particular, Monahan misses walking to Washington Park. Her oldest son still talks about seeing the ducks. "There are parks here, but it's not quite the same as an older, established park, with trees and a real history," she says.

When asked how Highlands Ranch has changed over the years, Monahan says the sense of community has decreased a bit. "The people who bought the original houses in Highlands Ranch were the only ones out here," she says. "There was a real pioneering sense."

For Monahan, her perception of Highlands Ranch also shifted once the community became her beat. She is sometimes amused by architectural bickering and corporations that insist on adoption of their PR euphemisms, such as the Park Meadows Town Center, the Aspen Grove Lifestyle Center.

"Stuff like that kinda cracks me up," she says. "If it's a shopping mall, I'm going to call it a shopping mall."

And then there are the police reports.

"I always knew there was domestic violence and that kind of stuff," she says, "but to actually read about it, and to see that it's two streets away from where you live, or see a name that you recognize..."

An HRCA representative says the most common crimes in Highlands Ranch are traffic violations. That may be true in terms of quantity, but Sergeant Moore says the biggest crime concerns in the community are teen-nuisance crimes, property theft and domestic violence. The teen crimes -- vandalism, petty theft -- are expected, as "the area is so densely populated, yet primarily made up of residential homes." Robbery, he says, is a result of residents overestimating their security: Residents leave their cars unlocked on the street or their garage doors open, then get surprised when they are robbed.

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