For the 2023 Lone Tree State of the City, which brought together community members and elected officials from across the south Denver metro area, Mayor Jackie Millet shared the recipe to the city’s success.
“Our secret sauce is actually very, very simple,” Millet said to the crowd gathered in the Lone Tree Arts Center auditorium. “It’s people, passion and partnerships. And each of you here, today, plays a special role in that recipe.”
Lone Tree has more jobs than it does residents, with a population of 15,000 and an estimated 20,000 jobs, she said. The city’s 2023 budget predicts an income of roughly $66 million, with the tax revenue accounting for about 70.7% of the income.
The city has $68 million in budgeted expenses for 2023, with 76% of expenditures dedicated to public safety and infrastructure investments, Millet said.
“I previously mentioned our low (sales) tax rate. Well, great news — it’s getting even lower,” Millet said.
In December of this year, the city will have paid off its arts center and recreation bonds, so the city’s sales tax will drop from the current 2.8125% to 2.5%.
‘In the midst of a housing crisis’
There are 26 residential neighborhoods in Lone Tree, Millet said, and the average cost of a detached single-family home is “a staggering 1.25 million, which sounds great, but it also has some drawbacks.”
“In Colorado, we used to say we’re facing a housing crisis. I would suggest we’re in the midst of a housing crisis, and increasing the supply of housing is one of the ways that we can deal with that,” she said.
In 2022, Lone Tree saw the completion of the final two single-family neighborhoods on the west side of Interstate 25, she said.
“And we saw the beginnings of our first single-family residential development coming up vertically on the east side of I-25. That is the Lyric development by Shea Properties, and eventually that will build out until about 2,200 homes in our Southwest Village,” Millet said.
Models are expected to be open to tour this spring, she said.
“And the good news is we are told those housing prices are going to come in lower than our 1.25 million average price, so I actually think it’s a good thing to bring down the average home price a little. We appreciate the good work Shea is doing to help make that happen,” Millet said.
“The affordability of our housing is also extremely important to address and Lone Tree is very proud that we opened our first affordable housing project, the Talus development, at the RidgeGate light rail station just earlier this year,” she said.
Millet said she’s happy to announce that plans are in the works to add an affordable senior living project on the east side of I-25 along RidgeGate Parkway as well.
Other developments coming to the east side of I-25 include two other residential villages, as well as a mixed-use downtown city center area of over 400 acres, she said. Tall Tales Ranch, the nonprofit partner of the event, is working to build a ranch on the east side of I-25 to support people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“Clearly, the past, present and future of Lone Tree are in continual dialogue, and we want you to stay engaged and informed about the great things happening in our city,” Millet said.
Millet took time to recognize some of the people who she said are essential to Lone Tree’s success, such as her fellow council members, City Manager Seth Hoffman, Lone Tree police officers and other city staff and volunteers.
She also thanked elected officials from across the region who were in attendance at the event, including the three Douglas County Commissioners, Castle Rock Mayor Jason Gray and Centennial Mayor Stephanie Piko.
In recognition of the Lone Tree Police Department, Millet presented a short video showing some of the police officers and the work they do, including Chief of Police Kirk Wilson.
“Important initiatives that have expanded and come about in 2023 include the Lone Tree Community Response Team, our on-site crime prevention through environmental design assessments for businesses and residents, and periodic coffees with cop gatherings throughout the community,” Millet said.
Other important issues in 2023 include adding an officer to the Park Meadows Retail Resort unit, as well as adding two new patrol officers.
“It also allows the department to address mental health and homeless challenges and support the work of the Douglas County HEART team — homeless engagement, assistance and resource team,” she said. “Under Chief Wilson’s leadership, the city has developed a robust victims advocate program to address the needs of crime victims in our community.
“Lone Tree’s team spearheads the regional advocate crisis response team, which develops training and protocols for (a) regional response to large scale events,” she said.
There are 13 volunteers who help serve victims of trauma and crime in Lone Tree and the surrounding area, Millet said. The city has also added a facility therapy dog named Mikey who supports officer wellness and assists with victim interactions.
“Passion provides the soul in any recipe,” Millet said. “My grandmother’s cooking was embodied with passion, heart … and pride, and all of these ingredients can be found not only in our recreation and arts programs and amenities, but in the thriving businesses that call Lone Tree home.”
One of those businesses, she said, is Sky Ridge Medical Center, which was a sponsor of the event.
Kirk McCarty, the president and CEO of the medical center, spoke about how the medical center has evolved over the past 20 years and become an international hospital equipped with a robotic center and an International Center for Hip Preservation.
“There’s absolutely no way Sky Ridge becomes what Sky Ridge becomes if it wasn’t for the amazing leadership of the City of Lone Tree and the county commissioners of Douglas County,” McCarty said.
Since the medical center’s opening, Sky Ridge has had roughly 600,000 emergency room visits, 264,000 surgeries and delivered close to 60,000 babies, he said. In the robotic center, just in the last year, the center did 2,000 surgeries.
“Mayor Millet is someone that has the leadership skills that has done amazing things for Lone Tree. I think that without her, the things that have been accomplished both at Sky Ridge and all the other businesses in Lone Tree wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
Millet highlighted a variety of businesses in Lone Tree including shops at Park Meadows, local restaurants like Sazón which is a Mexican and Latin restaurant, and medical institutions like Cochlear Americas, which distributes cochlear implant and bone conduction hearing solutions that treat hearing loss.
Lone Tree’s entertainment district, located near C-470 and I-25, has begun its transformation, Millet said.
“We’re very excited about the redevelopment of the Mimi’s property into a bar restaurant concept — wait for that to come, soon,” she said, referring to Mimi's Cafe located at 9155 Park Meadows Drive that is permanently closed.
She noted city council and staff have spent a considerable amount of time working with the property owner of Treõ At Lone Tree, which has been vacant for more than a decade.
“Fingers crossed — I want to see every fingers crossed — that there are several interesting, really good things being considered for that right now,” she said as the crowd applauded.
On top of businesses, Millet said Lone Tree and Douglas County’s passion was illustrated last fall with the passage renewal of the Douglas County Open Space tax.
“For the first time in our history though, Lone Tree will receive a shareback of this funding to invest in park, trails and open space in our city. The most exciting new addition will be an 80-acre regional park serving Lone Tree and north central Douglas County,” Millet said. “We are extremely grateful and want to hear a huge round of applause to our Douglas County Commissioners who have indicated they plan to contribute $8 million to this new regional asset.”
“The final thing in Lone Tree’s secret sauce is partnership. Partnerships provide the fresh ingredients that give the je ne sais quoi to our secret sauce, bringing boldness and brightness to our community,” Millet said.
Lone Tree has a multitude of partner organizations it works with, such as the Southgate Water and Sanitation Districts, South Suburban Parks and Recreation, Denver South and South Metro Fire Rescue.
Partnerships with agencies like the Colorado Department of Transportation, Regional Transportation District and the Denver Regional Council of Governments have made many of the transportation projects in Lone Tree possible, she said.
Some of the city’s 2023 partner projects include the C-470 multi-modal trail grade separation at Yosemite, the C-470 Trail Bridge over Acres Green, a Southgate waterline replacement project along Yosemite Street, and the Advancing Lincoln Avenue project, which is set to have a public meeting March 14.
Millet encouraged attendees to download the city’s Link On Demand phone app so that they can access the free shuttle service.
“You can … use the app on your cell phone to get a car to come for free to you in the City of Lone Tree, and you can travel anywhere within the city,” she said.
Another partnership Millet highlighted was with the Douglas County School District.
“That partnership is growing and expanding with the opening of the Legacy Campus this fall. The Legacy Campus, which is going to be housed in the old wildlife experience, is partnering with post-secondary institutions and industry partners to offer career, technical and workforce training to county high school students,” Millet said. “Our secret sauce is reliant on a well-funded, high performing school district.”
Overall, Lone Tree is a community that is growing with a plan, Millet said. She noted the city is just beginning preparation of a new comprehensive plan that will guide future actions of the community.
“This initiative will also include an update to our land use code, establishing a vision for the city’s future for the next 10 plus years. We want Lone Tree residents and businesses to continue to be involved in these important decisions, so please stay tuned,” Millet said.
She recommended residents sign up for city updates at cityoflonetree.com/subscribe. The city also has a new tool called “TextMyGov” in which the city will send important information via text to residents who sign up.
“My grandmother taught me that we create recipes and secret sauces to honor and preserve the people, places and memories that we value and hold dear. Lone Tree’s secret sauce is just that — a perfect blend of people, passion and partnerships that comes together to create a premiere Colorado community connected by great neighborhoods, vibrant public spaces, a beautiful natural environment and thriving businesses,” Millet said.
“And while I may not have invented the recipe, it is my honor serving this community and partnering with you to deliver Lone Tree’s secret sauce.”