Olathe: Planning for growth, counting on corn

Cottonwood Cellars named for the giant cottonwoods at the vineyard, is Olathe’s oldest winery. Owners Diana and Keith Reed grow seven different varieties of grapes, and are especially pleased with the quality of their lemberger and pinot noir.

A cropduster flies over corn fields near Olathe.(Photos by Penny Stine/Real Estate Weekly

Olathe hardware has a little bit of everything in its three downtown storefronts, whether you need plow blades or paint chips.

If the potato grower’s co-op, the corn festival and the irrigated fields surrounding the town don’t make it abundantly clear that Olathe is a farm town, perhaps a visit to the local hardware store will. At Olathe True Value Hardware, you won’t just find water heaters and paint, but horseshoes and plow shares, too.

“We’ve got a motto” says owner Paul Gottlieb, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” Gottlieb’s motto isn’t an idle boast. In addition to hardware and farm implements, shoppers who visit his store will find clocks, coffee makers and kitchen cabinets, even sewing materials and children’s books. They’ll also find someone with expertise to answer their questions or repair their lawnmower motor. Gottlieb has owned the store for 28 years, and has expanded into three downtown storefronts. He’s a man who believes in the future of Olathe.

“I always say if you’ve never been to Olathe, then you’ve been culturally deprived,” Gottlieb says.

The town of Olathe gives everyone an opportunity to visit Olathe during the annual Corn Festival, held this year on Aug. 4. Last year, more than 18,000 attendees came for the event, which includes all the sweet corn you can eat, a parade, booths, games, live music and fireworks.

This year, Olathe is expecting to top that, especially since country music star LeAnn Rimes will be the featured artist for the concert at 9:00 p.m. “That’s pretty big entertainment for this little tiny town,” says Bobbi Sales, the festival director.

The newly reorganized chamber of commerce is attempting to draw more people to the town of Olathe with the Olathe Colorado Wine and Harvest Festival in September. Like the Colorado Mountain Wine Festival in Palisade, the festival will feature wine tasting from Colorado vineyards on both sides of the mountains. The festival will also feature a large farmers’ market showcasing agricultural products grown in the Uncompahgre Valley. Depending on the weather, there will be corn, squash, pumpkins, apples, peaches, roasted peppers, even beef jerky. Tickets for the festival, which will be held on Sept. 29, are $15 in advance and $17 tickets at the gate.

Although citizens are in agreement and committed to keeping agriculture the engine that drives Olathe’s economy, the town is also trying to manage and encourage growth. As Montrose and Delta real estate gets more expensive, those who don’t mind commuting are taking another look at Olathe, especially for small acreage sites. Although the west side of town used to be the more desirable area for gentlemen farmers, according to long-time Olathe realtor Carl Bollinger, prices and homes on the east side of Highway 50 are beginning to catch up.

According to most experts, there are no typical homes in Olathe. There are 100-year-old homes in town, brand-new estates outside of town, old farmhouses, small ramblers and everything in between.

There is an annexation proposal currently in the works for Escalante Creek, a 200-acre parcel of land on the northeast side of town. Although the area is within the sewer district, it will have to be annexed into the city of Olathe in order to extend sewer lines and provide the infrastructure necessary for the new development. Included in the proposal are 486 single-family home sites, 140 patio homes and 14 acres of parks and open space.

“It will be done in phases, so the town will have time to grow services,” says Olathe Finance Director Pamela Woods.

Another proposal currently under consideration is Coal Creek Valley Estates at Ida and 5800 Road, an 82-acre parcel outside the sewer district. Since those home sites will be on septic systems, the proposal calls for 27 three-acre lots.

Although the area is gearing itself up for change and growth, some local landmarks will stay the same. There has been a restaurant at Third and Main Street since the late 1800’s. The Busy Corner White Kitchen has occupied the building since the late 60’s and is the unofficial local gathering place.

Interns from the University of Colorado at Denver have been assisting the town of Olathe with planning and growth. Students have taken photos and made presentations at the last board meeting. They will also man a booth at the sweet corn festival in an effort to generate more community involvement in the planning process for Olathe and the surrounding area.

Although Olathe did get its first traffic light in town recently, there’s no fear that the town will become a bedroom community with big-box stores, fast-food chains and a coffee shop on every other corner. Farming is too important to the community and too vital to the economy to embrace growth at all costs.


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