Aurora OKs controversial Providence housing project for disabled homeless

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AURORA | The Providence at the Heights housing project for people with disabilities experiencing homelessness got a second chance, and approval, Monday night in front of Aurora City Council.  

After hours of testimony inside a packed city council chambers, the measure was passed on a 6-5 vote, with council members Allison Hiltz, Nicole Johnston, Angela Lawson, Crystal Murillo, Johny Watson and mayor Bob LeGare in favor of the project.

Council members Bob Roth, Charlie Richardson, Marsha Berzins, Francoise Bergan and Dave Gruber voted against approving the project’s site plan.

The site plan for the project at 15602 E. Alameda Parkway, was brought to city council members after it was defeated by the Aurora Planning and Zoning Commission in July. Commissioners denied the plan in a 6-0 vote, citing a parking issue and limited lot frontage.

Some proponents who testified at the meeting Monday said they believed the planning commission’s decision was based on more than the site plan itself. They cited comments made from planning commissioners, including Dana Jackiewicz who said the church involved in the project should look at providing services like homework clubs or after-school facilities as opposed to the housing project.

Berzins said among her decision to vote no on the measure was the “lesson” the city learned during the Aurora theater shooting of how important it is to have enough room for emergency vehicles to get in and out of a high-density area.

”We’ve received letters from all over the state to support Second Chance, but it’s not about Second Chance,” she said, later addressing the group leading the effort on the housing, “You do wonderful work… I have no problem with the work that you do.”

LeGare said his support came from what the council was deciding on: the site plan itself. LeGare said a parking agreement convinced him the project should be approved. 

The apartment building is slated to house 50 apartments, most of those one-bedroom units, in a three-story building, directly behind the Elevation Christian Church, near Tollgate Creek. The church is selling the land to the project.  

Originally, the space was to be strictly for Second Chance Center clients, who are transitioning out of prison. But as funding grew, that changed to allow for people experiencing homelessness who are disabled. 

Second Chance Center will not choose who is placed in the apartments. 

Residents near where the proposed apartment building would be say they’ve been given mixed information about the project. 

Many told city council members they didn’t oppose the project itself, but they didn’t like the location so close to their homes. Some opponents cited concerns about potential crime the housing would attract, the site itself and concerns about the management company.

Proponents of the measure have balked at allegations that projects like these are magnets for crime.

Council members said the only issues they were considering in their decision was the site plan and related waivers — the parking and lot frontage.

Tenants of the proposed apartment building would have to meet an income requirement, at or below 30 percent of median income. Services from Aurora Mental Health, Second Chance and various other agencies would be available for the residents. But it wouldn’t be required, Hassan Latif, executive director of the Second Chance Center, told the Sentinel earlier this month.