Plan to turn old Aurora mobile home park into tony light-rail station project stalls

770

AURORA | Without discussion from the developer or the dozens of residents assembled in protest, Aurora City Council tabled a controversial rezoning measure Monday night that sought to ultimately turn a mobile home park into a trendy light-rail station development.

But even without that input, council members were terse with city staff over concerns that planners did not do enough to educate the residents of the Denver Meadows Mobile Home Park near Tollgate Creek and that no site plan was available.

Developers are seeking to rezone the decades-old mobile home community so they can raze it and create a so-called transit-oriented development in it’s place. The soon-to-open East Line of RTD’s regional light-rail project, now dubbed the R-Line, is adjacent to the mobile home park.

The vote to table the measure passed 8-3, with Ward I Councilwoman Sally Mounier, Ward V Councilman Bob Roth and At-Large Councilman Bob LeGare opposed.

Prior to the vote, both Ward II Councilwoman Renie Peterson and At-Large Councilwoman Angela Lawson aimed critical questions at city planner Stephen Rodriguez for what they saw as a failure to engage the residents of The Meadows, dozens of whom were in attendance.

“I have a problem with your impacting people’s lives,” Lawson said. “I just find that the voice of the people who live there … their voices should be heard.”

Peterson, whose ward includes the Morris Heights neighborhood, said that there’s already a growing traffic issue, eliciting a large round of applause.

“There are construction trucks, Aurora Water trucks, racing through the neighborhood,” Peterson said, chiding Rodriguez earlier for what she said was a “poor job” after claiming city staff did not address all concerns at an earlier planning commission meeting.

Aurora planning manager Mindy Parnes interjected in defense of Rodriguez, saying that staff stayed through the entire meeting and answered all questions.

Rodriguez further explained that the rezoning applicant told the city that they did not wish for staff assistance with subsequent meetings to be held with residents after the planning commission meeting.

The question of what kind of assistance would be made available to the Meadows residents for relocation was also raised. The Department of Housing and Urban Development requires relocation assistance to be given for developments utilizing federal funds. The Aurora Urban Renewal Authority has programs to provide relocation services in redevelopment areas, but the Meadows mobile home park is not within any of the urban renewal areas related to the nearby Fitzsimons redevelopment.

Perhaps sensing the potential for the hearing to extend well into the evening, Ward IV Councilman Charlie Richardson raised the possibility of simply tabling the issue.

“I’m going to give the developer some assistance tonight by trying to table this until we get the developer’s head out of the ground,” Richardson said. “And I could use another place where the head might be, but I’m going to say ‘out of the ground’ because there are some kids here tonight.

“I for one do not want to see this again until there’s a site plan,” Richardson continued. “Because I’m not going to support a rezoning in this instance without a site plan, and so you can pass that on to the developer.”

As Mayor Steve Hogan sought a motion to initiate the tabling process, he quickly shot down the prospect of the applicant speaking before the tabling of the issue.

“I understand the applicant is here. If this item’s going to be tabled, it’s not going to do the applicant any good to speak,” Hogan said. “I think we need to address the tabling issue … we need a motion.”

Councilman LeGare sounded a word of procedural caution at council’s impending actions.

“I don’t know how I would vote on the actual approval of the zoning at this point, but I do know that I cannot support tabling this issue in the middle of a public hearing, which is what we’re doing right this moment, it does not solve the problem for anybody in this room that is here and maybe displaced,” LeGare said. “And it does not give them any certainty. All it does is it delays the process … Tabling it is just a punt, and we already had one deliberative body that decided to punt on this.”

Mayor Hogan attempted to defuse the trepidation raised by LeGare by reframing Richardson’s intent to table.

“There are far too many unanswered questions and … there may well not have been sufficient opportunity for those who are most impacted to understand what approval will mean for them long-term,” Hogan said.

At-Large Councilwoman Barbara Cleland sought to put the contentious proceedings into perspective just before the tabling was approved.

“My hope is that there can be some kind of agreement in working together and finding out how long people have known that this rezoning was going to happen,” Cleland said, “and also letting the people there know how long it’s going to be before any development and how long before they’d have to be out of their residents.”

Council recessed briefly after the vote before continuing with the agenda, at which time the dozens of residents opposing the rezoning gathered outside council chambers and celebrated the temporary reprieve from any further action on the rezoning.

IN OTHER BUSINESS:

  • A measure seeking a charter amendment vote to amend probationary periods for new police officers was tabled as council members debated the merits of putting the question on a special municipal election in the spring versus this November’s general election. Council members particularly were concerned that tabling the measure would not allow them to reconsider it in time to possibly add the question to the November ballot. The motion to table passed 6-5, with council members Berzins, Cleland, Bergan, Roth and Peterson opposed.