Development Watch

Aurora annexation near Arapahoe and Parker roads denied

Plan for multi-family residential on golf course fails at Aurora City Council

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As is typical in the Denver metro area, some Aurora city councilmembers wanted to allow dense, multi-family residential buildings near the intersection of two high-traffic roadways.

But this time, the development would have been built on top of a golf course.

The possible complex of apartments and townhomes would have been built on Valley Country Club land, just northwest of East Arapahoe and South Parker roads — next to a handful of homes built along the golf course.

Marcus Pachner, representing the proposed project, emphasized that developers wanted to work to mitigate the impacts to the homeowners.

“What is difficult about is this is the transition of Arapahoe Road,” Pachner said at the Sept. 23 Aurora City Council meeting. “We still are on Arapahoe Road. We are following the guiding principles that say that apartments against single-family homes is not a new situation.”

'These are regional issues'

The controversial proposal arrived on a peculiar part of the south Denver metro area's map, where two corners of a major highway interchange are large shopping centers in Aurora city boundaries, one corner is part of the small town of Foxfield and one corner is a shopping center in Centennial city limits.

Just west of that last shopping center sits the country club golf course, with large-lot homes built in between. Because the country club land is unincorporated — not within a city — Aurora would have needed to annex it, or bring it into its boundaries, to allow for the development.

The process to annex and approve the development needed a supermajority of at least seven votes on the 10-member council. It was denied that night on a vote of six in favor and four against. The council had a chance to take another vote Oct. 7, but it did not reconsider the issue, so the earlier vote stood.

Country club representatives initially met with Arapahoe County officials in 2017 about the possibility of commercial and multi-family residential buildings at the golf course, according to Bryan D. Weimer, director of the county's Public Works and Development Department. But because the site is in Centennial Airport’s Buffer Zone, which would not allow for residential development under the county's rules, the project could only proceed under a different jurisdiction.

After annexation talks in 2018 broke down between the country club, the developer and Centennial, the country club approached Aurora for annexation.

The development's proponents pointed to the need to keep the club solvent and able to provide services to its members, according to a summary of the issue by Aurora city staff. Apartments also could support the nearby shopping centers and provide tax revenue to Aurora, supporters said.

More than 60 comments were received from area landowners and residents after a notice went out about the proposal, according to the Aurora staff summary, and the response was decidedly negative. Commenters feared a drop in property values, the loss of the view of the golf course and added traffic on Arapahoe Road.

Aurora Councilmember Nicole Johnston, who opposed the project, voiced support for area residents at the council meeting.

“Even though you are not my constituents, even though a lot of you are not residents of Aurora, these are regional issues,” Johnston said. “Open space is a regional issue, an environmental issue.”

'Dramatic change'

The project would have required a change to Aurora's comprehensive plan, which envisioned the land — just north of Arapahoe Road and South Chambers Way — as remaining a “green space” area. Comprehensive plans can affect a city's priorities for development, parks and open space, and transportation.

Developers wanted Aurora to reclassify the land under mixed-use zoning that could have allowed for commercial buildings, and Centennial officials opposed that mix. Zoning is a city's rules for what can be built where.

If Aurora had approved the project, buildings could have been up to 38 feet tall for the first 75 feet away from the adjacent property line, or in this case, the home properties, which sit in a neighborhood called Valley Club Acres. Farther away than that, a building could “step up” to a 75-foot limit, according to Heather Lamboy, Aurora's planning supervisor.

Area residents also expressed concern about the effect a potential development would have on flooding to nearby homes.

“A drainage report would be required for any development, and it is required that the development not have adverse impact on surrounding properties from a drainage standpoint,” Lamboy said.

Centennial shared its concerns with Aurora, said Stephanie Piko, Centennial mayor.

“The concerns reiterate the city's desire to maintain the quality of life Centennial citizens have become accustomed to living adjacent to a golf course,” Piko said in a statement. “Building heights and density can dramatically change the area.”

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