Aurora looks to add a Korean War Memorial as a UN World Heritage Site

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AURORA | Aurora residents could be seeing a war memorial dedicated to Korean veterans in the coming months, but many details are unsettled.

At an Aurora City Council study session Monday, council members moved forward a measure that would allow a Korean War Memorial to be located on yet-to-be-determined city property.

Colorado Freedom Memorial
The Colorado Freedom Memorial. City officials hope to create a United Nations Heritage Site honoring Korean War veterans modeled after how Aurora created the Freedom Memorial. Aurora Sentinel File Photo.

Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan, a strong proponent for the measure, said the memorial would honor those who served in the Korean War — fought from 1950 to 1953 —and serve a larger audience as well.

“The view is to try and create something that is a United Nations Heritage Site,” he said. “Those sites are few and far between. Those sites result in many people visiting them over the course of time. It’s something I believe this community ought to endorse.”

Hogan said this memorial would follow the Colorado Freedom Memorial’s path of being independently funded. He said committee members involved with the memorial would need to provide their own funding for the site, as well as design and longterm maintenance plans. The Colorado Freedom Memorial at Springhill Park near Buckley Air Force Base took its founder Rick Crandall more than a decade to fund and build.

“This may be a multi-month project, this may be a multi-year project before it comes back to council for final approval,” Hogan said.

Jim McGibney, an honorary consul of the Republic of Korea in Denver who has has been working with Aurora’s Korean community on the measure for two years, said Aurora is the ideal spot for the project.

“The reason we thought we had a shot at it here, the Korean War was the first United Nations war ever fought. It involved 22 countries that were participants,” he said. “We have a large number of Korean War vets in Colorado. The whole idea being Aurora is the one city as you look around our country that really carries pretty much all 22 countries.”

 Aurora is often considered the most diverse city in Colorado, with 105 different ethnic groups living within the city’s borders that each speak their own language. One in five of Aurora’s residents are estimated to have been born in another country.

The measure still needs to be heard at a regular city council meeting for final approval.

OTHER ITEMS HEARD AT STUDY SESSION

  • Council members agreed to move forward with renegotiating the final year of Anadarko’s $9.5-million water contract with Aurora for its oil and gas drilling due to a slumping industry. In 2012, Anadarko entered into an agreement with Aurora to purchase “used” water from the city for five years at a rate of 1,500 acre feet per year. The company is in the final year of its agreement with the city, and still owes $2,025,915, according to city documents.    The new agreement would spread the company’s 1,500 acre-feet payment over three years, with Anadarko purchasing 500 acre feet of water per year. Anadarko is also offering the city an incentive for the contract change that will include 150 Lupton Meadows Ditch Company shares to pay for some of the full $2 million-plus still owed.

OTHER ITEMS HEARD AT REGULAR SESSION

  •  Council members unanimously approved a $21.5 million rebuild for Aurora’s defunct Regatta Plaza under a new city loan agreement. Sources for the loan include an Aurora General Fund TABOR reserve of $8 million, a General Fund operating reserve of $425,000, and $500,000 from the city’s Capital Projects fund. City officials say the rest of the money would come from land sales to the developer and an Aurora Urban Renewal Authority bank loan.
  • Council members narrowly approved on a vote of 6 – 5  an increase in the city’s water rate by 3 percent in 2017, as well as a monthly increase of $1 in the city’s storm drain fee. Council members Charlie Richardson, Angela Lawson, Sally Mounier, Marsha Berzins and Barb Cleland voted against the measure. Aurora Water is looking to implement increases for both its water and stormwater rates beginning next year, after six years of keeping the city’s water rate the same.
  • Council members approved on a vote of 7 – 3 to increase the city’s marijuana sales tax from 5.75 percent to 7.75 percent starting June 2017.  Council members Richardson, Berzins and Cleland voted against the measure. City officials said the tax increase in 2017 would give the city an additional $750,000 on top of the $1.5 million it expects annually from marijuana sales. Aurora At-large Councilman Bob LeGare said the money should be used to help fund a homeless day center in Aurora.