AURORA | After years of work, Aurora City Council members adopted a new framework aimed at unifying development standards across the city. The measure passed unanimously this week despite some overarching concerns about Aurora’s growth from some council members.
The unifying development ordinance, considered a total zoning overhaul, has been in the works since 2014 and now serves as a foundation for development in Aurora. Overarching goals such as maintaining a diverse and equitable city, incorporating affordable housing and emphasizing parks and open space are a part of city code now.
Several council members applauded the work from city staff that went into the new code.
Approval of the new rules didn’t come without some wishful changes, however.
Council member Nicole Johnston, who represents northeast Aurora, where new development is booming, unsuccessfully asked fellow council members to amend the ordinance to include more affordable housing options and adequate public transportation and shopping opportunities in housing developments that request using smaller lot sizes and fewer parking options. She also asked that the radius for notifying neighborhood groups about a proposed development be five miles instead of one.
A majority of fellow council members disapproved of those changes, with concerns that they weren’t realistic. Councilwoman Francoise Bergan, who represents southeast Aurora, said that region of the city saw a Safeway grocery store go under because it was built before there were enough residents to support it.
Johnston also submitted changes requested by the city’s planning commission as amendments. Those conditions, too, failed.
The city commission recommended to the city council that the ordinance be approved on the conditions that new guidelines for medical marijuana cultivation are implemented, new developments incorporate greener building methods and energy efficient technologies, and more public hearings are held for developments.
“I was disappointed that once again we talk about these needs for affordable housing, then we’re given the opportunity to address it through policy and we aren’t doing that,” said Johnston, who previously tried to incorporate requirements that home builders include affordable housing in new developments in annexed land in eastern Aurora.
While developers said they were willing to incorporate affordable housing there, a majority of council decided against codifying that into the framework development plan.
The newly passed unified development ordinance does incorporate more affordable housing standards into the framework. For example, affordable housing developments near transit won’t be required to provide public art like the rest are and affordable housing developments will have to meet a different set of building standards.
Johnston said she’ll continue to look for ways to include her affordable housing piece into the ordinance in the future along with how to encourage builders to act more environmentally friendly.
“When we’re looking at going renewable, we’re not even encouraging design standards,” she said. “That’s something I’d like to tackle the next couple of years, with our environmental footprint with oil and gas development, the development of homes, (and) urban sprawl, and what we can do to do negate that.”
Like Johnston, north Aurora councilwoman Crystal Murillo submitted an amendment. She was able to garner support from the council to include a paragraph in the ordinance that acknowledges predatory lending and the previous practice of redlining, otherwise known as a discriminatory lending practice in which some financial entities limited or refused to finance homes in some neighborhoods, are a part of the city’s history.
City staff said they couldn’t name a specific example where the city participated in redlining.
Council members Dave Gruber, Bob Roth, Francoise Bergan, Marsha Berzins and Mayor Bob LeGare voted against that amendment.