Taming the wild east begins: Aurora starts process for annexation

A car heads east on Tower Road as the sun rises over East Aurora.
Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | Aurora City Council members started a process this week that might end up increasing the size of the city by 450 acres, less than a square mile.

That’s just a start, as thousands of acres of development could follow in the future as the move to expand Aurora moves east, officials said.

Nearly 450 acres of land, located south of 42nd Avenue and east of E470, could become part of the city and Aurora Highlands project, which could house 60,000 people. Map courtesy of the city of Aurora

The land, south of East 42nd Avenue and east of E-470, is part of the Aurora Highlands master plan. Two of the parcels are owned by Aurora Highlands, LLC. The other, a total of 244 acres, is owned by Grimm Farms.

Nearly all of that land is surrounded by existing city land.

If constructed, the Aurora Highlands would span nearly 3,000 acres in Aurora, southeast of Denver International Airport near Interstate 70 and the E-470 toll road. In later phases, the sprawling development would encompass nearly 5,000 acres and could one day be home to 23,000 families.

The process for the annexation of the land for the development is in relatively early stages. The council on Monday unanimously voted to accept the petitions from the landowners because they are in accordance with state statutes. The next meeting will include a public hearing, as the city decides whether the land is eligible for annexation. A third meeting and vote would officially approve the annexations.

Annexations have become a pressing issue among some city council members. Nicole Johnston, who represents northeast Aurora, where a lot of new home development is taking place, wants to re-examine the east Aurora annexation area that was approved by the previous council last year because she has concerns about whether the city’s services can meet the needs of the 20,000 acres that were approved.

That area could see growth that is the size of an entire new city: 51,000 new homes, more than 15 million square feet of commercial development and increasing the city’s population by 36 percent, a fiscal impact analysis of the plan from 2016 said.

The plans could push Aurora into being the largest city in the state, officials said.

Last month, Johnston called up the framework development plan connected with those annexations from the fall. She said her next step is to look at and identify the changes in that plan that she’d like to make.

The Aurora Highlands annexations are a bit different, Johnston said. She’s still considering where she stands on approving them because of their proximity to major highways, and the potential for commercial development, which she said could bring revenue to the city.

The east Aurora annexation would require building roads and other major infrastructure developments. The analysis said the area would require 1,450 new public road-lane miles.

The Aurora Highlands development was first unveiled in March of 2017. Mayor Steve Hogan said it could be a game-changer for the city.

“People think of what Highlands Ranch did for the south metro area, well the Aurora Highlands can do (that) for Aurora,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Aurora Highlands didn’t have immediate details on how the annexations, if approved, would impact the development plan.