After two years of searching for the perfect location to open her Culver’s franchise, Leslie Jacobson came across a space on Arapahoe Road and Havana Street that, she said, was perfect.
But her dream location for the frozen custard and hamburger shop quickly became a nightmare last month when a petition started circulating to repeal a recent ordinance that would allow for certain businesses to open in the area. The petitioners had 30 days to collect 4,086 signatures, or 5 percent of Centennial’s registered voters. The petition was submitted on Dec. 19 and the signatures were approved on Jan. 4.
“We finally found the light at the end of the tunnel and that petition crushed it,” Jacobson said. “We got an email saying that they did in fact have enough signatures, which is totally frustrating.”
Now that Centennial has verified the signatures, councilmembers will choose to have a special election, amend the ordinance or repeal the ordinance at the Feb. 6 city council meeting.
“The city supports the referendum process as it provides our citizens an opportunity to voice their opinions on actions taken by city council,” Mayor Cathy Noon said in an email. “All feedback will be considered when council discusses the next steps regarding ordinance 2016-O-11 at the upcoming Feb. 6 council meeting.”
Jacobson purchased the property for $1.3 million and worked with the city to pass the ordinance, approved Nov. 14, allowing certain businesses the right to open.
A previous ordinance, adopted in 2005, kept some businesses from opening on the Arapahoe Road corridor. The ordinance, which roughly covers Arapahoe Road from Parker Road to Yosemite Street, bans the opening of restaurants with drive-in or drive-thru service, convenience stores and gas stations, vehicle sales and rental services, and car washes.
Jacobson’s plan was to invest $50,000 into the newly purchased unit and hire up to 75 employees.
“We have this awesome corner and this awesome piece of property that we have invested a lot in,” Jacobson said. “Arapahoe Road corridor needs a facelift, it needs some new growth.”
Jill Meakins, one of the two petitioners, said that she is looking for a “higher-quality corridor.” Her main complaint was a proposed Mercedes-Benz dealership, which had purchased property at 13831 E. Arapahoe Road. Meakins argued the proposed developments will devalue her property and further congest Arapahoe Road.
On a website created by the petitioners, centennialneighborhoodcoalition.org, a statement mentioned that the proposed Culver’s restaurant was merely “caught in the crossfire” and that the petition had no ill will toward the franchise.
Meakins said she is awaiting direction from city council.
“We are just waiting for the city to make their decision on what to do next,” Meakins said. “I hope that it either goes out to vote for the citizens or they repeal it and come up with another plan with plenty of transparency and input from the citizens.”
Meakins accepted help from what she she said was an anonymous donor to fund the lawyer fees to draft the petition and to hire petition gatherers from Denver-based Black Diamond Outreach.
Meakins believes that Centennial should allow citizens to vote on the future use of the corridor.
“We are happy that we got enough signatures,” Meakins said. “That means that the citizens of Centennial are interested in having a say on what happens on Arapahoe Road.”
Councilmember Ken Lucas, whose District 3 includes most of the area covered by the recent ordinance, is frustrated by the possible repeal of the ordinance, but said he respects the process.
“The feedback I got from a number of citizens is that petitioners were ill informed,” Lucas said.“It is a public process, which I support. The public had ample time and opportunities to comment on this.”