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No seating room was spared at a Centennial City Council meeting that considered a final vote on a temporary moratorium on new hotels and motels, less than a month after a fervent crowd argued in protest of a proposed hotel to be built near its neighborhood.
“I know personally, I received over 120 emails at least,” Mayor Stephanie Piko said after a public hearing leading up to the council's vote on the moratorium at the March 19 meeting.
Nine people spoke at the public hearing, and none — save one businessman who aimed to bring a different extended-stay hotel to central Centennial — opposed the moratorium. Some speakers echoed previous concerns of increased crime if more extended-stay hotels were to proliferate in the Centennial area.
Concern began boiling over when more than 150 residents packed a Feb. 22 community meeting near the Willow Creek neighborhood — which sits across South Yosemite Street from the proposed extended-stay hotel site near East Dry Creek Road — to discuss the Studio 6 plans.
Hundreds of names from all over Centennial — across six different neighborhoods at least — were signed on a petition supporting a stop to new hotel and motel applications, said Willow Creek resident Neil Lipson during the March 19 public hearing. Residents in the Willow Creek, Foxridge, Walnut Hills, Dry Creek Crossing and other areas signed, Lipson said.
“Thank you for hearing us,” attendee Judy French said during the hearing.
The temporary moratorium — which council passed unanimously — stops the processing of applications for new hotels, motels and other commercial-lodging uses until Aug. 31. Any complete formal applications for new commercial-lodging developments that were filed with the city on or before March 5, or which have already been approved, are not halted by the moratorium.
The developer for the proposed Studio 6 extended-stay hotel that drew ire, M1B1, had not submitted a formal application for its proposed hotel on or before that date.
That hotel, had its application been approved, would have been a structure with three stories and 115 rooms at 9105 E. Mineral Circle. The crowd from the neighborhood voiced fears that drug dealing and other crime could permeate their residential area if the hotel's plan were to go forward.
Glenn Thompson, public-safety bureau chief for the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, told the neighborhood at the Feb. 22 meeting that for comparable properties to the proposed hotel, the sheriff's office gets the same type of calls as it does at a multi-family residential area.
But an attendee took issue that the analysis doesn't include calls for law-enforcement service to the neighborhoods surrounding such properties — and raised fears of lurid wrongdoing.
"If (it) has so much crime and sex trafficking up there, it's bound to come down here," the attendee said. Comments in support of that idea rang out in the audience. Most commenters expressed worries about human trafficking — the practice of transporting people for the purpose of forced labor or sexual exploitation — as they cited concerns about nearby hotels and motels.
Thompson directed questions from the Centennial Citizen about the prevalence of human trafficking in the Centennial area and broader Denver metro area to the FBI's Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force. The task force focuses on cases of sex trafficking of children.
Amy Sanders, a spokeswoman for the FBI Denver Division, did not say human-trafficking activity is common at extended-stay hotels, or hotels or motels in general.
“Human trafficking can occur anywhere, including individual homes, hotels, suburbs, inner cities and rural communities, but tends to be more prevalent in areas in which there are larger populations,” Sanders said. The task force is part of the Denver Division.
Sanders did not say if the problem of human trafficking has gotten better or worse in recent years in the Centennial and Greenwood Village area, the Denver metro area or in Colorado as a whole.
“Human trafficking remains an issue in all states, including Colorado.” Sanders said. “Law-enforcement agencies are working together and continue to improve investigative techniques to combat human trafficking throughout our nation.”
Sanders did not say the task force gets many calls or cases related to human trafficking in the Greenwood Village and Centennial areas. She also did not point to specific areas of high activity.
The task force “receives calls related to child trafficking throughout all of the cities we cover in our division (throughout Colorado and Wyoming),” Sanders said. “Investigations are not isolated to one particular region or city.”
Centennial's moratorium ordinance lists several reasons why a hold on new lodging establishments was necessary.
“There has been an out-of-the-ordinary or unexpected increase in commercial-lodging uses in the city,” according to Allison Wittern, city spokeswoman. “There were six hotels in Centennial in 2015, and since then, eight have either opened, are under construction or are being reviewed for approval.”
The city council is considering a “timeout,” the city said, so that Centennial can take time to learn what caused the increase in supply of such uses and how they impact the city.
“The city recognizes that commercial-lodging uses in other communities (have) resulted in additional demands on law enforcement (and) emergency and social services, but have also resulted in increased tourism, revenue from lodging taxes and additional hotel-guest spending in non-residential areas,” the city said. “City council would like to see if those experiences are occurring in Centennial as well.”
In the event the city hasn't completed its analysis, city council could extend the moratorium past Aug. 31.
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