A proposal to allow more new car dealerships on the Arapahoe Road corridor has partly revived a debate that drew opposition from more than 4,000 Centennial residents in late 2016: Should certain …
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In 2005, the City of Centennial limited several types of development on the Arapahoe Road corridor, which roughly stretches from South Parker Road to South Yosemite Street. It prevented new drive-in or drive-thru restaurants, convenience stores and gas stations, car sales and rental services, and car washes from opening along that road.
After a 2016 vote by city council to lift the restrictions and a petition effort by residents to overturn that vote, the council passed a set of compromise measures in 2017.
Among the new rules were that the restricted types of businesses could open in a redevelopment if part of a “master-planned development,” which the city defined as including at least four non-restricted businesses and 50,000 square feet of gross floor area. The exception for master-planned developments existed since 2005, but the new rules allowed it to apply to redevelopment, too.
But car dealerships are the one type of business that the master-planned development exception does not apply to.
The other new caveat was that buildings in the corridor must use three substantially different building materials that appear “authentic in their application” — including, among others, fired-clay brick and natural stone, and several materials were prohibited or limited. The standards also apply to buildings being renovated.
Now, an ordinance expected to be considered Aug. 6 would allow new (not used) car dealerships under a separate process. If passed, any new car dealership on the corridor would require a conditional-use approval from city council, which is a public-hearing process. It would also need to adhere to the design standards implemented in 2017 and would need to be on land of five acres or more. The new standards would limit outdoor vehicle parking to areas beside or behind the building and would require an enhanced landscape buffer yard between parking areas and adjacent public streets, according to the city.
The Arapahoe Road corridor technically stretches from South Parker Road to South Quebec Street, but the restrictions on types of businesses only run between Parker Road and South Yosemite Street, according to the city.
A proposal to allow more new car dealerships on the Arapahoe Road corridor has partly revived a debate that drew opposition from more than 4,000 Centennial residents in late 2016: Should certain types of businesses be allowed to open on the major street?
“No, I'm not for it,” said Tammy Maurer, a member of the Centennial City Council and one of two residents who petitioned in 2016 to keep restrictions on drive-in or drive-through restaurants, convenience stores and gas stations, car sales and rental services, and car washes.
That move came in response to the city council voting 6-3 to lift those restrictions in November of that year. Under that change, the corridor, which covers East Arapahoe Road from roughly South Parker Road to South Yosemite Street, could have seen new businesses in those categories.
But a petition to stop that change was submitted that December, and it garnered the more than 4,000 verified signatures necessary — 5 percent of the city’s registered voters — to force a possible citywide vote on whether to allow for the new businesses. Among the residents' concerns was increased traffic flow on Arapahoe Road.
In response, the city worked with the petitioners — Maurer and resident Jill Meakins — on a compromise passed in February 2017 that avoided the special election.
The key point in that compromise was allowing for restricted businesses to open as part of a redevelopment if they're part of a plan that involves other types of businesses — known as a “unified, master-planned development.” Under city rules, that must include at least four non-restricted businesses. A Culver's drive-through restaurant at South Havana Street got the green light to open through that exception.
But new car dealerships would still need another go-ahead from Centennial, and the city council is considering allowing for them with a new ordinance.
“There are likely only one or two parcels where we would anticipate seeing an application for a new vehicle-sales use in the future,” said Derek Holcomb, deputy director of community development for the city. If the new ordinance were to be approved, the change would apply to sections of land at least five acres in size, but factors such as zoning and vacant land limit the possibilities, Holcomb said.
Only one property owner has formally expressed interest in proposing a new vehicle-sales use along the corridor, Holcomb said. Used-car dealerships would not be allowed under the new approval process.
That distinction didn't matter to Maurer, who said a problem with dealerships is that they “get in and they stay” and use a large amount of land.
“We have a lot — we have (around) 10 or 11 now” on Arapahoe Road, Maurer said. “It would be nice to see other uses.”
Medical uses or offices — or recreational “fun” uses, like a trampoline club — would be preferable along the corridor, Maurer said.
As of July 5, the city had received emails from about a dozen individuals objecting to the proposed ordinance, Holcomb said. One person who was opposed changed their mind and submitted a letter in support after attending a public hearing by the Centennial Planning and Zoning Commission, a body that recommends regulations pertaining to use of land in the city. At that hearing June 27, the commission recommended by a 5-1 vote that the city council should approve the ordinance.
The city council on July 16 will vote on setting a public hearing that's expected to take place Aug. 6, where the council will vote on the ordinance.
As part of the city's gathering of input for its upcoming comprehensive plan — a document that lays out a vision for how the city should develop in the future — one of the surveys given to residents asked which uses they'd prefer on Arapahoe Road, and car sales was the least supported among eight kinds of businesses, Maurer said.
Grocery stores, retailers — like a cell phone store or fitness establishment — and quick-serve restaurants, including drive-throughs, were among the most-supported uses, according to that survey.
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