The Centennial City Council will find itself in a partial replay of a 2016 political battle over development on East Arapahoe Road now that a petition to challenge a move by the council allowing for …
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In 2005, the City of Centennial limited several types of development on the Central 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 stretch of the 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 to which the master-planned development exception did not apply.
A new ordinance passed Aug. 13 allows for new (not used) car dealerships to be approved on a case-by-case basis under conditional-use approval from city council, which is a public-hearing process.
The Central 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.
The Centennial City Council will find itself in a partial replay of a 2016 political battle over development on East Arapahoe Road now that a petition to challenge a move by the council allowing for new car dealerships has been deemed sufficient by the city clerk.
That means the council could choose to repeal the ordinance on new dealerships and possibly pass some kind of compromise, or the city’s voters will approve or vote down the ordinance in a special election, likely in March.
Roughly 4,700 valid signatures sent the petition to success, more than 600 above the threshold petitioners needed to clear, according to results from the city clerk’s office. It needed about 5 percent of voters in the city to sign.
The pushback comes in response to the council’s 5-4 split decision on Aug. 13 that green-lighted the possibility of new car dealerships on the Central Arapahoe Road Corridor — roughly between South Parker Road and Interstate 25. The conflict echoes the previous fight over development on Arapahoe Road in 2016, when resident Jill Meakins and now-Councilmember Tammy Maurer pushed a petition that stopped the city from allowing more car dealerships, among other types of businesses.
In 2017, the council chose to repeal an ordinance at the center of conflict and pass compromises after the 2016 petition, to avert the need for an election.
What the city will do next will be discussed at the Nov. 5 council meeting, according to Allison Wittern, city spokeswoman.
The petitioners, Michael Glass and Rhonda Livingston, submitted the petitions Sept. 13, according to a letter by the city clerk, Barbara Setterlind.
Meakins and other residents in the area of the Central Arapahoe Road Corridor have expressed desire for other uses to fill vacant land in the nearly built-out stretch of the city, where car dealerships are the defining feature of the thoroughfare for several blocks.
“We would rather see a restaurant there, or a mini-downtown,” said resident Annette Jewell, in a previous interview along with Meakins.
Her desires echoed those of other residents who say they want different kinds of development — theaters, restaurants or other shopping, for example, that could benefit more families — on their central street. Former Mayor Cathy Noon has argued medical uses would be preferable.
Supporters or opponents of a ballot question — in this case, asking voters to support or decline the council’s move to allow dealerships — are required to register as what’s called an “issue committee” under state and municipal law if they are:
• A group of two or more individuals, a business, or both, and
• Have accepted or made contributions or expenditures of $200 or more to support or oppose that ballot question; or have printed more than 200 petition sections (copies of a petition) or more than 200 petition sections have been accepted.
No New Dealerships on Arapahoe, an issue committee in support of the election to decide the dealership ordinance’s fate, signed a registration form with the city Sept. 10.
All municipal filings under campaign-finance law are filed with the city clerk and posted on the city’s website, the city has said.
Influx of dealers unlikely
Ron Ferris, CEO of Pennsylvania-based Bobby Rahal Automotive Group, is looking to open a dealership near Arapahoe Road and South Potomac Street, at 13831 E. Arapahoe Place, where his company owns land.
Only two sites adjacent to Arapahoe Road in the corridor are vacant and at least five acres in size — a requirement for a dealership development — so possible locations for new dealerships are limited, according to Derek Holcomb, deputy director of community development for the city.
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