Council ponders extension of moratorium on Aurora-Licton Springs development

In contrast to the speed with which the Council passed a 12-month moratorium on commercial development in the Aurora-Licton Springs Urban Village last year, a proposed six-month extension is being considered more carefully.

The original moratorium was rushed through on an “emergency” basis last October by Council member Juarez, in anticipation of a significant rezone of the area via the MHA process to emphasize “neighborhood commercial” and residential development and de-emphasize big-box stores, storage companies, and other heavy commercial/light industrial businesses. But with legal challenges to the city-wide MHA rezone dragging out, the original expected completion date of August 2018 has come and gone — thus the desire for an extension.

But during a public hearingĀ  in the Council’s Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee yesterday, the feedback on the moratorium was decidedly mixed. In particular, there were pointed comments that the kinds of businesses being zoned out of existence in Aurora-Licton Springs need to exist somewhere in the city and not simply pushed out to neighboring cities. Without a ready-made answer as to where those business should be allowed within city limits, Council members Mike O’Brien, Lisa Herbold and Rob Johnson decided to put off a vote until the committee’s next meeting on September 19th — though all three said that they are inclined to support the extension. If it goes forward, the extension must be approved by the full Council by October 5th, when the current moratorium expires.

It’s important to note that the moratorium, and eventual MHA rezoning, won’t force any existing businesses to close if they are incompatible with the new zoning. Rather, it would prevent new ones from opening, and in some cases it might prevent existing ones from substantially modifying or expanding their existing facility.

Passing the original moratorium on an emergency basis, allowed the Council to bypass the usual procedures required for land-use decisions — though it stretched the definition of “emergency” as defined under state law. The same reliance on emergency powers to make land use decisions is one factor in a lawsuit filed last week challenging the Council’s recent “Save the Showbox” ordinance.