By Jamie Leary
AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – The City of Aurora is once again taking a proposed motor sports complex to its voters. Or at least it is hoping to.
Before that happens, members of the city council must vote to change language in the city charter.
As it stands, the city is not allowed to provide incentives or direct and indirect subsidies to motorsports facilities; making it difficult to attract sponsors for the proposed facility.
“If this thing passes it will give us the opportunity to at least consider incentives. It’s here because roughly 20 years ago there was an operating track down in Colorado Springs and very frankly, they didn’t want competition. There had been some talk of doing something in Aurora at that time. They came up, they financed the campaign and they got the prohibition on the charter. All we’re trying to do is remove it so we can have a level playing field moving forward,” said Mayor Steve Hogan.
Opponents say there simply isn’t enough transparency about what is planned to make any decision.
“That would actually change our city charter and that made me pause out of concern,” said Nicole Johnston, a community activist and candidate for Ward 2 of the council.
“I have more questions than answers, and that’s where I think it’s really important to get the community involved,” Johnston said. “I would ask what about a traffic study, what about a noise study, an environmental impact statement, the impacts to fire and safety and the cost for that as well as water. There are just so many questions, and to rush this through is not a good way to involve the community in this process.”
Hogan says the proposed sites, E-470 and Interstate 70 or 26th Avenue and Hudson Road, have nothing around them that would require impact studies.
“There’s literally nothing out there, so you don’t need any traffic studies or environmental impact studies or anything else because this is only allowing for something and that something would have to go through a full approval process. But again, you don’t propose it unless it’s a possibility,” said Hogan.
There are no renderings for the facility, and talk of NASCAR as a sponsor is a moot point. There has been no expressed interest from the racing giant.
Hogan does have an idea of what things could look like, though. He says the development makes sense and has benefits far beyond Aurora.
“A good comparison is Kansas City. It’s more than just a race track. It has a baseball field, it has a concert venue, restaurants and it’s an upper end shopping mall.”
Hogan envisioned the many travelers that don’t want to go into downtown for entertainment. The proposed locations for the entertainment district aren’t too far from Denver International Airport, the Front Range Airport and the Aurora’s Gaylord Hotel, which is already filling up with reservations.
Still, some feel there’s a lack of forethought when it comes to impacts and would like more community involvement in the discussion.
“Kansas City is the prototype. We want a Kansas City motorsports complex. Well guess what? Kansas City has a casino as an important part of the track, so I have a lot of concerns,” said Charlie Richardson, Aurora City Councilman for Ward 4.
Monday night’s vote is specific to changing the language in the city charter. A yes vote still means the new charter language will need a second approval before it goes to voters in November.
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015. She is currently a reporter for CBS4 This Morning, which means she is always on the go, covering a wide variety of breaking local news and important local events. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.