DIA files suit against Aurora to stop homes from being built near a future runway

Airport lawyers say they’ve already had to move once due to proximity to people living nearby.

Flight paths around DIA. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Flight paths around DIA. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

KEVIN-lighter

In a late Friday news dump, Denver International Airport and the Denver City Attorney’s Office said they filed suit against Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman and Aurora City Council. Two weeks ago, Aurora gave a thumbs-up to an ordinance that would allow single-family homes to be built less than a mile away from the place where DIA plans to build its seventh runway. Officials now want to stop possible construction.

DIA’s filing called Aurora’s ordinance approval an “exceedance of its jurisdiction” and an “abuse of its discretion.”

“This entitlement change was recently approved by the Aurora City Council,” a press release from DIA reads, “despite Aurora’s own planning commission unanimously recommending the amendment be denied.”

A spokesperson for Aurora said the city found out about the filing when the media did, and hasn’t had time to review the complaint, adding: “We will carefully evaluate any claims that are made.”

Aurora has seen expansion close to the airport in recent years. Probably the most visible icon of that growth is the Gaylord Rockies, a massive convention center that’s visible as drivers approach DIA on Peña Boulevard. It was an anchor project that officials in Aurora hoped would attract dense development on its border with Denver.

In its court filing, attorneys representing DIA (which include the Denver City Attorney’s Office) said Denver has had to deal with residential encroachment in the past.

“Almost 25 years ago, Denver moved its airport from its former location at Stapleton International Airport to its current location due to, among other reasons, encroaching residential development and associated noise issues,” it reads, foreshadowing future conflict between airplanes and homeowners should people move close to the planned runway. “Noise impacts continue to be a significant concern between Adams County, Denver and neighboring jurisdictions, including Aurora.”

Since opening, DIA has paid out tens of millions as a result of noise complaints, and Aurora — along with other cities — is already involved in ongoing litigation against the airport over noise. The airport’s lawyers said Aurora is “remarkably” saying that it’s already too loud but that they’d still like to build closer, “which would expose those residents to much higher noise levels.”

Alex Renteria, a DIA spokewoman, said construction on that seventh runway doesn’t have a clear timetable yet. It’s still “to be determined.” But she added the airport will need it soon as more people hop on and off planes there every year.

“We were built for capacity for 50 million people, and we are hitting almost 70 million,” she said.

Expansion inside and outside the airport, like on runways and the Great Hall and Peña Boulevard, all serves “to keep up with demand.”

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