Airport City committee addresses challenges

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Officials charged with evaluating plans for an Airport City around Denver International Airport say they have a united vision for the region but face a number of challenges as discussions continue.

The six officials, who convened as the Airport Consultation Committee last week and hosted their first open meeting at Denver International Airport, said the need to build trust and resolve short- and long-term conflicts is imperative to the region’s success.

Adams County District 2 Commissioner Charles “Chaz” Tedesco; Commerce City Mayor Sean Ford and Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan represented Adams County on the committee.

Denver International Airport Aviation Manager Kim Day; Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and regional affairs director Paul Ryan represented Denver.

Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Tom Clark, the committee’s newly elected facilitator, also said the group should develop a set of principles as a reference point when future conflicts arise between Denver and Adams County officials — a longstanding factor that has stalled previous airport-related talks.

“There is as probably more distrust and history between these two places than any other part of the Denver-metro area so that means there will be different definitions of words or languages being used,” Clark said. “Adams County looks at the world in a different way than Denver does. It (Adams County) does feel that it really has not had a chance to get a piece of the action while other economies have prospered, it has a history of wondering when the airport was going to pay off for its folks, and that level of distrust is not just among elected officials but it permeates among Adams County citizens and staff.”

Commerce City Mayor Sean Ford said the committee must not only determine what types of land uses are allowable within the airport but also consider what kind of benefits it may bring to residents.

Day and Hancock said the Airport City discussion also dovetails a $3 million, time-sensitive DIA project that will identify and determine future road improvement projects on Pena Boulevard.

Under current airport agreements, DIA Global Communications Director Stacey Stegman said all current capital improvement projects along Pena Boulevard are fully funded by the Federal Aviation Administration because most of the traffic was designated solely for airport-related uses.

Stegman said future plans for the airport, including those for an Airport City, call for an influx of non-airport traffic — a factor that will result in a reduction of FAA funding for future road improvement projects.

In all, she said Denver and DIA — along with the Regional Transportation District, Denver Regional Council of Governments and Colorado Department of Transportation — has three years to draw up a revised airport land use plan that will allow the FAA to determine its revised share of future road improvement costs.

“What’s really clear to me is that we have a big task ahead of us,” Day said. “We not only have to look at the economic benefits of the airport but how it can benefit the region as a whole.”

The next Airport Consultation Committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for 8 a.m. April 11 at the Commerce City Civic Center, 7887 East 60th Avenue.