Westfield City Council approves 300-acre Aurora development

The Westfield City Council approved a new zoning ordinance for the Aurora development Monday night, with a majority of the council finding improvement in the plans compared with when they were first proposed 10 years ago.

The 300-plus-acre office, retail and residential project proposed near the southeast corner of U.S. 31 and State Road 38, to the west of Grassy Branch Road, is being pursued by developer Chris R. White.

White initially proposed the development in 2006, received the necessary approvals from the city by 2008, but never started construction because of the economic downturn. He returned to the city this fall, requesting approval of updated zoning guidelines that included reducing the size of the residential area and increasing the commercial area.

The approved zoning calls for a 20-acre business park, 216-acre commerce park, 17-acre retail center and 61-acre residential area with up to 250 housing units. But the size of the commercial and retail sections can be increased or decreased by as much as 15 percent.

Hotels and restaurants will be restricted to certain areas.

The residential areas will include attached townhomes, duplexes and condominiums. The average sales price is expected to be $260,000 per residence. In project documents submitted to the city, White said he’s negotiating with Irvine, California-based CalAtlantic Homes to be the builder.

The council approved the development 5-2.

Council member Cindy Spoljaric, who opposed the project 10 years ago, voted against it again on Monday. She said the new version was better than the original, but she still thought the zoning was too broad in terms of what businesses would be allowed.

“When this came through again I was excited because I thought it was an opportunity to make it a whole lot better,” Spoljaric said.

Council member Joe Edwards also voted against the proposal, arguing that White should have worked harder to compromise with the residents, who had formed a group in opposition of the project.

“I think our greatest duties in these things are to protect the people who are already there,” Edwards said. “And I think we’ve failed to do that.”

Several of the council members who supported the zoning request Monday night said the plans could be better, but they agreed it was an improvement from the 2006 version.

“A well-done, commercial industrial development like Aurora will have a significant positive impact on our community,” council member Chuck Lehman said. “I think it’s better than what we had. It’s not the best.”

Construction on the infrastructure for the development are expected to start this summer. Total buildout is expected to last 10 years.

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