Aurora wants to annex Parker Road off-ramp from northbound I-225 to enforce panhandling ordinance

AURORA, Colo. - In an unusual use of annexation, the City of Aurora is trying to put an end to panhandling at a busy intersection.

The Parker Road exit off northbound Interstate 225 is in unincorporated Arapahoe County. The other side of Parker Road is in Aurora. There is no ordinance prohibiting panhandling in unincorporated Arapahoe County.

On most days, there are anywhere between one and three people panhandling at the off-ramp exit.

Aurora city council members are now moving forward with a proposal to annex the property to put an end to the panhandling.

"Nobody comes here because they want to do this," said Jim, a panhandler at the intersection. "I've had every single thing happen to me. I've seen naked people. I've had firecrackers thrown at me, smoke bombs, (a) guy tried to run me over. I had a guy point a gun at me."

Jim, whose cardboard sign reads, "Count Your Blessings," actually said he wouldn't mind if the city puts an end to the panhandling.

"I understand that maybe they have to press this issue because it's the one issue they got; to annex it," said Jim. "It hurts my feeling when someone calls me a scum bag, but if the next guy behind him hands me $20, I get to eat tonight."

The land is owned by the federal government through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because of the Cherry Creek Dam. According to paperwork provided to the Aurora City Council, the landowner would generally have to do the paperwork and pay a fee to initiate the annexation. The fee was calculated at around $8,500. The Corps wants the city to initiate the paperwork and it has no desire to pay the fee. City management has already indicated the fee could be waived as a public purpose.

According to the information put together by the city, "The concept being explored is to annex this 5.9-acre parcel to establish City of Aurora jurisdiction over this portion of the intersection with Parker Rd., in order to enforce the city's ordinance prohibiting solicitation on or near street or highway."

It also stated, "Typically, the city annexes undeveloped land with the intent to manage the type and quality of development and with the commitment to provide municipal services."

When 7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger visited the intersection on Wednesday night, he found about a half dozen cardboard signs that panhandlers had left for future use. There were also bags of trash and plastic bags of uneaten snacks.

"When you leave, that should go with you. And here, if that's your garbage, that should go with you," said Jim.

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, about 2,600 cars take that off ramp during afternoon rush hour. During morning rush hour, it is about 1,500 cars.

"If 100 people can see you, it's 100 chances," said Jim. "You could make $40 for working day labor all day and you could make $40 in 40 minutes here."

If Aurora chooses to annex that area, Aurora Police will be responsible for investigating accidents at the off-ramp.

According to the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, there have been 18 accidents in 2013 and none can be attributed to panhandling.

Should City Council approve the annexation, Aurora Police would first start warning panhandlers before they issue any citations.

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