After an Aurora judge ruled against a plan to give the proposed Gaylord Rockies Hotel and Conference Center $300 million in tax subsidies, Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton sent a rather blunt letter to the Executive Director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade asking her to explain why the Colorado Economic Development Commission (EDC) also awarded a subsidy to the hotel mega complex. That’s a really good question.
It started last week, when Adams County District Judge Ted Tow ruled that part of Aurora’s incentive plan for Gaylord Rockies Hotel is unconstitutional. Which part of the plan, you ask? Oh, just the $300 million in tax subsidies that would help the $800 million-plus project. The judge cited a violation of TABOR, meaning that Aurora would have to regroup and hold a citywide vote before approving the tax incentives.
Sounds fair, even if the folks excited about a year-round waterpark in Colorado must continue to wait out the three-year legal battle. Almost as fast as the city filed an appeal of the decision, Treasurer Stapleton questioned the EDC’s own offer of $81.4 million in tax-increment financing. After a recent switch in developers (from Gaylord Entertainment Co. to Rida) and the TABOR violations plaguing the project, Treasurer Stapleton is rightly concerned that the EDC might be throwing around tax incentives like Oprah with a dozen new compact cars. Here’s what Stapleton wrote to EDC Executive Director Fiona Arnold:
“My concern here is to learn why this subsidy earned the EDC’s support despite a substantial change (and downsizing of the project) and to answer serious financial questions, including questions raised by the Houston developer’s own public documents.”
Treasurer Stapleton has asked the Legislative Audit Committee to consider if the state should still offer subsidies to Gaylord Rockies. If the law and a struggling business proposal are any indication, the answer is probably not.