Colorado Supreme Court rejects Denver hoteliers’ case against Aurora Gaylord

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AURORA | The Colorado Supreme Court has rejected an appeals case from a group of Denver-area hoteliers seeking to challenge more than $81 million in tax subsidies for the Aurora Gaylord resort project.

“We’re very pleased,” said Aurora City Attorney Mike Hyman of the decision. “It means the anti-Gaylord litigation is now over. It’s a win for us, but it’s really a win for the people of Aurora, and the citizens of this state. It goes to show that Colorado is open for business.”

The state’s high court announced Monday, April 18, that the petition by the plaintiffs — representing various hotels and resorts from across the Front Range — was denied. Justice Richard L. Gabriel did not participate in the decision.

In the announcement, Chief Justice Nancy Rice noted that the key factor remained the same since the district court proceedings: That the Denver hoteliers had no standing to challenge the subsidies granted under the Colorado Regional Tourism Act (RTA). But Rice dissented from the rest of the court in saying she would have granted the hoteliers’ writ for having the case heard.

“Whether the court of appeals erred, under Colorado law affording liberal standing to litigants, in holding that a business that has properly alleged threatened direct injuries flowing from an agency’s unlawful grant of tax subsidies to a competitor, does not have standing, as a matter of law, to seek judicial review of that agency’s actions as an aggrieved party,” Justice Rice noted in the announcement.

In September 2015, an Colorado Appeals Court judge reaffirmed an earlier ruling to dismiss the challenge from Denver-area hoteliers over the millions in tax subsidies issued under the RTA.
The group of hoteliers stated in their appeal that they felt the previous ruling “improperly refused to review” the decision by the Colorado Economic Development Commission (CEDC) in awarding the subsidy to the City of Aurora.

That appeals court ruling, issued by Judge Daniel Taubman, foreshadowed the state Supreme Court’s unwillingness to hear the challenge to the CEDC’s decision.

“The Supreme Court has consistently held that plaintiffs lack standing where alleged economic harm is indirectly or incidentally caused by a defendant’s alleged conduct,” Taubman wrote in his analysis. “The court has distinguished between conduct that directly causes the plaintiff’s alleged injury, and conduct that encourages or promotes a third party to engage in conduct that causes a plaintiff’s injury.”

The high court’s rejection of the Denver hoteliers’ lawsuit comes less than two weeks after the Colorado Court of Appeals, in another ruling by Judge Taubman, affirmed a district court decision to dismiss a legal complaint by the City of Aurora, the Aurora Urban Renewal Authority and Gaylord developer RIDA Development Corp. against the Denver hoteliers.

At the time of the September 2015 ruling, Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan expressed confidence there would be “no more hurdles” to the project after multiple legal challenges.

“By 2018, Aurora will have the best conference hotel in Colorado, a leisure and business destination, and one of the best large hotels in the western United States,” Hogan said at the time.

Wendy Mitchell, President and CEO of the Aurora Economic Development Council, said construction is moving along quickly on the hotel site, with the hotel and conference center set to open in two years. The site meetgaylordrockies.com has even been created to promote details about the hotel that is slated to be Colorado’s largest yet with 1,507 guest rooms.

“We always knew the Supreme Court would find in our favor,” Mitchell said. “By making this ruling, it’s clear the hoteliers case and their efforts to stop  Gaylord are no longer relevant.”