Denver hotels appeal tourism grant case against Aurora Gaylord to Colorado Supreme Court


AURORA | A group of mostly Denver-area hoteliers have filed a petition with the Colorado Supreme Court alleging that $81 million in tax subsidies was unfairly awarded to the Aurora Gaylord Rockies Hotel and Conference Center, appealing a lawsuit the hoteliers have lost in state courts before.

“We carefully reviewed all aspects of this case and believe strongly that there are issues surrounding the Gaylord Hotel tax subsidy scheme that can and should be considered by the State Supreme Court,” said Sean Duffy, a spokesperson for the hotels.  The appeal was filed with the court on Oct. 22. 

The hotels are basing their case on a change in the Gaylord project that occurred in 2012 after the incentive money was awarded. Documents leaked to the media about the change when Marriott International Inc. bought the Gaylord Hotels brand showed the cost of the project had decreased from $824 million to $735 million. In 2013, Marriot then worked out a deal with Houston-based RIDA Development Corp. to take over as the new developer and owner of the project with Marriot as the hotel operator.

The hotel plaintiffs have long argued that the massive, western-themed hotel could be built without the $81 million from Regional Tourism Act (RTA) subsidies, and under the state’s rules for the incentives, the subsidies should be taken away.

The hotels have tried the same case and lost in the Denver District and Colorado Appeals courts. Critics of the lawsuit say it’s just the latest attempt by the group to chase off what they perceive to be hotel competition and scare off Gaylord investors.

In the most recent ruling in the ongoing litigation against Gaylord, Appeals Court Judge Daniel Taubman wrote that “the hotels lack standing to challenge the CEDC’s decision” along the same legal lines as the previous ruling.

“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.”

Wendy Mitchell, president and CEO of the Aurora Economic Development Council, said she was not worried about the case being taken up by the state’s top court. 

“It’s a sad desperate, last-ditch move that’s not going to result in anything,” she said.

Mitchell said AEDC had already planned to hold a press conference about the Gaylord hotel at the Aurora Municipal Center at 11 a.m. this Thursday to give an update on the long-delayed project’s status.

The 1,500-room Gaylord conference complex will be the largest hotel in the state when completed. According to the AEDC, it will include an indoor/outdoor year-round waterpark with multiple pools and waterslides, including a family play zone, two water slides, a lazy river, and a Colorado ‘hot springs’ experience.

The AEDC estimates the project will create more than 10,000 construction jobs and 1,550 permanent, direct jobs. With 1.9 million square feet on 85 acres, it is expected to attract more than 450,000 net new visitors each year to the state.

Three statewide projects have been awarded money through RTA that include Gaylord. In 2012, $24.7 million was awarded to the City of Pueblo for a convention center. Colorado Springs has received the most RTA money at $121 million in 2013 for its City of Champions sports and events center.

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6 years ago

Good for them. I hope they win!

Socialized Welfare
Socialized Welfare
6 years ago

Should we call the City of Denver a waaaaabulance? Just build it, let them piss and moan forever.