The Gazette
Megan Schrader
August 14, 2014
Compass Colorado — a non-profit government watchdog group — responded to The Gazette’s investigation into tax incentives for the Gaylord Rockies hotel calling the deal “cronyism at its worst.”

“The fact that an out-of-state developer can vote for the existence of a new tax district, with only a single person voting, then funnel those revenues straight back to that developer, is an egregious abuse of the voting and tax systems,” said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado. “Coloradans should all hold on to our wallets if this is allowed to stand, because the precedent will spread across our state.”

The Gazette unveiled details of a multi-million dollar incentive package the City of Aurora offered to the hotel and conference center developer three years ago. The deal called for the creation of two special taxing districts, included property tax revenue for a nearby housing development and used a state incentive tool intended for urban renewal on land zoned agricultural.

Maher said as a taxpayer advocate she was appalled by the deal.

“It’s like something out of Chicago,” Maher said. “It’s not something that you would believe would happen here in Colorado.”

The City of Aurora stands behind the incentives as a necessary tool to attract a major economic driver not only to the city but to benefit the entire region. City council members who voted on the deal emphasize that unless the hotel and conference center are constructed, the developer will not receive any of the taxpayer money. Also, all of the taxpayer money tied up in the deal would be new revenue generated by the project so it wouldn’t take away from existing city revenue.

The City of Aurora is scheduled to give an update Thursday to the state’s Economic Development Commission about the status of the project. The update will focus on $81.4 million in state incentives given to the developer through the Regional Tourism Act – a tool that enables unique and significant projects to capture a portion of state sales tax revenue to help finance development.