TIF suit still alive in courts after Supreme Court denial
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs city attorney Karl Hanlon said he’s not surprised at the Colorado Supreme Court’s Monday ruling to deny a request to hear the appeal of a lawsuit filed against the city.
He said it actually would have been extremely rare if the court took on the appeal. “The case needs to follow the normal progression instead of doing an end-run around the appeals court,” Hanlon said. “The Supreme Court ruled exactly how I expected them to on the matter.”
Hanlon also said he thinks the appeal could be heard and ruled upon within the next three months.
The case involves an ongoing lawsuit filed by Garfield County and Colorado Mountain College that challenges the Glenwood Springs Downtown Development Authority’s financing system.
The suit, originally filed in April 2002, challenges the use of a financing method called tax increment financing to pay for improvements in the downtown core.
Ninth District Judge Thomas Ossola dismissed the lawsuit on Sept. 29.
In Ossola’s seven-page order, he found that each of the plaintiffs lacked “standing,” meaning that the use of TIF by the DDA would not cause them financial injury.
The plaintiffs in the suit immediately appealed Ossola’s decision, sending the case back to court.
“When they filed an appeal, they also filed a petition to try and circumvent the appeals court and go to the Supreme Court,” Hanlon said.
That petition was the request the Supreme Court denied Monday. The court didn’t give a reason for denying the case.
Tax increment financing, or TIF, is a system of generating money to pay for projects by using a portion of sales tax revenues and the rise of property tax, or ad valorem, revenues.
The year leading up to Feb. 28, 2002, was designated as the base year for the TIF. That means 50 percent of the growth in city sales tax revenues in the downtown district and 100 percent of the rise in property taxes within that district from that year will be allocated to the DDA to pay for ventures such as the construction of a new parking structure or other downtown improvement projects.
Since 2002, Hanlon said, nearly $200,000 in tax increment financing funds has accrued in a bank account. Until the lawsuit is decided, that money will continue to accumulate, but cannot be spent.
The case isn’t over, though. Garfield County and CMC’s request for the Supreme Court to hear the case was merely an attempt to skip the appeals court ” the court that has been hearing briefs on the case since October, Hanlon said.
Garfield County attorney Don DeFord said the Supreme Court’s denial might have delayed the proceedings but shouldn’t affect the case other than its timing.
DeFord said he expects the appeals court to hear oral arguments in early fall.
Hanlon said now that the Supreme Court has denied the case, he expects oral arguments in appeals court “to be held in the next 60 to 90 days.”
Hanlon said the arguments normally last only about 15 minutes apiece.
“It’s fully briefed in front of the appeals court,” he said. “They get all the information, then a three-judge panel hears the arguments.”
Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511
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