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Commission asked to reconsider Aurora incentives

July 26, 2013 Updated: July 26, 2013 at 12:35 am
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The Colorado Economic Development Commission will decide in coming weeks whether to reconsider $81.4 million in tax incentives promised to a massive hotel and conference center planned in Aurora.

Attorney Trey Rogers, hired to represent 22 hotels including two in Colorado Springs, told the commission at a Thursday meeting that the development plan for the Gaylord hotel and conference center in Aurora has changed substantially.

"We're asking the commission to reconsider its conditional approval to the Aurora project," Rogers said. "The cause of the reconsideration is that circumstances have changed, they have changed pretty dramatically, and we think those circumstances warrant reconsideration."

Under the Regional Tourism Act, the project was awarded up to $81.4 million in tax breaks over the next 30 years to help make the 1,500-room hotel economically viable.

But since that award, the project has changed hands. Gaylord Entertainment sold its four existing conference centers and hotels and the assets in the Aurora project, which still needs financing.

Marriott International bought the assets and is now trying to move forward with the plan and find financing.

Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said the project is under attack by businesses that see the 1,500-room hotel project as a threat to their business.

"If you can't count on an approval, what can you count on?" Hogan said. "This idea is a horrible, horrible precedent. There's no doubt that you all still have some review to do. It was our intent to be here in September to present you with that."

The commission - composed of nine appointed members - went into executive session to discuss the issue and then promised a decision in a timely manner.

Also at issue is whether the commission will take into consideration a document titled "Financing Request Gaylord Corp." that it received from Rogers during the meeting.

According to Hogan, it is an internal document that was leaked to the media and eventually to the commission. He said he hasn't seen the document nor is it relevant because it's an incomplete draft.

Rogers hinted that the document might show the Aurora hotel project could move forward without the substantial subsidy from state government.

Initially, the project was projected to cost $824 million, but new estimates show it would cost closer to $735 million, Rogers said.

"The delta between those two numbers is greater than the present value of the subsidy that has been requested," he said.

Hogan said the project still needs the subsidy and the city and county are still committed to providing up to $200 million in city-based tax incentives that would refund the development's sales taxes, boarding taxes and property taxes over the next 30 years.

The commission meeting was held Thursday at Coors Field in the Colorado Rockies' executive boardroom. Dick Monfort, owner of the Rockies, is chair of the board, and after the meeting, tickets were handed out to watch the afternoon game from the owner's suite.

The commission is responsible for several state subsidies and incentives intended to attract businesses to Colorado, create jobs and boost the economy.

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Contact Megan Schrader: 719-286-0644

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