Home Depot opponents, town tussle over TABOR
December 6, 2005
FRISCO – If Frisco voters decide a Home Depot is in the town’s best interest, and a pool of new revenue flows into town coffers, are Frisco citizens entitled to that money as a refund under Colorado’s controversial Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendment?According to a local alliance of Frisco businesses opposing Home Depot’s entry into town, it’s a distinct possibility.”We have put town officials on notice that there’s a concern and a question about the implications of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights relative to this vote, and future revenue and spending that’s contemplated by this vote,” said Don Sather, a leading member of the opposition Frisco Business Alliance.Sather’s alliance of local businesses is lined up against Home Depot coming to town. Frisco voters will decide in a special election Tuesday whether or not the town can enter into negotiations with the company to develop a 9.4-acre commercial parcel on the north end of town.The issue the alliance is raising is whether new revenues from a Home Depot would constitute “excess revenues” as defined under the TABOR amendment passed by Colorado voters in 1992. Under TABOR, if the public has not voted to utilize excess revenues taken in by the government for particular purposes, then the state is required to refund the extra money back to the people.”We passed the question by some attorneys and a number of people, and they saw that there could be a link in the logic between what’s going on currently with this vote and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights,” Sather said.One of the people Sather asked about the potential conflict was Douglas Bruce, the controversial author of TABOR. Bruce, according to Sather, agreed that there may be some “gray area” between the amendment and what Frisco is hanging their legal hat on.The town of Frisco believes they are on solid legal ground with regard to excess revenues , based on a ballot question passed by voters in 2000. That question “authorized (the town’s) retention of all future excess revenues, however derived,” according to a letter sent to the Frisco Business Alliance drafted by town attorney Thad Renaud.Whether that voter-passed ballot question is at odds with the more recent TABOR amendment is the lingering question.”The gray area has more to do with the blanket authorization for an unlimited period of time for any and all excess revenues, spending or taxation,” Sather said. “Because the intent (of TABOR) itself is to restrict unrestrained growth of government, the intent of the amendment suggests that (the 2000 vote) would be unconstitutional.”On behalf of his group, Sather said he doesn’t expect any legal action to come of the issue anytime soon, especially since the special election is less than a week away.”There won’t be any last minute surprise with this,” Sather said.Sather’s group has posed a number of challenges to the town in advance of Tuesday’s special election, and the town of Frisco has responded to each. One issue raised was pro-Home Depot signage popping up on public property – specifically at the Frisco Nordic Center. Frisco’s attorney decided the Alliance had raised a valid issue, since the Nordic center is a concessionaire leasing its property from the town, and as such, it was directed to take down the signs. The town also recognized issues of sign theft raised by Sather’s group and has directed the town police department to do “extra watch” to combat the thefts.Duffy Hayes can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13611, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.