Westside to be among the benificaries of state court’s TOPS ruling
A Colorado Supreme Court ruling this week validating Colorado Springs' open-space sales tax will have visible impacts on the Westside.
Chris Lieber, manager of the city's Tops, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) program, mentioned Red Rock Canyon, Section 16 and a long-awaited neighborhood park in Crown Hill Mesa as sites that will get new or greater attention now.
The court decision overruled a District Court judge who in August 2004 had decreed in favor of Douglas Bruce, the author of the state Taxpayers' Bill of Rights (TABOR) law. Bruce had argued in his lawsuit that the city had violated TABOR in its 2003 TOPS tax extension election - which voters approved by about a 2-1 margin - by not stating on the ballot that it would be a tax increase.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court found that a tax extension is not the same as a tax increase. The extension will allow the City to continue to collect the tenth-of-cent sales tax through 2025. Otherwise, the tax would have terminated in 2009.
Bruce was not available for comment this week.
According to Steve Harris, a private attorney who was formerly chair of the City Parks Advisory Committee, Bruce could try to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it “will see no reason to take a case involving interpretation of a state constitutional provision,” Harris states in an e-mail to area open-space supporters.
We're delighted to have the ruling determined in our favor,” Lieber said in an interview. “We look forward to continuing the good track record we have in enhancing the quality of life in the community. Because when you come down to it that's what its all about. The community supported this very strongly, and this is an opportunity to fulfill that commitment.”
The possibility of Bruce's lawsuit being upheld had led City Parks to alter its TOPS spending plans even while city attorneys appealed the case to the state Supreme Court. The lion's share of the funds had to be funneled into paying off the $12 million Red Rock Canyon mortgage. The impact was felt citywide, but principal shortfalls on the Westside included the following:
The hope of using TOPS funds to buy Section 16 (just south of Red Rock Canyon) was set aside; the city temporarily leased the land instead. City Red Rock improvements were slowed - no date set for the 26th Street trailhead construction. And, development of the Crown Hill Mesa subdivision's five-acre park off Lower Gold Camp Road remained on hold. But now, “we'll have more funding available on an annual basis,” Lieber said.
Details should be coming out in the weeks ahead.
Westside Pioneer article