Mesa County District Judge Lance Timbreza rules that the Grand Valley Drainage District’s stormwater charge is a tax and subject to TABOR

Grand Valley Irrigation Canal. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The Grand Valley Drainage District’s charge, which for most of its residents is $36 a year, “runs afoul of (the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights) and is unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt,” Mesa County District Judge Lance Timbreza wrote in a 43-page decision handed down a year after Timbreza presided over a trial on the case.

Mesa County and the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce sued to halt the charge, contending that it was an illegal tax.

While the ruling halts the district from continuing to collect the charge, it’s silent on how or whether the district is to return the $7.2 million already collected over the last three years.

None of the drainage district board members now serving were on the board that instituted the fee and two said they expected to discuss what steps to take next in the coming weeks.

Board Chairman Cody Davis, who joined the board two years ago as an opponent of the charge, preferring that voters approve of any revenue-increasing measure, said he was surprised by the ruling…

Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis said it’s now time to deal with stormwater drainage issues across the county and said the drainage district should return to the bargaining table to “pick up where they left off and work toward a unified valley authority. And frankly, they don’t have the leverage to say no.”

[…]

Previous board members had leaned away from an appeal in the event they lost the suit, but the subject has yet to come before the current board.

Timbreza’s decision makes no mention of whether the district should return money to its customers. The county and chamber had made no request in their arguments about the money already collected…

While residents were asked to pay $36 a year, many businesses paid much more than that, up to $10,000 a year, Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Diane Schwenke said…

The chamber and Grisier both noted that the need to deal with stormwater hasn’t gone away.

The drainage district charged businesses, churches, local governments and others with large-area parking lots and rooftops $3 per month for each 2,500 square feet of impervious surface, or surfaces that shed, rather than absorb water.

Residents were charged $3 per month or $36 a year.

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