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Judge Hands Down Ruling in Drainage District Dispute

Rules in favor of Chamber of Commerce and Mesa County

MESA COUNTY, Colo. - Judge Timbreza answered the question of whether or not the Grand Valley Drainage District has the authority to levy a fee in addition to the tax it already collects for storm water management. He decided they do not have that power.

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and Mesa County filed a lawsuit against the Drainage District in 2016, because they said the fee was essentially a tax and was not voted on, which would not be allowed under TABOR. The judge ruled in favor of the Chamber and the County, but the fee already impacted around 40,000 parcels of land in the Grand Valley according to the Chamber.

Those with the Chamber said the fee was sent out for three billing cycles, where homes paid a little over $30 a year. However, they also said businesses were charged anywhere from $5,000 - $10,000 a year because they have more impermeable ground space, like parking lots.

Those with the Chamber of Commerce said they are happy with the decision. "This is a ruling that has widespread implications even beyond this, in terms of making local governments and governmental units stop and think twice before you try and levy a fee. Come to the voters, trust the voters, ask the voters. If there's a need, the voters will vote for it," said the President and CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

Schwenke said the underlying issue still remains: how to fix our storm water management system. She said this is not just a problem for the Drainage District, but for all of the local agencies in the Grand Valley that need to come together to find a solution.

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