ArapCo judge sides with city of Aurora in flap over racetrack ballot question


AURORA | An Arapahoe County judge Monday ruled in favor of the city as he shot down a challenge to a  ballot measure that, if voters approve it, would allow for a massive racetrack development.

Opponents of the measure had argued it violated the state’s “single Issue” ballot measures and was too broad and confusing.

The ballot question asks voters to strike language from the city’s charter barring officials from offering financial incentives to racetrack facilities.

In a statement Tuesday, “Aurora Residents for Transparency,” which opposes the ballot measure and brought the legal challenge, chided Arapahoe County District Court Judge John Wheeler for siding with the city, paving the way for voters to decide the issue this fall.

Kristin Mallory, part of the group, called the judge’s ruling a disappointment.

“While we are disappointed, the decision did reaffirm that ballot initiatives must be single subject,” the group said in a statement. “We simply disagree with the notion that deleting the prohibition of funds for a private industry, and the creation of the entertainment district is one issue.

“If City Council had the same political will power to lift people out of poverty and provide affordable housing as they are showing for this racetrack, we’d be in a much better place as a city.”

Wheeler heard several hours of testimony on the challenge last week. Lawyers representing the city argued that the measure did not violate the city’s charter regarding election rules, and prevailing lawyers pointed to other similar ballot language in other cities.

City officials — including Mayor Steve Hogan and City Councilwoman Sally Mounier — attended last week’s hearing and said they were confident the city will prevail.

Passed on a city council vote of 7-3, the freshly approved ballot question marks the third time city politicos have asked voters to take the prohibitory language regarding racetracks out of the city’s charter. The verbiage was added to the charter after a citizen-led initiative successfully lobbied voters in 1999 to pass a measure calling for the racetrack ban.

The most recent attempt to remove the racetrack incentive language lost by slightly more that 1,000 votes in 2015.

On top of allowing for the possibility of constructing a racetrack facility — similar to the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas — the city’s measure would permit a sweeping entertainment district. While details on a potential district have been scant, it would be quarantined to land north of Interstate 70 and east of Hudson Road and barred from operating within half-a-mile of residential properties, according to the proposed language.

— Reporter Quincy Snowdon contributed to this story.