By now many of you may have already heard that the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, a handful of individual members, and Mesa County have joined forces to file a legal challenge to the Grand Valley Drainage District imposition of fees on area businesses, nonprofits and residents. The first step in that process is to ask for an injunction against the District from collecting fees while the issue makes its way through the courts. This is not an action that the Chamber took lightly and was a last resort after months of trying to work with the District to find an alternative solution.
Since 1915 the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce has served as the “Voice of Business” in Mesa County. Over the years, the Chamber has played a critical role in addressing problems, providing leadership, and working to improve the business climate to the benefit of not just businesses, but also those they employ and the customers they serve.
The Chamber, along with Mesa County and Chamber Members Conquest Development, EmTech, Knowles Enterprises, Hampton Inn/Fairfield Inn and Suites Downtown and Grand Junction Tech Center, will be filing a lawsuit against the Grand Valley Drainage District. The basis for the lawsuit is that the Chamber, along with the leadership of Mesa County and these private job creators, believe, among other things, that this fee is actually an unauthorized tax impacting thousands of businesses, nonprofits, churches, and individual citizens. The lawsuit will also be seeking an injunction to prevent the Grand Valley Drainage District from collecting this purported fee.
The Chamber has worked diligently for eight months to try and reach a compromise with the Grand Valley Drainage District and other governmental authorities that will not unduly harm the business community and our fragile economy. The Chamber position has been clearly articulated to their boards, staff and our members on numerous occasions and includes these tenets:
- The Chamber supports a valley-wide solution to addressing the area’s drainage problems, which of necessity involves governmental entities in addition to the Grand Valley Drainage District.
- The Chamber supports the development of thoughtful alternatives regarding new fees, taxes, and grants to meet the need.
- The Chamber opposes the imposition of an impact fee for business expansions. The growth of businesses improves the economy, increases job opportunities and adds to the tax base.
- The Chamber supports an extended process of securing more information in a collaborative manner with all entities responsible for drainage and thoroughly exploring all funding models, the implementation of a sunset provision on the funding source, more transparency and accountability in the form of reports issued to taxpayers regarding how project priorities are identified, how funds are being spent, and how funds are leveraged with money from other sources—including grants.
Over the past eight months, the Chamber has persistently argued that the Grand Valley Drainage District’s purported “fee,” in its current form, is not the appropriate answer. The Drainage District nevertheless chose to invoice over 40,000 homes, businesses, nonprofits and city and county governments on March 31st with no change in their original position. This action is bad for business, bad for the economy, and businesses and citizens deserve to know whether the “fee” is in fact an impermissible “tax” that requires voter approval.
Ultimately, it is the hope of our organization(s) that we can quickly get back to focusing on this valley wide problem and devising a more comprehensive and collaborative approach to addressing our needs to manage storm water in Mesa County without harming our members and the business community at large.
Anyone interested in helping the Chamber fund its portion of the litigation costs is urged to call Diane Schwenke, 970-242-3214.
Click here to download full version of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce May 2016 Newsletter.