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Gaylord Rockies pays $87M in taxes that it had disputed

A defeat at the Colorado Supreme Court last month has forced the Gaylord Rockies Resort to pay years-old tax bills totaling $87 million that it had been disputing since opening.

The massive hotel near Denver International Airport is the largest taxpayer in Adams County. It opened in 2018 and was sent a property tax bill of $25.3 million the next year.

The hotel’s owner, Nashville-based Ryman Hospitality Properties, took issue with that. It claimed that the county had wrongly valued it at $676 million rather than $270 million due to a flawed methodology that includes income from restaurants and shops in a hotel’s value.

The Gaylord appealed its 2019 tax bill to the county’s board of equalization, the Colorado Board of Assessment Appeals and the Colorado Court of Appeals. It lost every time.

Then, in October, it asked the Colorado Supreme Court to take up its case.

“The Gaylord is not one ball of undifferentiated wax,” it wrote. “It is a complex property containing mixed assets which generate distinct types of income…For property tax purposes, there is no legal basis to merge non-realty income into realty-derived income.”

Adams County called the entire disagreement “a run of the mill dispute” that was “in no way novel nor particularly interesting” and therefore unworthy of the Supreme Court’s time. The high court agreed on June 26, when it announced that it would not hear the case.

If the Gaylord had won out, the county may have been forced to change the way it calculates property taxes for hotels. Ken Musso, the assessor for Adams County, said it is difficult to know how much less money would have gone to the government as a result.

“Each property owner would have had the right to try and use the same methodology. It would be hard to enumerate a cost. It would depend on the outcomes of the appeals,” he said.

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