BY TOM BARRY
After nearly five years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, the Marin Metropolitan District remains an ongoing quagmire. The legal wrangling and controversies surrounding the district and its formation continue to affect residents living at the two swanky high-rise Landmark residential towers.
Prior to a court order, individual condominium owners had been obligated to pay $3,000 to $6,000 per year in additional property taxes to pay off a bond debt for the Marin District.
Residents of The Landmark East [formerly Meridian] and West towers are currently assessed a minimal mill levy. The rate was determined by Arapahoe County Judge Donald Marshall in September 2013.
Developer Zack Davidson had constructed the ritzy condominiums and adjacent retail property. As part of his crown jewel, he began promoting an extravagant development he called the European Village, immediately south of Landmark, on the former Sterns-Rodgers Engineering property.
Davidson, along with his attorney Paul Cockrel, accountant LeAnn Jones, Realtor Rike Palese, Chad Cox, Jonathon Keiler and Katy Everett, worked in conjunction to create the Marin Metropolitan District, which was ostensibly intended to provide the infrastructure to develop the European Village.
Many believe the Greenwood Village City Council was essentially hoodwinked by the flashy developer in its approval of the district.
“The District issued $30 million in bonds, which were to be repaid by property taxes to be paid by the residents of the Marin development and The Landmark and Meridian Towers,” said Judge Marshal in his 2013 findings, saying Landmark residents had not received any direct benefit from the Marin assessment.
Cox, a former Marin director, became a whistleblower and reported potentially illegal activity to Greenwood Village police. His information led to an investigation by the District Attorney’s Office.
In late December 2012, a grand jury indicted Davidson for fraud and embezzlement for bilking $3.1 million from the Marin District. The bankrupt and disgraced developer committed suicide in Florida in early January 2013.
“The facts of this case are so unique and so egregious that I’m not aware of any other district that has engaged in this kind of behavior,” said Brian Matise, an attorney with the DTC law firm Burg Simpson who represents the Landmark Homeowners Association.
Matise says the district’s board members held sham elections and approved a mill levy to fund the district’s repayment of the bonds. Marin board members declined to notify Landmark property owners of the any meetings, making it impossible for them to voice their opinions or vote.
The plaintiff’s attorney alleges the action constituted illegal taxation without representation.
Neil Arney, representing defendants Colorado BondShares and UMB Bank, claimed early residents of Landmark paid the district’s tax assessment without any initial disapproval.
Early residents of The Landmark condos waited more than two years to formally voice their concerns in a lawsuit. Arney has not returned multiple requests for comment.
Through Burg Simpson, the HOA filed the initial lawsuit in June 2011, seeking a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order to prevent additional property taxes paid to Colorado BondShares on behalf of the Marin District
In 2013, Judge Marshall ruled in favor of the HOA, preventing additional taxation. The judge also ordered reimbursement of back taxes to residents, along with repayment of legal fees.
A year later, Marshall ordered that the District be limited in its repayment obligation.
Through Arney, defendants filed to appeal Marshall’s findings. Oral argument occurred March 15 in front of a three-judge appellate panel, which is expected to rule within several months.
Since the legal issues began, Palese has settled out of court with the Marin District. His insurance carrier issued a check for $100,000 without acknowledging wrongdoing. Earlier this month, Cockrel and his law firm’s insurance carrier signed off on a check for $4.5 million, also disavowing any wrongdoing.
2017 All Rights Reserved. Villager Publishing |