Littleton City Council took a step on June 11 toward asking voters to approve a 3 percent city sales tax on both retail marijuana sales and lodging this November, but set aside asking them to elect their mayor for now.
Council directed staff to draft potential language for the two tax questions, but will still need to vote on whether to actually put them on the ballot. If they do, and the questions pass, it would be double the amount of current city sales tax.
There is just one hotel in the city, Hampton Inn & Suites on County Line Road.
“We got wind of it a couple weeks ago, and we’re certainly opposed to it,” said Chris Bailey, director of sales. “The value for the customer goes down, and the customer doesn’t separate the tax from the cost of the room. It’s a tax against our hotel, essentially.”
There are two motels, Essex House and Evergreen, both on Santa Fe Drive, neither of which is likely to attract a thriving tourist clientele.
Doug Farmen, the city’s finance director, estimates a 3 percent lodging tax could add $90,000 in annual revenues to the city’s general fund. The state of Colorado, Douglas County and Arapahoe County all collect lodging tax, and the average in Colorado is approximately 2.45 percent.
As far as taxing pot, council hasn’t even officially decided whether to allow retail sales.
“I’m 150 percent against having retail,” said Mayor Debbie Brinkman. “I will vote to tax it if we do it, but don’t construe that as approval.”
Councilor Jim Taylor noted that several surrounding communities have already banned retail sales, making it a lucrative venture for Littleton.
“I think 3 percent is acceptable to the people,” he said.
Additionally, a group of local activists going by the name Citizens for Rational Development is trying to petition two other items onto the ballot.
The first would require the seven-member council to pass rezoning requests with a supermajority of five councilors, in keeping with state law. Littleton’s home-rule charter supersedes state law on most things, and it allows rezoning requests to pass with a simple majority.
CRD’s second proposal is to limit council’s use of executive sessions. It would allow council to meet in executive session to discuss only ongoing lawsuits and matters that are required to be confidential by state and federal law. It would prohibit them from turning off the recording device when meeting with their attorney, and require them to keep the tape until all the councilors are no longer on council.
The group needs nearly 1,600 signatures from those who support the effort to put the ordinances to a vote of the people. The signatures are due at the city clerk’s office on Aug. 7.
CRD member Carol Brzeczek said the signature-gathering was going well as of June 14.
“Citizens like the idea of a more open and transparent city government, and some would like to eliminate secret meetings altogether,” she said. “There is also overwhelming support for the two-thirds majority vote on all zoning changes.”
Littleton residents will also be voting to fill four council seats and three school-board seats, and Littleton Public Schools is considering placing an $80 million bond issue on the ballot.