City may seek voter approval of financial incentives for potential racetrack near Denver

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If NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation ever move forward on long dormant plans to build a racetrack near Denver, Colo., at least one community is preparing to ask voters to approve financial incentives to potential developers.

The city of Aurora, Colo., which borders the east side of Denver and is south of Denver International Airport, has had a law on its books since 1999 that prohibits offering financial incentives to build a facility such as a racetrack within its borders.

But according to a report by AuroraSentinal.com, city councilwoman Sally Mounier hopes to put a referendum on the 2016 general election ballot asking voters to overturn the ban.

“I’m doing this because I think it’s the right thing to do, and the timing seems to be right,” Mounier told the Sentinel. “I think the (city) charter is not a place to discriminate against a particular business.”

The city council’s Management and Finance committee unanimously approved Mounier’s proposal on Jan. 28.

It’s expected the proposal will now go to the entire council, and if approved, could then potentially be placed on the ballot.

“At some point in time if there were a serious proposal to get something like that into the area, it would be nice for Aurora to be able to cooperate with other interests to make it happen rather than saying we’ve got the land, but we can’t help you,” Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan told the Sentinel. “I think most council members then and now understand that if there ever were to be a NASCAR facility in the metro area, the best place would be on the east side of the metro area, and that’s Aurora.”

The city originally created the law after voters approved a proposal that would prevent the city from offering any public funding subsidies or incentives such as tax discounts or waiving development fees to potential racetrack developers.

Mounier said neither she nor the city have been approached by potential racetrack developers to change the law. But it’s clear the economic impact such a track would bring to Aurora and the immediate Denver area.

“A NASCAR race weekend will generate, on average, more than $100 million in economic impact for a destination,” said Gary Wheat, president of Visit Aurora, which promotes travel and tourism in the city.

ISC announced plans to build a track in the Denver area in 2007. According to the Sentinel, ISC identified one potential site in north Aurora, near the airport, as well as another site on unincorporated land east of Aurora.

But when the U.S. economy went into recession, the plans were shelved. There has been no indication that ISC or NASCAR are prepared to revive those plans, but if voters approve Aurora’s proposal next year, it would be one less hurdle for a future track.

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