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Foothills Park and Recreation District v. Board of County Commissioners.

2024 COA 62. No. 23CA0686. Special Districts—Overlapping Service Area—CRS § 32-1-107—Declaratory Relief—Injunctive Relief.

May 30, 2024

Foothills Park and Recreation District (Foothills) is authorized under CRS § 32-1-103(14) to provide park and recreational facilities within its boundaries. Red Rocks Centre Metropolitan District No. 1 (RRC 1) and Red Rocks Centre Metropolitan District No. 2 (RRC 2) are metropolitan districts authorized, as relevant here, to provide park and recreational facilities within their respective boundaries. RRC 1 and 2 and Foothills are special districts organized under CRS §§ 32-1-101 to -1807, the Special District Act (Act). In 2018, Tharaldson Ethanol Plant I, LLC (Tharaldson) applied to develop a subdivision that included property within the service area of one or more of the RRC districts. While that application was pending, Foothills requested that the subdivision be included in its boundaries under Jefferson County Land Development Regulation LDR 32.F. The RRC districts opposed the inclusion request, and litigation ensued. The Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Division recommended denial of the inclusion request under CRS § 32-1-107(2) and (3)(b)(IV) because the RRC districts had the ability to provide park and recreation services for the area and the RRC districts did not consent to the inclusion. The Board of County Commissioners for Jefferson County (BOCC) and later the district court affirmed the denial. Foothills appealed, and the court of appeals dismissed the appeal as moot, so the prior litigation ended without a ruling on the propriety of the BOCC’s denial of the 2018 inclusion request.

In 2022, Tharaldson requested BOCC approval to develop the Red Rocks Ranch Subdivision, which is located within a mile or two of Foothills’ existing western boundary. Foothills made two requests that the BOCC require Tharaldson to include the property within its boundaries under LDR 32.F, which were denied. Foothills appealed to the district court for review of the BOCC’s decision under CRCP 106(a)(4), which sets forth the process for ensuring that the evidence in the record before the governmental body is filed in the district court; and filed a claim for declaratory judgment, requesting that the court declare that CRS § 32-1-107 does not apply to the application of LDR 32.F and requiring inclusion of the property into Foothills’ boundaries. Foothills also (1) sought a permanent injunction barring the BOCC from granting final approval of the plats in such a way as to prevent the future inclusion of the property in Foothills, and (2) filed a motion requesting that the court enter an order to supplement the record by including all the filings related to the 2018 inclusion request. The district court denied the motion, the CRCP 106(a)(4) claim, and the request for injunctive relief, and it dismissed Foothills’ declaratory judgment claim.

On appeal, Foothills argued that the district court erred by denying its request to correct the record because it effectively incorporated into its 2022 inclusion requests the documents from its 2018 inclusion request by communicating to the planning and zoning staff that its 2018 and 2022 inclusion requests were premised on the same arguments. Foothills also maintained that the documents should have been included as part of the record of its 2022 inclusion requests because, in that proceeding, the district court took judicial notice of the file from the 2018 inclusion request. First, there is no evidence that the documents from the 2018 inclusion request were part of the record for the 2022 proceedings, so the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Foothills’ motion to supplement the record. Second, while the district court did take judicial notice of the prior case and its record, that occurred after the BOCC denied Foothills’ inclusion requests, so the documents from that dispute were not part of the record that the BOCC considered in resolving the 2022 inclusion requests. Further, even if the district court erred by denying the motion, there was no resulting prejudice to Foothills.

Foothills also contended that the BOCC erred by relying on CRS § 32-1-107 to deny the inclusion requests because that section applies only to the initial formation of a special district or when an existing district seeks to expand the types of services it provides, not to existing special districts. The court of appeals held that CRS § 32-1-107 applies to an existing district’s request to include property that is already located within another special district that is authorized to provide the same type of services as the district requesting the inclusion. Therefore, CRS § 32-1-107 applies in this case, and Foothills cited no provision of the Act that would authorize its inclusion requests.

Foothills also asserted that, even if CRS § 32-1-107 applies to its requests, inclusion is appropriate because RRC 1 and 2 would overlap its territory, so its board’s consent to the inclusions is all that is required under CRS § 32-1-107(3)(b)(IV). However, under that statute’s plain language, the district that is currently authorized to provide a service to the overlapping area must consent to the inclusions, and Foothills has never been authorized to provide services to the property at issue and thus could not be the consenting district under the statute. Accordingly, the BOCC did not abuse its discretion by concluding that CRS § 32-1-107 applied to Foothills’ inclusion requests or by concluding that the statute does not permit a special district to unilaterally approve its own requests to include within its boundaries property already located within a special district providing the same services.

Foothills further argued that its request for a declaration that CRS § 32-1-107 does not apply to the application of LDR 32.F implicates legislative action, rather than quasi-judicial action, and was properly reviewable on a claim for declaratory relief. However, even assuming that this aspect of Foothills’ request implicates legislative action, the requested declaratory relief would have been duplicative of the order entered on the CRCP 106(a)(4) claim, so there was no error in the court’s dismissal of the declaratory judgment claim.

Lastly, Foothills contended that the district court erred by dismissing its request for permanent injunctive relief. Here, Foothills did not prevail on a substantive claim, so the remedy of a permanent injunction is not available, and the claim therefore fails as a matter of law. Therefore, the district court did not err by dismissing the request for a permanent injunction.

The judgment was affirmed.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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