TUCSON (CN) – A businesswoman claims city officials “distort the normal and fair operation of market forces” by letting a restaurant and offices operate virtually rent-free in Tucson’s old Southern Pacific train depot.
Shelby Hawkins, owner of a pest control company, claims in Superior Court that the city’s generous, multiyear leases for the Historic Depot violate the Arizona Constitution’s gift and equal protection clauses and force nonsubsidized businesses to compete in a fixed game
“These benefits distort the normal and fair operation of market forces and impose substantial burdens upon taxpayers,” the complaint states. “The framers of the Arizona Constitution, who themselves were faced with just these issues, crafted several provisions in our state’s organic law intended to prevent such misapplication and misuse of the people’s funds.”
The city bought the 1941 Southern Pacific train station in 1998 for $2.1 million. It’s now a commercial center, with a restaurant, store, museum and office space.
The city’s rent subsidy “costs the city’s taxpayers approximately $231,952 to operate and provides a nearly $500,000 subsidy to particular business lessees,” according to the complaint.
Hawkins “seeks to enforce the Arizona Constitution’s guarantees that limit the exercise of government power to truly public purposes and that prevent unjust enrichment of favored interest to the detriment of the taxpaying public.”
Hawkins wants the city’s subsidy ordinances declared unconstitutional and the leases canceled. Hawkins and 5 Star Termite and Pest Control are represented by Evan Thompson with Thompson Krone.