Breckenridge officials fear Amendment 74 could jeopardize local operations
September 26, 2018
Breckenridge has joined a growing list of opponents to Amendment 74, an effort to update Colorado's Constitution by requiring that owners receive "just compensation" when a government action diminishes the "fair market value" of private property.
The proposed amendment is sponsored by the Colorado Farm Bureau and backed by the oil and gas industry. It will appear on the November ballot, asking voters to add only 11 words to the state constitution.
"Amendment 74 is an effort to push back against the imbalance we see between governments and property owners because governments can currently take more than 90 percent of the value of someone's property without being on the hook to compensate them for that taking," said Shawn Martini, the bureau's vice president of advocacy.
In an op-ed published June 8 in Colorado Politics, Martini argued that the measure "will level the playing field and provide property owners with a clear path to make their case to a judge when they believe the value of their property may have been taken."
On the flipside, opponents worry that Amendment 74, however short its language may be, would have disastrous, wide-ranging ramifications by opening a host of governmental operations, from zoning and land-use regulations to the placement of workforce housing, up to a tidal wave of new lawsuits.
"An example of the ramifications could potentially be, say for instance, short-term rentals," assistant town manager Shannon Haynes told Breckenridge council members before they unanimously approved a resolution opposing Amendment 74 at Tuesday's meeting.
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"If the town does pass (short-term rental) regulations, someone could claim an impact to the fair market value of their home because of reduced rental income," Haynes said.
Likewise, inaction could be just as litigious, she added. Using the same example, Haynes hypothesized the neighbors of those short-term rentals could just as easily sue the town if Amendment 74 passes and Breckenridge doesn't implement any new rules on short-term rentals because allowing them to go unchecked could also harm someone's property value.
"That's just one example of how this potential amendment could impact the town," she said.
Responding to the critics, the Colorado Farm Bureau contends that Amendment 74 is an all-encompassing measure designed to protect small businesses, homeowners, farmers and ranchers, along with urban, suburban and rural property owners alike, from governmental actions that harm property values.
Colorado's Constitution already allows owners to seek redress when a state or local government seizes or damages someone's private property, be it for roads or other public projects, but the bureau claims courts have not enforced those rules equally, there's no recourse for loss of property value and Amendment 74 would address that inequality.
Nothing in Amendment 74 specifically mentions the oil or gas industry, but opponents are saying it's the industry's response to another November ballot measure: Proposition 112. That would require that oil and gas developments, including wells and fracking, be set back at least 2,500 feet from occupied buildings, including people's homes and other vulnerable areas.
Should voters approve both Amendment 74 and Proposition 112 this November, the state could be in for a frightening situation, in which taxpayers are liable for any losses incurred by oil and gas companies when those companies are prevented from harvesting natural resources on private land.
"(The oil and gas industry) has an interest in strengthening property rights protections the same as our members do," Martini said, disputing the measure is written for any one group.
In opposing the amendment, Breckenridge officials have aligned the town with the Colorado Municipal League, Denver city officials and numerous newspapers across the state, including The Denver Post, Westword, Durango Herald, The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction, Daily Camera in Boulder and many others. After meeting this week, Aspen City Council is considering taking a similar stance.
According to the league, if Amendment 74 passes, almost any municipal action could result in a lawsuit if the effect is even the slightest drop in an individual property's "fair market value," without any exceptions for health, safety and general welfare regulations or those actions mandated by federal or state governments.
In response, Martini said: "It's not surprising to us (the state, cities and towns) would oppose something that holds them more accountable when it comes to taking the value of people's properties."