Lawmakers try to limit eminent domain
DENVER – A possible compromise on the government’s ability to seize land in Colorado sailed through the House on Monday after Republicans and Democrats agreed to raise the standard for condemning property for blight.The newly introduced bill would require condemning authorities to demonstrate that the taking of private property is for a public use – including cases of blight, through clear and convincing evidence.Erin Goff, representing the Colorado Municipal League and about 260 communities across the state, criticized the plan.”Clear and convincing is typical for criminal cases, it’s not used in civil cases,” she told lawmakers.She said current law requires communities to meet a number of definitions of blight before they can proceed. She said she does not know communities would define a clear and convincing standard for condemnation proceedings.Rep. Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, and Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, said they believe lawmakers can come up with a plan, even though a half-dozen previous efforts this session failed. The new plan would amend state statutes, which could later be changed.Rep. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said lawmakers need to get something done before they adjourn next week because “one person’s blight is another person’s healthy field.”The House previously killed a measure (House Concurrent Resolution 1001) that would have changed the constitution and barred use of eminent domain for economic development. White asked that his bill be killed after the House allowed communities to condemn property to erase urban blight. He said that didn’t belong in the constitution.The issue has become a contentious one since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that New London, Conn., could seize homeowners’ property to develop a hotel, convention center, office space and condominiums next to Pfizer Inc.’s new research headquarters.In Colorado, much of the debate has focused on a plan to build a 210-mile “Super Slab” toll road on the eastern plains. Last year, state lawmakers passed two bills designed to limit or block the project, but Gov. Bill Owens vetoed both of them, saying the state needs private investment in highways because the state has fallen behind in highway funding in recent years.Goff said state lawmakers have already addressed both issues.She said lawmakers two years ago passed a law barring use of condemnation for economic development and Owens signed a compromise measure this year (Senate Bill 78) that eliminates the ability of private companies to use eminent domain to condemn land while allowing developers to form a partnership with the state to allow private investment to build roads.
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