Voters won’t have chance to limit eminent domain
DENVER – Lawmakers killed a plan Monday that would have asked voters to limit the government’s power to condemn private property, with the sponsor saying he hoped the issue would be put on the November ballot some other way.Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, said an amendment would have allowed municipalities to continue using eminent domain to condemn property to eliminate blight. White said that would still allow local governments to seize property for economic development, which he and others consider an abuse.White compared his bill to Old Yeller, the doomed dog of book and movie fame: “It’s been bitten by a rabid skunk and I’ve got to put it down. I can’t let this dog out of the courtyard and let it bite somebody else,” he told colleagues.The House voted 60-4 to kill the bill by postponing it until a day after the Legislature adjourns. White said he now supports an initiative being prepared by citizen groups for the November ballot that would imposes strict limits on the power of eminent domain.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.Marsha Looper, an El Paso County resident who opposes the toll road and supports the initiative, said voters will do what lawmakers were afraid to do.”I think lawmakers in the House of Representatives are not representing the people who voted them into office. The citizens are going to do it themselves,” she said.Last month, Owens signed a measure 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. Owens said wanted to ensure that the plans go through the Department of Transportation.Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, said White’s bill would still have allowed communities to seize land for economic development by declaring it blighted, even if the buildings were in good condition.”This bill as amended thumbs its nose at private property rights. We’re telling the people of Colorado this is not a problem. The people of Colorado deserve more, they deserve private property rights,” Gardner said.Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, said the bill would have given people false comfort that the government was helping them protect their property. He said the best way to reassure people is to develop land use plans and warn property owners where development will occur.”Some people are going to lose their property,” he said.
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