Local Governments Bracing For Eminent Domain Fight: CBS4 (Denver CO), 9/29/05

Representatives of cities and counties across the state [of Colorado] are bracing for an expected onslaught of legislation restricting their ability to use eminent domain to condemn property following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that left regulation of the practice to state and local governments.

On Thursday, a coalition of citizen groups applied for a spot on the 2006 ballot for a proposed constitutional amendment that would ensure that private property cannot be taken for economic improvement, to increase sales taxes or to provide economic gain.

The coalition includes a group fighting a proposed "Super Slab" toll road on the Eastern Plains.

"We are fighting for the private property rights of every Colorado citizen," said Marsha Looper, a member of the Eastern Plains Citizen Coalition fighting the project.

Steve Nadler, a member of Colorado Citizens for Property Rights, said he's fighting attempts by officials in Sheridan to seize his property for a strip mall.

"I'm really mad as hell about this and it's not right," he said, as the coalition prepared to deliver its initiative to legislative staffers to review before setting out with petitions.

Once the language of the initiative is approved, the coalition would have to gather 67,829 valid voter signatures to get it on next year's ballot.

Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, who has promised to introduce his own legislation limiting the use of eminent domain, said he supports the initiative and will also ask lawmakers to approve a referred measure from the Legislature, to make sure one of them gets on the ballot.

"Eminent domain is completely out of control," White said.

Last year, lawmakers approved a law that allows business owners who think their land has been unfairly taken by the government and turned over to another company to take officials to court and have the municipality foot the bill. White said a stricter law is needed following the Supreme Court's ruling.

In June, the court ruled 5-4 that New London, Conn., had the authority to take homes to make space for a private development project. But in its ruling, the court noted that states are free to ban that practice.

Larry Kallenberger, executive director of Colorado Counties Inc., which represents most of the state's 64 counties, said he expects more proposed legislation before lawmakers convene in January for their 120-day session. He said landowner rights will be a big topic next year, including a continued debate over limiting the rights of mineral owners to claim property.

"I think there is going to be more than one approach. I think it will be a good session for people who own property to keep an eye on," Kallenberger said.

Kallenberger said county commissioners are divided over the issue, including some who want more limits and others who fear too strict a limit on their powers.

Sam Mamet, executive director of the Colorado Municipal League, which represents cities and towns across the state, said lawmakers have already dealt with the issue with the bill approved last year. He said if lawmakers want to deal with lingering issues from the Super Slab project, a 210-mile toll road proposed for the Eastern Plains that has irked residents in the path of the project, they should deal with that as a separate issue.

"I think it's an emotional reaction to a problem that really doesn't exist in Colorado. However, next year is an election year, and I know there will be some efforts to pass restraints," he said.

CBS4: http://cbs4denver.com