Eminent-domain measure euthanized: Denver (CO) Post, 4/25/06

The "Old Yeller" proposal would have restricted the power of governments to take private property for economic development

By Chris Frates

The sponsor of a [Colorado] constitutional amendment to prevent governments from taking land for economic development killed his proposal Monday but said he is willing to work with the House speaker on a proposed compromise.

Still, Republican Rep. Al White of Winter Park said the proposed deal being brokered by Democratic House Speaker Andrew Romanoff is "stopgap" because it is a statutory measure that would be much easier to change than a constitutional amendment.

The new proposal, White said, "may slow the avaricious cities in concert with the greedy developers in taking the private property of the poor citizens of Colorado" until a constitutional amendment by citizens initiative can be passed in November.

On Monday, White asked his colleagues to kill his proposed constitutional amendment, House Concurrent Resolution 1001, because it had been changed so drastically for the worse.

He said the situation reminded him of the movie "Old Yeller," which, when he was a boy, "made me cry like a baby."

"I'm calling this now the 'Old Yeller' (proposal) because it's been bitten by a rabid skunk and I've got to put it down. And it makes me cry like a baby," White said.

(In the movie, Old Yeller had to be shot because the dog had developed rabies after being bitten by an infected wolf.)

Romanoff said this newest proposal is modeled after a Michigan measure.

It would require "clear and convincing evidence" that the property is not being taken for economic-development reasons but to eradicate blight. It would also require governments to reimburse homeowners at least 125 percent of fair market value for their principal residence.

"I think it strikes the right balance between private property rights, which we should protect, and community interest that we should not ignore," he said.

But the problem with a statutory change, White said, is that powerful interests like municipalities and developers can easily lobby for changes to the law if they don't like it.

Denver Post: http://www.denverpost.com