Colorado

 

  • Moderate improvements to the state’s public use requirement, however the state still needs a sufficiently narrow definition of public use.
  • Clear and convincing evidence” is now required for blight designations, however the definition of blight is still considerably vague.

 

 50 State Report Card    50 State Report Card Grade
     

50 State Report Card: Tracking Eminent Domain Reform Legislation since Kelo

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Read: Colorado Chapter
Read: Entire Report

   
     
Current Abuses    Bills
     

  House Bill 1411
Sponsored by: State Representative Al White
Status: Signed into law on June 6, 2006.

     
     
Overview     
     

Even before the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Kelo, Colorado municipalities had an unfortunate history of abusing eminent domain for the benefit of wealthy private developers. In 2006, the Colorado General Assembly improved the state’s eminent domain laws by passing House Bill 1411, which amended the public use definition to “not include the taking of private property for transfer to a private entity for the purpose of economic development or enhancement of tax revenue” and stated that “Private property may otherwise be taken solely for the purpose of furthering a public use.”

While it was definitely a step in the right direction, HB 1411 left some room for improvement. The new law allows municipalities to continue using eminent domain to seize so-called blighted properties, and the state’s definition of blight is sufficiently vague to allow for considerable abuse. The good news is that in HB 1411, the legislature did take measures to tighten the blight loophole by requiring government officials to prove by clear and convincing evidence that “the taking of the property is necessary for the eradication of blight.”

The General Assembly missed a golden opportunity, in that same session, when it considered but did not pass an amendment to the state constitution that would have prohibited the condemnation of private property for economic development. While the statutory protections it did eventually adopt will, for the time being, provide some increased protections from the government condemning people’s homes, businesses, farms, and places of worship—unless condemnors convince a court that the property is in fact blighted—those protections may eventually be stripped away if the public fails to guard carefully against those who can find personal gain through the abuse of eminent domain. Hopefully the legislature will revisit the possibility of a constitutional amendment and Coloradans will have the chance to provide themselves with the most enduring type of protections for their fundamental right to keep what they properly own.

 


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