Colorado Enacts Eminent Domain Reform

Property Owners Provided with Increased Protection from Abuse

PRESS RELEASE: June 7, 2006

John Kramer
Lisa Knepper
(703) 682-9320

Arlington, Va.—Yesterday, Colorado Governor Bill Owens signed into law House Bill 1411, legislation that redefines “public use” as it applies to the government’s power of eminent domain.  The law explicitly states, “‘Public use’ shall not include the taking of private property for transfer to a private entity for the purpose of economic development or enhancement of tax revenue.”  While HB 1411 allows municipalities to continue using eminent domain to seize so-called “blighted” properties, the government now has the burden to prove by clear and convincing evidence that “the taking of the property is necessary for the eradication of blight.” 

“We commend the Colorado legislature for prohibiting the use of eminent domain for economic development,” said IJ Senior Attorney Dana Berliner.  “The government will no longer have license to condemn people’s homes, businesses, farms and places of worship unless it convinces a court that the property is in fact ‘blighted.’  While there is still potential for abuse under Colorado’s definition of ‘blight’ because some of the factors are vague, it is now much more difficult for the government to take private property for private profit.”

IJ Senior Attorney Scott Bullock, who argued the Kelo v. City of New London eminent domain case before the U.S. Supreme Court, agreed and added, “We would still like to see the Legislature pass a state constitutional amendment.  Unfortunately, while this statutory reform will better protect people from eminent domain abuse, a constitutional amendment like the one that legislators failed to pass this session would provide citizens with permanent protection of their fundamental right to keep what they rightfully own.”

Earlier this legislative session, the Legislature considered but did not pass an amendment to the state constitution that would have prohibited the condemnation of private property for economic development.

Since Kelo, legislators in 47 states and the U.S. Congress have introduced, considered or passed legislation aiming to curb the abuse of eminent domain.  Colorado is the 22nd state to enact reform.

“Colorado municipalities have historically abused eminent domain for the benefit of wealthy, private developers,” said Castle Coalition Coordinator Steven Anderson.  “Thankfully, the Legislature stepped up to the plate with this legislative reform.”

Berliner concluded, “This is a great first step.  We hope Colorado legislators will finish the task by tightening the definition of ‘blight’ and sending a constitutional amendment to the voters.  Citizens should have the chance to protect themselves from the government’s wrecking ball.”