Recent Colorado Court Decisions Limit the Rights of Counties
and Individuals to Challenge Municipal Urban Renewal Plans
In the past few years, several actions have been brought by Colorado taxpayers seeking to overturn urban renewal plans passed by municipalities in that state. The Boards of Commissioners from both Boulder and Adams counties, along with an individual taxpayer, challenged an urban renewal plan that the City of Broomfield had approved after determining that the targeted area was blighted. They tried to sue under the Colorado Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights,1 arguing that because the Broomfield plan involved a reallocation of property taxes, it amounted to a tax policy change and thus should have been put to a vote of the electorate.2 The Boulder commissioners also alleged that the plan was invalid because Broomfield violated the state Urban Renewal Act by failing to adequately include the County in an advisory role during the process of formulating the plan.3 The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in November 1999 that both suing parties lacked standing to challenge the Broomfield plan. The individual taxpayer had not asserted a legally compensable injury, because the plan provided for proportional adjustments of the amount paid to the renewal agency in the event of a general reassessment of taxable property valuations, and thus did not deprive counties of their property tax revenue.4 The Boards of Commissioners lacked standing, according to the court, because the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights does not allow counties to sue on behalf of individual taxpayers.5
An individual taxpayer also brought a similar action against an urban renewal plan adopted by the City of Golden. In February 2002, the Colorado Court of Appeals denied the taxpayer’s claim on the grounds that she suffered no injury to any cognizable personal legal interest. Similar to the situation in the challenge to Broomfield’s plan, the tax allocation set forth in the Golden urban renewal plan does not invoke an individual’s right to seek redress under the state Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, nor does Colorado law allow individual taxpayers to challenge urban renewal plans as interested parties.6
From these two cases, it is clear that Colorado courts will allow challenges to municipal urban renewal plans by people who own property within the area but not by individual taxpayers.
1 Colo. Const. Art. X § 20.
2 Board of Commissioners of Boulder County v. City of Broomfield, 7 P.3d 1033, 1035 (Colo. App. 1999).
3 Id. at 1036-37.
4 Id. at 1036.
5 Id. at 1037.
6 Olson v. City of Golden, 53 P.3d 747 (Colo. App.), cert. denied (Ill. Sept 3, 2002).