Proposed Colorado Amendment 74 ‘reckless and dangerous,’ say muni officials

As Colorado inches closer to Election Day this Nov. 6, the Colorado Municipal League has petitioned numerous local municipalities to join its campaign against Amendment 74 on the statewide ballot.

According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s website, Initiative 108, as it was known during the petition process, proposes to Colorado voters: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado Constitution requiring the government to award just compensation to owners of private property when a government law or regulation reduces the fair market value of the property?”

While eminent domain, government caused damage (accidental or intentional) and regulatory “taking” already apply, Amendment 74 hones in on the latter and aims at broadening its credibility as it pertains to a property owner wishing to sue the state or a local government if they feel the fair market value of their property is depreciated because of a law or regulation imposed.

Without question, the ballot language reads favorably for property owners, including the oil and gas industry from which the ballot measure originated, though it has broad reach that would include any property owner.

Numerous organizations and elected officials from all walks of life believe if Amendment 74 earns voter approval in November, taxpayers as a whole will suffer dramatically — the reason being their tax dollars may go more toward fighting lengthy lawsuits as opposed to funding necessary expenditures

Correspondence between CML Executive Director Sam Mamet and “Interested Municipal Officials,” in this case the city of Glenwood Springs, stated, “Shrouded in simple language, Amendment 74 will have far-reaching and potentially disastrous consequences.”

City Council on Thursday will discuss whether to take a formal position opposing the measure, as other municipalities across the state have done.

The CML correspondence goes on to state that, “A property owner already has the right to seek compensation from state or local governments. Amendment 74 expands this well-established concept by requiring the government — i.e., the taxpayers — to compensate private property owners for virtually any decrease whatsoever in the fair market value of their property due to any government law or regulation.”

Mamet details how municipal services would suffer should Amendment 74 pass; services such as police departments, street and sidewalk maintenance, parks, trash collection and more.

“This is a big deal,” Carbondale Mayor Dan Richardson told the Post Independent. “There’s law on the books right now that allows someone to essentially sue a local government to mediate something like this. [Amendment 74] takes it a step further and gives broad and ambiguous ability for people to sue local governments for any type of change that could affect their property value in any significant way.”

“Basically, anybody off the street who declares that it reduced the market value, they become an expert witness,” Richardson added.

Some quarters have also alleged that Amendment 74 serves as a retaliatory measure against Proposition 112, also on the Nov. 6 ballot, which would mandate a 2,500-foot setback for any new oil and natural gas development.

“[Amendment 74] is going to halt local government either because we’ve been sued or there is the threat of being sued, which means we have to invest more money in legal defenses and can’t spend that money on essential services,” Richardson said.

“This is a perfect example of how Colorado has become kind of a playground for out-of-state interests to play with our constitution to see how they can change it,” Richardson added. “As I said, it is reckless and dangerous.”

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