Alamosa opposes ballot question

ALAMOSA — The Alamosa city council this week joined many other municipalities and governing bodies in officially opposing Amendment 74, which comes before voters this November.

The Colorado Municipal League (CML) has taken a stand against Amendment 74 and encouraged member cities to do the same. Amendment 74 would amend the state constitution to require governments to award just compensation to property owners whose property value was reduced in fair market value as a result of government laws or regulations.

Maintaining this amendment is unnecessary, CML argued the constitution already states that private property shall not be damaged or taken for public or private use without just compensation, but this amendment would add a phrase including a reduction in fair market value as well.

Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks told the city council before it voted unanimously to approve a resolution opposing the amendment that CML’s and the city staff’s concern is in the vagueness of the wording.

“It does not define well enough what fair market value and reduction is,” she said.

The actions or even inactions of governmental bodies that might decrease someone’s property value could trigger a pursuit of compensation, which could become costly for the governments and ultimately the taxpayers who fund those governments, Brooks and the CML argued. CML argued that litigation triggered by this amendment would be costly and referred to Oregon, which passed a similar statute, and was so overwhelmed with thousands of individual claims adding up to several billion dollars that voters subsequently repealed it.

The impact in the state of Washington, which also passed a similar measure, was estimated to be $2 billion for state agencies and $1.5 billion for local governments over the first six years, CML added. CML argued, however, that Colorado’s measure would be worse because it does not provide for any exceptions, such as health and safety protections.

CML has argued that all types of city functions from parks and police to trash and sewer services could be affected and gave the example of a possible claim for reduced property value resulting from a city undertaking road construction and property owners claiming that their property values were reduced by the construction, busier streets, noise and changes to the neighborhood.

Brooks added that once this passed, there was no provision for flexibility or issues of health and safety. Defining the language would require Supreme Court interpretation, she added.

The resolution approved by the Alamosa city council this week argued that the amendment threatens basic governmental services and has far-reaching and complicated impacts. It also stated that property owners already have the right to seek compensation from local governments but this would expand the concept to require compensation for “virtually any decrease whatsoever in the fair market value of their property traceable to any government law or regulation.”

Any arguable impact upon fair market value resulting from state or local government action could trigger a claim.

As a result, the resolution added that Amendment 74 would “severely limit the ability of Colorado’s state and local governments to do anything that might indirectly, unintentionally, or minimally affect the fair market value of any private property.”

It would also jeopardize laws, ordinances and regulations designed to protect public health and safety and resources.

More than 100 current and former elected officials across the state have taken a stand against Amendment 74 including Governor John Hickenlooper and Colorado Springs Mayor and former Attorney General John Suthers.