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Moving to limit land grabs



Citing a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision giving local governments leeway to condemn property for economic development, City Councilor Joel Miller says it's time Colorado Springs limits such taking for public projects only. And Miller contends his proposal doesn't spring from the possibility of condemning lower downtown parcels in the path of two City for Champions projects: a sports arena and Olympic museum.

"While I've had several nervous landowners approach me who've seen C4C [architectural] renderings that encompass their properties," Miller says in an email, "this issue stands independent of C4C. The bottom line is really very simple. Either you're okay with government officials taking land because they believe there's a more 'beneficial use' for it, or you believe in property rights."

Council on Monday decided to move forward with crafting an ordinance, although several members worried that restricting the city's power might backfire later. But even if Council adopts something, the Urban Renewal Authority, which will oversee C4C development and act as a conduit for state and local tax money, might be able to act independently. URA official Jim Rees says via email that the authority has sought Council approval for condemnation case-by-case in the past, but state statute gives the authority "power of condemnation to cure slum and blight and further the goals of an urban renewal plan."

Miller wants the ordinance to fence the authority's powers in the same way as Council's, so that "the URA NEVER has the authority to condemn without Council [approval]. Case by case basis is not good enough."

His measure wouldn't change the city's authority to condemn property, in exchange for just compensation, for public projects such as the Southern Delivery System water pipeline.

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