Governor inks open space bill
Legislation that limits a municipality’s ability to condemn land outside its borders as open space was signed into law Friday, but observers don’t expect the fight over House Bill 1203 to end there.Gov. Bill Owens inked the bill on Friday. Critics have blasted the bill’s so-called “Telluride amendment” as special legislation intended to thwart that town’s attempt to condemn land at its entrance known as the Valley Floor.The bill also hampers Aspen’s ability to acquire privately owned land on Smuggler Mountain through condemnation unless the landowner consents. The legislation would also prevent Aspen from contributing financially to the acquisition of the Smuggler property should Pitkin County condemn the land. Smuggler is in the county’s jurisdiction.Condemnation proceedings are already under way in Telluride, but the bill’s amendment is retroactive to Jan. 1 – a provision that could prove the amendment’s undoing.Telluride officials anticipate the town’s condemnation filing will lead to a court battle over whether the Telluride amendment is constitutional. “I would argue 1203 is fatally flawed in two areas,” said Sam Mamet, a lobbyist with the Colorado Municipal League who predicts the case will wind up before the state Supreme Court.The bill’s retroactive clause and its attempt to limit the powers that home-rule municipalities (including Aspen and Telluride) derive directly from the state Constitution are both subject to challenge, Mamet predicted.Colorado Rep. John Salazar, on the campaign trail in Aspen on Monday, also predicted the Telluride amendment’s defeat when it reaches the courts. Salazar, a Democrat seeking election to the 3rd District congressional seat to be vacated by U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, voted to approve House Bill 1203 and voted against a proposal to strip the legislation of the amendment.”We’re not allowed to pass retroactive legislation. It’s not legal,” he said, predicting the amendment will be struck down in the courts.The lawmaker said he voted against removing the amendment because he feared the main body of the bill, which he supported, would not pass without it. The bill’s original intent was simply to prohibit the transfer of land acquired through condemnation to a private entity.Salazar also said he feared setting any precedent in the use of extraterritorial condemnation powers, which could pave the way for Front Range water grabs, with entities like the Denver Water Board using condemnation powers to secure water rights.”That’s what Denver, exactly, has been waiting for,” he said.Meanwhile, Telluride is waiting for the San Miguel Valley Corp., owner of the Valley Floor, to make the next move, according to a report in the Telluride Daily Planet. The SMVC initiated the Telluride amendment, which is now law.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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