‘Telluride amendment’ OK’d | AspenTimes.com

‘Telluride amendment’ OK’d

Naomi Havlen

State legislation that would hamper Aspen’s ability to acquire Smuggler Mountain as open space passed on its final reading before the state Senate Tuesday morning.

Voting along party lines, senators kept intact the controversial “Telluride amendment” in House Bill 1203 by an 18-17 vote.

Sen. Lewis Entz, Aspen’s state Senate representative, voted against taking the amendment out of the bill.

“[Sen. Entz] didn’t vote to strip the amendment off like I thought he would,” said Sam Mamet, a lobbyist for the Colorado Municipal League, which is fighting the bill on behalf of Aspen and other CML members. “He did vote to kill the bill, but that wasn’t the vote we were hoping to get.”

Mamet thinks the bill will be on Gov. Bill Owens’ desk within the next few days, after it revisits the House of Representatives briefly for approval of some minor changes. Although Mamet said he’ll consider whether to request a veto from Owens, he ultimately anticipates a battle in the courts.

“There’s a fundamental question as to whether or not legislation can rescript the constitutional authority of a home-rule city like Aspen,” he said. “This will go up to Supreme Court and be challenged at some point.”

Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud said she was extremely disappointed upon hearing the news of the bill’s passage – she thinks it is an example of the state trying to take away the authority of local governments in their own municipalities.

“I’m very disappointed that the legislators don’t appreciate the value of local governments and their importance to their local constituents,” she said. “I believe that local municipalities know the wishes of their constituents best, and for the state to assume it knows better is extremely disappointing.”

Klanderud said she would support fighting the bill in court if there are credible grounds for overturning the legislation. Taking the bill to court would be a “last recourse,” she said, since she doesn’t support frivolous lawsuits.

The bill was originally drafted to curb abuses of a municipality’s power of eminent domain for urban renewal – condemning property and then turning it over to private development.

The “Telluride amendment,” retroactive to Jan. 1, would thwart that town’s effort to preserve a parcel of open space at its entrance. In late March, the town filed for condemnation of the property known as the Valley Floor.

The town is trying to force the San Miguel Valley Corp. to sell the 570 acres for somewhere between $20 million and $50 million, according to the Telluride Daily Planet.

The amendment prevents a municipality from condemning land outside its borders for open space, recreation or similar purposes, unless both the landowner and the government that has jurisdiction over the parcel consent.

In Aspen, the city’s ability to acquire Smuggler landowner George “Wilk” Wilkinson’s property through condemnation could be compromised. The bill would also prevent the city from contributing to the purchase of Smuggler open space should the county condemn the land, unless Wilkinson was a willing participant in the condemnation.

Wilkinson has been lobbying for the passage of the “Telluride amendment.”

Jim Isgar, a Democrat from Durango, was the senator who offered to strike the amendment’s language from the bill, but his efforts failed.

Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com

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