Colorado city called its land claim a bid for more open space. It was largely about keeping a King Soopers, a court says

Lafayette acted in “bad faith” when it attempted to condemn land belonging to its neighbor, Erie, for the purpose of turning it into an open space buffer, according to a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling issued Thursday.

The three-judge panel dismissed Lafayette’s attempted eminent domain action, upholding a district court ruling from 2017 that found there was no “public purpose” to justify the condemnation.

The appeals court said in its opinion that Lafayette’s 2016 attempt to lay claim to 22 acres inside Erie at the southeast corner of U.S. 287 and Arapahoe Road, where the Boulder County municipalities share a border, was “made in bad faith and was thus not for a lawful public purpose.”

The court concluded that Lafayette’s open space play, sold by the city as an attempt to create a buffer for residents of its Beacon Hill neighborhood, was in actuality a ploy by the city to derail Erie’s planned commercial development at the site, known as Nine Mile Corner.

“The stated public purpose of an open space buffer is valid, but blocking Erie’s planned development — planning that predated Lafayette’s condemnation petition — is not lawful,” the opinion stated.

Arguments in the case were made before three appeals court judges in March.

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The court said evidence supported the idea that “Lafayette had no interest in the property until it learned of Erie’s proposed development.” A driving factor for the city to condemn the land, the judges wrote, was to keep a Lafayette King Soopers from relocating to the new Nine Mile Corner development, where tax revenues from sales at the store would go to Erie.

While a 2008 Colorado Supreme Court case out of Telluride upheld the right of a municipality to condemn property beyond its boundaries, the appeals court observed, that action has to be in support of a “valid public purpose.”

“The (court) holds that the municipality’s ultimate reason for condemning the property — to prevent a grocery store and its associated tax revenue from relocating — is not a valid public purpose,” the judges ruled.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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Source:: The Denver Post – Politics


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