Property owners in Erie, Colo., could have been the latest victims of eminent domain for private gain. But last week, well over 100 residents packed a Board of Trustees meeting and forced the town to strip the power of eminent domain from its latest redevelopment plan.
About a half-hour away from Denver, the town of Erie hired a consulting firm to survey almost 5,500 acres of land for blight (though not all properties within these boundaries were included). Under Colorado state law, blight has a very broad definition. So factors like “unusual topography” and “faulty lot layout” can trigger a blight designation.
From that, an urban renewal plan for the Historic Old Town was devised that covers 570 property parcels on almost 320 acres of land. Worryingly, property listed in the original urban renewal plan could be acquired through eminent domain.
Plus, as resident Liz Fisher points out, Old Town Erie is well, old, so tampering with this area:
“…would permanently alter the character and composition of the original town, founded in 1874…If implemented, it would disrupt the lives of many Old Town homeowners, adversely affecting their financial futures for the financial gain of a few wealthy investors.”
When homeowners and small business owners learned of the plan, they were furious. Many residents have been in Old Town Erie for decades. So when the Board of Trustees met to discuss the issue, more than 100 people showed up, with “many streaming out the doors of the packed chambers.”
While the Board of Trustees voted to approve the urban renewal plan, by a vote of 4-2, the Board voted “not to include the power of eminent domain.” So for now, property owners are safe from abusive condemnations.
Unfortunately, other cities in Colorado haven’t fared as well. Last September, the Denver City Council designated 29 city blocks as blighted: “Adding insult to injury, some of these blighted homes were Victorian houses that are well over a century old.”
If you or anyone you know is threatened by bogus “blight” or eminent domain abuse, pick up a free copy of IJ’s Eminent Domain Abuse Survival Guide.
-- Nick Sibilla
Nick Sibilla is a writer at the Institute for Justice