August 18, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Summary Judgment Appropriate for Eminent Domain Proceeding; No Genuine Dispute over Value

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in City of Steamboat Springs v. Johnson on August 6, 2010.

Eminent Domain—Greenbelt—Summary Judgment—Easement Appurtenant—Value.

Charles Johnson and Johnson Excavation, Inc. (collectively, Johnson) appealed the district court’s partial summary judgment on valuation issues regarding Johnson’s Lot 4 and Johnson’s interests in a greenbelt. The judgment was affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

The City of Steamboat Springs (City) decided to construct a new highway on what once was greenbelt area. To do so, it obtained a judicial decree that it owned the greenbelts, condemned or acquired property owners’ appurtenant rights to restrict use of that area to anything but greenbelts, and acquired adjoining properties. The district court granted the City’s motion for partial summary judgment as to the value of most of Johnson’s interests, including Lot 4 and the greenbelt interests.

Johnson argued that summary judgment is unavailable in takings cases because property owners have a constitutional right to require that a jury determine the amount of compensation. However, the summary judgment rule, C.R.C.P. 56, plainly applies to eminent domain proceedings.

Here, there was no genuine dispute as to the value of Lot 4. Therefore, summary judgment was proper on this issue. Johnson’s greenbelt interests were an easement appurtenant to his Lot 4 property. The value of that lost interest depends not on the effect on the greenbelts themselves, but rather on the effect on Lot 4. Because the district court did not measure before and after values of Lot 4 but relied on appraisals of the greenbelts themselves, the case was remanded to determine the proper amount by which loss of the greenbelts diminished the value of Lot 4.

This summary is published here courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer. Other summaries by the Colorado Court of Appeals on July 22, 2010, can be found here.

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