July 18, 2019

HB 14-1217: Clarifying Legal Rights of a County Regarding Mineral Rights to Real Property

On January 30, 2014, Rep. Bob Rankin introduced HB 14-1217 – Concerning a Clarification of the Legal Rights of a County Government in Connection with Property Owned by a County. This summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

As introduced, the bill clarifies the legal rights of county governments in connection with real property owned by the county in the following respects:

  • The bill modifies existing statutory provisions pertaining to county powers in connection with the purchase and possession of real and personal property to clarify that the county may own, besides purchasing and holding, such property and expressly specifies that such property includes oil, gas, mineral, and other property interests for county revenue generation and other county government operations, projects, or purposes.
  • The bill clarifies requirements relating to the publication of notice of a sale by the county of mineral rights. The bill clarifies that oil and gas reserved rights are included within the mineral rights that the board of county commissioners (board) may lease for exploration, development, and production purposes. The bill deletes language placing a time limit on a lease of mineral rights by the county and clarifies that leases entered by the board prior to January 1, 2014, are legal and within the board’s authority.
  • The bill clarifies that revenue generation is among the purposes for which the county may lease real estate or other interests and that the board has authority to approve the terms and conditions of such leases. The bill also deletes existing statutory requirements imposing time limits on the length of a lease of oil and gas rights and imposing other conditions on the lease.
  • The bill adds oil, gas, and minerals to modify the word “lands” in the definition of “public projects.” The bill also provides that a public project may be acquired, owned, held, or developed by a county to generate county revenue.
  • Existing statutory provisions hold that certain places designated as public use on a map or plat are the public property of a city or town and that fee title is vested in the city or town. The bill adds counties and city and counties to the list of local governments whose interests are protected under these provisions.
  • The bill eliminates outmoded legal language from an existing statutory provision specifying when a fee simple estate of land is a fee simple estate of inheritance.
  • The bill clarifies that, whenever land is acquired for road, transit, or mass transit purposes, the right to subsurface support of the land surface is deemed to be acquired as well regardless of whether a fee, limited fee, or right-of-way is acquired. This section of the bill also deletes existing statutory language denying a governmental entity the right to acquire certain mineral resources beneath the real property through condemnation under certain circumstances.
  • The bill modifies existing statutory provisions allowing the acquisition by counties of land for highways including by means of condemnation to specify that nothing in these provisions modifies or restricts the powers or authority conferred on counties or the board with respect to county roads or revenue generation. The bill addresses existing statutory provisions governing the declaration of certain land as public highways. The bill specifies that public highways include all lands dedicated to public use by deed conveying a fee simple, limited fee, easement, or right-of-way, filed with the county clerk and recorder of the county in which the land is located, when the dedication has been accepted by the board and board has approved the surface of the land for use as a public road. The bill goes on to clarify that the fee or other estate conveyed from the grantor to the grantee is conclusively established by the language in the deed of conveyance that is pre-printed or inserted by the grantor or the grantee. The bill also clarifies that roads include certain strips of land, and that the acquiring government also owns in fee simple mineral rights under such strips of land.

On March 6, the Local Government Committee amended the bill and laid it over for a final vote.

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