June 25, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Municipality’s Condemnation of Land Proper to Create Open Space Buffer but Not to Prevent Grocery Store Relocation

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in City of Lafayette v. Town of Erie on Thursday, June 14, 2018.

Municipal Law—Eminent Domain—Public Use Purpose—Necessity—Bad Faith.

Lafayette is a home rule municipality, and Erie is a statutory town. Erie annexed Nine Mile Corner, entered into a disposition and development agreement, and identified King Soopers as a potential tenant. Thereafter, Lafayette determined it would condemn 22 acres of the southern portion of Nine Mile Corner to create an open space community buffer and leave the remaining 23 acres of Nine Mile Corner for Erie. Lafayette filed a petition in condemnation, and Erie responded by filing a motion to dismiss, arguing that Lafayette’s condemnation lacked a proper public purpose, thereby depriving the court of jurisdiction. The district court granted Erie’s motion.

On appeal, Lafayette argued that its condemnation had a proper public purpose and that no bad faith motivated its condemnation decision. A municipality may condemn a statutory town’s property because an open space community buffer could be a valid public purpose. Here, Erie met its burden of showing that Lafayette’s condemnation decision was motivated by bad faith, and the district court properly examined Lafayette’s finding of necessity. The district court indicated that Lafayette was motivated to keep King Soopers and its tax revenue within Lafayette and determined that Lafayette’s primary interest in the property was to interfere with Erie’s proposed commercial development. The record supported the determination that the taking for an open space community buffer was pretextual and was not a lawful public purpose.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

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