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Eminent Domain Law in Colorado

When it comes to eminent domain, the government is playing in their arena; they do this every day. They know what the rules are, they know how the rules affect them and they know how the rules affect property owners. If the government is taking your land, make sure that you become informed so that you know what you can and cannot do.

If you’re threatened with eminent domain, you might be wondering if you can stop the process. In most cases, you won’t be able to prevent the government from acquiring your land, but you are entitled to just compensation under eminent domain law. Learn more about eminent domain generally and what you’re entitled to receive, or continue reading to learn about the Colorado eminent domain process, your rights as a property owner and hiring a Colorado eminent domain attorney.

We are a nationwide eminent domain law firm with attorneys licensed in Colorado and elsewhere around the country. We have experience representing landowners who are impacted by highway and transit projects, pipeline projects, natural gas storage facility projects, redevelopment projects, acquisitions for municipal buildings, inverse condemnation, regulatory takings and much more. We only represent property owners, never the condemning authority or government.

Did you know that most eminent domain attorneys work on a contingent fee basis? With this fee structure, the attorney assumes the risk of earning a fee. Also, Colorado has passed legislation that requires the government to pay property owner’s attorney’s fees when the statutory threshold is met.

Colorado Eminent Domain Process

In the state of Colorado the eminent domain process can only be stopped if the proposed taking does not meet the requirements for public purpose or public necessity. If you have determined that the proposed taking does meet these requirements, then you should learn more about the Colorado eminent domain process.

Remember, even if the government has the right to condemn your property, they cannot dictate the price they are willing to pay; compensation is determined by the highest and best use laws for your property.

Colorado Property Rights

The eminent domain abuse dialogue often centers on policy issues involving the right to take property for economic development and blight. Since the landmark case of Kelo v. City of New London in 2005, many states have taken measures to help curb eminent domain abuse. Some states were very successful at passing meaningful reform, and other states failed to pass any legislation at all. Most states fall in the middle by passing legislation that looks good on paper but does little to level the playing field between property owners and the government.

Since the decision by the United States Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London many states across the country have taken measures to help protect the rights of private ownership.  The controversial Kelo decision held that a local government can take the private property of one person and give it to another private entity.  While the Court’s ruling was seen by many as a serious blow to citizen’s constitutionally protected rights of private property ownership, the decision prompted a number of states to initiate legislative reform to help curb eminent domain abuse.

The Castle Coalition has released a report, grading each of the states based on their efforts to protect private property owners and their rights based on changes in their respective state laws.  The Castle Coalition is the Institute for Justice’s nationwide grassroots property rights activism project that teaches home and small business owners how to protect themselves and stand up to abuse by governments and developers who seek to use eminent domain to take private property for their own gain.  The Castle Coalition gives Colorado a letter grade of a C for property rights, saying:

“Even before the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Kelo, Colorado municipalities had an unfortunate history of abusing eminent domain for the benefit of wealthy private developers. In 2006, the Colorado General Assembly improved the state’s eminent domain laws by passing House Bill 1411, which amended the public use definition to “not include the taking of private property for transfer to a private entity for the purpose of economic development or enhancement of tax revenue” and stated that “Private property may otherwise be taken solely for the purpose of furthering a public use.””

“While it was definitely a step in the right direction, HB 1411 left some room for improvement. The new law allows municipalities to continue using eminent domain to seize so-called blighted properties, and the state’s definition of blight is sufficiently vague to allow for considerable abuse. The good news is that in HB 1411, the legislature did take measures to tighten the blight loophole by requiring government officials to prove by clear and convincing evidence that “the taking of the property is necessary for the eradication of blight.””

“The General Assembly missed a golden opportunity, in that same session, when it considered but did not pass an amendment to the state constitution that would have prohibited the condemnation of private property for economic development. While the statutory protections it did eventually adopt will, for the time being, provide some increased protections from the government condemning people’s homes, businesses, farms, and places of worship—unless condemnors convince a court that the property is in fact blighted—those protections may eventually be stripped away if the public fails to guard carefully against those who can find personal gain through the abuse of eminent domain. Hopefully the legislature will revisit the possibility of a constitutional amendment and Coloradans will have the chance to provide themselves with the most enduring type of protections for their fundamental right to keep what they properly own.”

Castle Coalition

Hiring an Eminent Domain Attorney in Colorado

The most blatant form of eminent domain abuse occurs when the government or condemning authority makes a ‘low ball’ offer. This scenario invariably requires the property owner to hire an attorney to obtain just compensation. Fortunately, the vast majority of eminent domain attorneys work on a contingent fee basis, meaning they charge a percentage of the additional money they obtain for the property owner. Also, Colorado has passed legislation requiring the condemning authority to pay the property owner’s attorneys fees and costs in eminent domain cases if certain criteria are met.

Are my Attorney’s Fees and Costs Recoverable in Eminent Domain in Colorado?

Attorney’s fees may be recoverable in the state of Colorado if it is determined that the property cannot be acquired by eminent domain; or if the damages awarded equal at least 130% of last written offer given to the property owner, unless the condemning authority is acquiring the property for right of way for a tunnel, pipeline, tramway, transmission or a telecommunications company. (CO § 38-1-122). Because of the protections provided by these statutes, even small claimants in Colorado may be able to hire an attorney to pursue their claim.

Very few attorneys can claim expertise in the area of eminent domain law. To determine if you have a case, make sure you consult with an eminent domain trial attorney who can effectively identify damages and select the necessary experts. Your attorney should also be able to interface with the condemning authority and be willing to take your case to trial if negotiations can not be reached. 

Contact Us

Questions about Colorado Eminent Domain Law or if you’re interested in a free consultation, contact us today! If you want to call us, our main number is 866-339-7242. We look forward to hearing from you.