In a perfect world we would not need any government at all. As Federalist Paper No. 51 states (quoted this month in Atlantic Magazine) “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” If you agree we are not all angels, then you should agree proposed Colorado Constitution Amendment 74 on this year’s ballot will bring chaos to planning the future of our communities.
Amendment 74 would allow any landowner to sue for “just compensation” for any perceived loss suffered as a result of “reduced fair market value by government law or regulation.” A similar statute passed in Oregon led to the loss of billions of tax dollars before voters repealed it three years after it was passed.
In the brave new world created by 74, your neighbor might come to your town government seeking to open an adult entertainment establishment in your quiet neighborhood. Hoping to maintain some sense of sanity, you would ask for the enforcement of zoning regulations prohibiting such establishments near your home. One of the reasons for investing your life savings in your domicile was faith in the order of a well-planned community.
The town would come to your aide, reaching a favorable zoning action – quickly objected to by your neighbor under the provisions of Amendment 74. Your neighbor would claim loss of value of his property and your hoped-for protections would likely vanish. If your neighbor was not allowed to build his business, 74 would allow him to charge your community for any perceived loss of value due to this action. If you lose, you can take small consolation from knowing you can sue your community and win community tax dollars back for any loss of your own property value.
A study done by the University of Washington during the unsuccessful attempt to pass a similar measure (I-933) there in 2006 concluded the measure would cost taxpayers nearly $8 billion – more than $1,000 per resident – to pay compensation claims.
US highway 40 was again tied up on what used to be a quiet weekend in late September. We are seeing the impacts of living in the second fastest growing state (after Idaho) in the union. The Western Slope is the second fastest growing region of the state, after the northern Front Range. We are 75 miles from millions of people in and around Denver, the population center of a state hosting 5.4 million residents. Protections show 8 million people in our state by 2040.
I believe we can, and must plan effectively to help maintain a good quality of life in the face of such numbers. Passenger rail, bringing visitors and residents to the valley without impacting noisy highways, holds great promise. Under 74, a person living near the railroad tracks might tie up this effort, claiming loss of value because of increased train noise.
Trails are being built and improved to help disperse visitors (and us) into our 80% publicly owned back yard. A new trailhead or a community trail could be torpedoed by a resident claiming loss of property value because of a planned or even an existing community path.
A long envisioned gondola from the town of Winter Park to the ski area would relieve bus and car traffic from town to the ski area. A nearby resident could claim a lift going near their home decreased their property value. Another community improvement would be placed in the dust bin.
Effective community planning takes into account and works to decrease impacts on the community as a whole. Most of us understand the price of being a community member is making some sacrifices to facilitate the greater good. Amendment 74 allows individuals to impact their community far beyond any measure of fairness. Vote no on 74.
Andy Miller enjoys a free dinner and a C note every meeting for his service as a Fraser Town Trustee. He appreciates conversations about how we might maintain a peaceful existence in the face of the onrushing hordes. Contact him in his Fraser yard building rock gardens (between the bank and a pot outlet) or at email@example.com.