The Paonia board of trustees unanimously approved a resolution opposing an amendment to the Colorado Constitution that voters will be asked to consider in the Nov. 6 ballot.
The resolution states that Amendment 74, "Compensation to Owners for Decreased Property Value Due to State Regulation Initiative," or the "Just Compensation" initiative, would "drastically limit state and local government services at a high cost to taxpayers." Also referred to as the "takings" measure, the ballot question asks voters to consider whether property owners should be compensated "when a government law or regulation reduces the fair market value of the property?
"The amendment isn't referring to eminent domain when a person's property has been taken for a public purpose, said Paonia Mayor Charles Stewart. "We're talking about a reduction in fair market value caused by any government law or regulation."
The Colorado Municipal League, a nonprofit, non partisan organization providing services and resources to help the state's cities and towns manage their governments, opposes the amendment. In September CML released a memo to all interested municipal officials, requesting "careful analysis of this measure..." The memo provides examples of potential impacts, sample resolutions, editorials and the possible negative implications to the amendment to back CML's position.
The memo also refers to the State of Oregon's 2004 passage of Amendment 37, a similar amendment that allows property owners to sue if a government action reduced a property's fair market value. Almost 7,000 claims were filed in 36 counties, estimated at in excess of $17 billion, according to the State of Oregon website.
Improvements to infrastructure, broadband, adult entertainment establishments, economic development, affordable housing and land use decisions are other areas where decisions by governments could result in lawsuits, according to the 18-page memo.
CML and other opponents to the amendment warn that passage, which would be done constitutionally and not statutorily, would be difficult to reverse and could have broad and unintended consequences.
"The problem is just about everything that we do has impact, one way or the other, on the value of citizens' property," said Stewart. That means that every zoning decision, granting of a license, or passage of an ordinance, someone could come forward and claim the action decreases the value of their property and claim they're entitled to restitution, said Stewart, a practicing attorney. "You could end up with almost endless litigation because of that... The amount that the municipality could be paying out could be fairly substantial."
Examples of potential situations provided by the CML are infrastructure improvements, regulations of Airbnb units, access to broadband services, adult entertainment establishments, economic development, affordable housing, and land use decisions.
A town could vote to prohibit Airbnbs and get sued by property owners who want to run Airbnbs, said Stewart. If voters approve them, neighboring property owners could sue because the Airbnb resulted in increased traffic and noise that devalues their property.
An amendment proposed by mayor pro tem Chelsea Bookout to amend the motion to approve the resolution removed its last nine words, which state that the Town opposes Amendment 74, "...and strongly urges a vote of NO this November." The amendment passed, 4-1, with Trustee Bill Bear voting nay.
"While I have no issue with the position of the town, I do have issue a the town releasing documents telling people how to vote," said Bookout.
Trustee Mary Bachran agreed. "I think you lay out the argument clearly to the people and let them make up their own minds."
Trustees also tabled proposed revisions to the personnel handbook until town attorney Bo Nerlin has had an opportunity to weigh in. Revisions would affect Section 807 -- "Grievances" -- as proposed by the personnel liaison group.